Posted on June 16th, 2015
A disclaimer before we get down to it... I'm a big fan of Michael Jackson's music.
I have all his albums. His musical talent continues to amaze me even today. When The Way You Make Me Feel comes on my iTunes, I come very, very close to dancing. And I don't dance. He was The King of Pop and I think he earned that title a half-dozen times over.
And now about that Rachel Dolezal thing.
For anybody who's been living under a rock lately, Rachel Dolezal is a white woman who has been pretending to be Black in Spokane, Washington, three hours away from where I live. This alone wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary... a whole generation of white youth has been pretending to be Black ever since Rap & Hip-Hop took over the music industry. What makes Rachel Dolezal so unique is that she actually lied about being Black. Something she did so effectively that she became the NAACP Chapter President of Spokane.
To me, this is a clear case of appropriation, and all efforts to equate it to being transgender (as I keep seeing over and over) is categorically absurd.
I could write about this crazy-ass mess for days, but entirely too many people have already done that. One of my favorites being Larry Wilmore, who devoted an entire show to the topic...
No, the reason I am bringing this up at all is because I got sucked into a comment thread yesterday where somebody was claiming that Michael Jackson "dyeing his skin white" was no different than Rachel Dolezal lying about being Black.
When I attempted to explain that Michael Jackson never lied about being white, and the reason his skin appeared white is because he had a pigmentation-destroying disease called vitiligo which he concealed using makeup, I was told to "shut the fuck up" because I "don't know anything about it"... at which point the conversation went down a spiral of how Michael Jackson should have been using Black makeup instead of white makeup so he wouldn't be lying about his race.
Which is when I dropped out of the conversation.
Because, in fact, I actually know a hell of a lot about vitiligo.
The reason being that I have vitiligo, and didn't feel like battling it out with an asshole who clearly doesn't give a shit about the truth.
And, yes, I understand your disbelief. Mainly because if you've ever heard of the disease, you're picturing this...
Photo by James Heilman, taken from Wikimedia Commons
Which isn't me.
Vitiligo for me is a very different story because of two reasons...
Which is to say, if you were to meet me in person, it is extremely doubtful you would realize I have vitiligo even if you were staring right at it.
But I really do have it, and over the past three years it's started appearing on my hands too. It isn't terribly prominent yet but, if it follows the same progression as other parts of my body, eventually it will be more visible. But for now? It appears as white splotches on my fingers above the knuckle...
If I had a black light, you'd be able to really see it. But since I don't, all I can do is up the contrast on the above photo...
As I said, you probably wouldn't notice it if you were to see me in person (unless you were seeing me naked for some reason)... but there it is.
And, let me tell you, even if it doesn't show up on your skin very easily, you are still going to research the shit out of vitiligo when the splotches of white start appearing on you. So don't tell me I don't know anything about vitiligo when I assure you I've learned absolutely everything I can know about it.
Needless to say, my limited experience with the disease has fostered no small amount of sympathy for people who have a very different experience from mine. Yes, I have vitiligo, but it showed up very late in life and is (for now) so negligible on my appearance you could say it's not even a factor. For most people dealing with it, that's not the case at all...
In his early years, Michael Jackson had more Black skin than white, so he actually did use Black makeup to conceal his vitiligo. But eventually his case was so severe that he ended up with more white skin than Black, and it was easier to switch to white makeup than paint his entire body Black. And that's it.
So, yeah... vitiligo is not even remotely in the same fucking ballpark as some crazypants white lady lying about her race... for whatever reason she's been doing it.
And while there may be some room for debate on how to view Rachel Dolezal's appropriation (and other aspects of Michael Jackson's life)... you have fuck-none justification if you are stupid enough to drag how Michael Jackson dealt with his disease into the conversation.
That holds true whether you are a big fan of his music or not.