Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Black or white?

July 8, 2009










Nowhere was Michael Jackson mourned more than in Africa. Young and old, people wept openly when news broke of his death, struck by disbelief and sadness. His funeral was followed across the continent anywhere that a television set could be found.
Jackson’s link with Africa strengthened when he visited the continent at the age of 14 as lead singer of the Jackson Five. Emerging from the plane in Senegal, he responded to a welcome of drummers and dancers by screaming: ”This is where I come from.”
But by the time of his death, it was unclear whether Jackson was so proud of his origins. Surgery had altered his appearance to such an extent that many felt he looked as white as he did African-American.

His comment that he was “neither Black nor White” drew controversy during a visit to Africa in the 90s. Although he was happy to be crowned chief of several African villages and to shake hands with hundreds of people, the trip was a public relations nightmare – with allegations that police had beaten the crowds who went to see him and complaints in the local media that the pop star had been seen holding his nose, as if to keep out a bad smell.












Racial unity was long a subject close to Jackson’s heart and his 1991 single “Black or White” explicitly promoted it, but his efforts to make himself look less black sent a more confusing message. There was no doubt that he was an incredible musician and entertainer, who will be remembered in Africa for a long time to come.

But what about the other side of his legacy? Did he undermine pride in being African with his efforts to change his own appearance? Should Africa be proud of him?


My attitude towards Jackson is similar to the one I have for Thomas Jefferson. Like Jefferson, Jackson was a brilliant man who had a strong impact on the world, but whose views or at least my perception of their views or attitude towards my black race leaves a lot to be desired. so I am ambivalent.

Posted by Sombo | Report as abusive

I was amazed by the amount of people that were weeping for MJ in Southern Africa, from Pretoria to Harare. Clearly he had an incredible social impact on them, and he shall forever live in our hearts as one of us, despite his all the things that happened in the latter years of his life


Who wrote this article? How did you come up with the conclusion that lots of people followed the event? Did you conduct a research? This is continent where the majority of people dont have a TV at home and probably dont even know American celebrities.

I am just tired of people claiming to know and speak for Africans

Posted by John Brown | Report as abusive

Looking at those two pictures its hard to believe that they are of the same person, the kid above is a happy and proud black boy, the other picture is of a disillusioned sad white man.


For an African like me who loves his continent very much, MJ will always be cherished as a great person, a human being par excellence. He is The King. His talents will have no equal for a long time to come. His humanistic nature and concern for the most vulnerable and destitute will live on. We still remember how he contributed to the “We are the World” effort that helped alleviate much of the suffering caused by famine in East Africa. I mourned him deeply as a Sudanese who felt indebted to this legendary man. May Allah rest his soul in peace.


I like MJ I think he is the greatest musican of all time! I feel that MJ was bigger than Elivs or the Beatles or anybody else. He defitnely was the most recongized musican around the world, but didn’t all black people around the world disown MJ. I remeber other black people say on TV when he was alive that they hated the fact he tried to change his skin color(Which MJ denied and he said he had a skin disorder, and was never proven that he bleached his skin). Africans are the darkest people in the world so why would all of Africa now like MJ? Why would all the black people now after his death all like him so much?

Posted by LEX LUGGER | Report as abusive

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