Here are a few more today. Tomorrow I will try to post all of the remaining essays from my Alabama A&M students, as well as my Books and Coffee presentation on Dancing The Dream. Next week, I will begin posting responses to the video from my Calhoun College students.
Aminata Mboob, Alabama A&M University:
The emphasis on racial standards is quite evident through one of pop culture’s most prominent videos, “Black or White.” Composed by the late pop artist Michael Jackson, “Black or White” succesfully presents the theme of racial oppression.
The meaning “racial structure” is emphasized by everything from the video’s diverse cultural settings to the simple yet meaningful song lyrics. Examining one of the video’s scenes, one may conclude that Jackson fiercely affirms cultural hybridity. He goes from an apparent West African dance scene to a reenactment of a Native American slaughter. By doing this, Jackson is able to embrace victims of such racial “construction” through imaginatively and self-consciously constructed cultural acts. After these and additional cultural scenes, he once again demonstrates his affirmation by breaking through a symbolic wall of fire composed of burning KKK flags.
In addition to the symbolic setting, Jackson adds depth to the bigger picture-Equality-by the use of his direct lyrics. “I ain’t scred of no sheets” clearly symbolizes Jackson’s agreement with “Negroes” towards the KKK. Also lyrics like “Ooh when the going gets rough” also makes this song highly relatable, being that everyone has rough times. This also makes the meaning of Equality more versatile. It can pertain to race, gender, or age.
One of the most important scenes in the video is the “metamorphic” scene. Being shown images of racist graffiti, Jackson changes into a Black Panther, again symbolizing Negro oppression. This final scene was so powerful that it was banned from some television broadcasts.
This video plays a vital role in the racial history of America. Larger global forces are influenced by this as well. Given the nature of “Black or White,” Jackson is not only entertaining, but he is taking a stand.
(As a sidenote to Aminata’s essay, I wanted to add that, at first, I was inclined to take a bit of issue with her reference to the video depicting the “slaughter” of Native Americans. Of course, we do not actually see any such slaughter. But what we do see is a scene enacting a Native powwow, while all around the happy, celebratory dancers, there is gunfire from a surrounding cavalry. The scene is, of course, reenacting the old time Hollywood “cowboys vs. Indians” scenario, but on a deeper and more symbolic level, the cavalry gunfire does symbolize the mass slaughter of Native Americans at the hand of the U.S. government, and I believe this symbolic “massacre” is what Aminata is referring to. Even though we do not actually “see” the massacre, the implication is clearly there-Raven).
Serena Johnson, Alabama A&M University:
Michael Jackosn’s “Black or White”-Change
The world we live in is not precious but changes are developing at a slow rate. In Michael Jackson’s music video “Black or White,” the main theme is to unite people from different aspects to form one nation. The most important symbol in Jackson’s “Black or White” video is the scene where two adorable infants are sitting on top of the earth. This symbol gives viewers an idea that change does exist.
Michael Jackson’s music video has changed the world’s perspective. His video helped convince audiences that racial discrimination or harsh racism is not the way to live an everyday life. According to the essay “Black and White and Proud” by Barbara Kaufmann, “Michael dances with all ethnicities: African, Asian, Native Americans, and with the United States’ greatest politcal enemy, Russians….” This shows that Jackson believes that every human being should be treated with equality and respect. In our world, us Americans have been in difficult situations. Back then, we had experienced wars with other countries, racism, religious clashes, and so much more. These experiences had an effect that helped Michael Jackson create “Black or White” as an announcement to make a change.
Vorri Zanders, Alabama A&M University:
In Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video, after viewing it, one would have a series of things running through his/her mind. The video is so powerful to the point that many were not able to correctly interpret its meaning. Jackson does a series of things throughout the video that was abnormal to see during that particular time. Symbolically speaking, the theme portrayed in Jackson’s “Black or White” video is to destroy the racial barriers among pretty much any race.
Although the video shows many racial backgrounds, the biggest problem at the time between races was with black and white people. Jackson’s incorporation of other races such as Asians was to show the bigger picture. He wanted to get the point across that people can be friends with someone regardless of ethnicity or the color of their skin.
In the article “Black and White and Proud” the author mentions how Jackson was a panther as a symbol for the group “The Black Panthers.” When the panther first appears it is seemingly just a panther until moments later Jackson himself evolves from the animal. Jackson also breaks the window of a car. That action could mean he’s breaking racial conflict or to display his anger towards racism.
Throughout the video, one has to analyze the meaning of some of his actions and try to read between them. In the ending part of the video the pop star consistently grabs his male parts, which struck a hoard of controversy. The groping of himself offended many of his viewers. In an interview with Oprah, Jackson claims the music makes him do it. Nothing sexual is supposed to be taken from that.
Michael Jackson was a very talented musician. He made legendary music. His style and personality was like none other and many people found that hard to accept. People made many rumors about him such as “he bleached his skin to make himself appear white.” People did a lot to tear Jackson down when all he wanted was for everyone to get along. Everyone was really what he wanted because he didn’t exclude men, women, white, black, Asian, Chinese, and especially children. Jackson had a love for people that most did not understand. “Black or White” shows this upon carefully examining it.