Al Sharpton said it best: “Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of color. Way before Tiger Woods, way before Oprah Winfrey, way before Barack Obama, Michael did with music what they later did in sports, in politics and in television.”
If there is such a thing as ‘post-racial’, Jackson was probably the first and most visible international post-racial figure that this country has ever produced. He made history uniting not only Americans, but the world through his music, much in the same way Obama has done with his campaign.
It’s surprising therefore, that a day after the news of Michael Jackson’s death and with the nation deep in mourning, President Obama has not personally acknowledged a man who helped paved the way for his election.
Although the president released a brief statement through his press secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday afternoon, much was left unsaid. He was characteristically cautious, aiming to strike a political balance when he called Michael Jackson a “spectacular performer” whose life was “sad and tragic.”
Although in later years Jackson became a controversial personality, there is no doubt that Barack Obama owes much to Michael Jackson’s shattering racial barriers. Yet so far the president has failed to voice any acknowledgement of the cultural, racial and historical impact of Michael Jackson’s work.
Jackson was one of the first African-American artists to open the floodgates for global acceptance of African-American culture. His success spanned cultures, continents and generations and for the past 45 years he touched the hearts and minds of countless individuals. He has shaped the very fabric of America and in many ways; Barack Obama’s groundbreaking achievements and his influence on the nation make him akin to a present day political version of Michael Jackson.
The president shouldn’t overlook Michael Jackson’s importance. He was far from simply an entertainer.
On this, the president risks of looking completely out of touch not only with America, but with the rest of the world.