Michael Jackson & the race card

Larry Elder

12/4/2003 12:00:00 AM - Larry Elder

The Race Card -- "Don't Leave Home Without It."
 
Michael Jackson, according to the Santa Barbara district attorney, allegedly molested a 12-year-old boy. But not long after the search of Michael Jackson's estate, and the issuance of an arrest warrant, Jackson defenders whipped out the race card quicker than you could say "Billie Jean."

 Using the race card in Michael Jackson's case strikes one as particularly galling. His talent propelled him to unimaginable heights, replete with homes, cars and whatever toys imaginable. His 2,600-acre Neverland Ranch sports an amusement park, a zoo and requires 60-some caretakers. He thinned his features through surgeries, straightened his hair, and, because of an alleged skin disease, his skin became whiter than an Idaho picket fence.

 Do the police pull him over for Driving While Black? Does a department store detective follow him around, fearing that he may clip some valuable? Does a racist bank refuse to lend him money? Did his adoring fans shun him because he married the daughter of Elvis Presley and fathered two children with a white woman? Yet now his defenders ask us to believe that "racist" Santa Barbara DA Tom Sneddon stands willing to risk his reputation to add another notch to his belt by bringing down a black man. Please.

 First up, Johnnie Cochran. On "Larry King Live," Cochran questioned the timing of the arrest warrant because, on the very same day, Michael Jackson's record company released his "Number Ones" CD. "I think it's more than coincidence," said Cochran, "I think it was planned." Actually, the publicity probably boosted sales.

 Next, former Jackson Five member and brother Jermaine Jackson bellowed on CNN, "This is nothing but a modern-day lynching!" Just in case the point escaped anyone, Jermaine later appeared on "20/20," and said, "They're a bunch of racist rednecks out there who don't care about people."

 Jesse Jackson, not having enough in his "In" box, also weighed in. "It seems that the excessive zealotry has almost taken away the focus of how serious this situation is," said Jesse. "Michael has been condemned without a trial." Excessive zealotry? Did Jesse also chastise the media for their "excessive zealotry" in the case of Martha Stewart, Scott Peterson, Robert Blake or Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel? Condemned without a trial? Name one reporter who said, "He did it."

 Family confidante Majestik Magnificent -- whoever that is -- also attacked the DA-hell-bent-on-getting-Michael Jackson. "I think it's a personal vendetta," said Magnificent. "The DA don't like Michael. . . . I think it's ironic that it came out just before his album release . . . in the middle of the video and everything. Two plus two just doesn't equal four." Oh.

 Michael Jackson's mother Katherine told the British magazine Hello! that "there are two sets of rules in this country, one for the white people and the other one for the black people."

 Recall that Michael Jackson raised the race card when his "Invincible" CD failed to reach expected sales. Sony record executive Tommy Mottola, who put out the anemic CD, bore the brunt of the Gloved One's wrath: "He's mean. He's a racist, and he's very, very, very devilish." Racist? The same company that signed Michael Jackson in 1991 to a six-album deal, giving him an unprecedented 50 percent royalty rate and other lucrative concessions, and signed multi-racial Mariah Carey to a 10-album record deal? The same record industry that exploits the Rap/Hip-Hop niche to the tune of $1.8 billion per year, making it one of the fastest-growing music genres? (Assuming one can legitimately call it "music.")

 Sony reportedly spent over $50 million making and marketing "Invincible." Yet, incredibly, Jackson accused the company's executive of intentionally refusing to promote the CD, and thereby squandering its over $50 million investment -- all to advance the record exec's racist agenda.

 Jackson's defenders also criticize Sneddon for his less-than-somber demeanor during the press conference where he announced Michael Jackson's arrest warrant. Sneddon referred to Jackson as "Wacko Jacko" and advised media personnel to "stay long and spend lots of money because we need your sales tax to support our offices." And when asked about the timing of the arrest warrant on the same day of Jackson's CD release, Sneddon said, "Jackson himself, I believe, has said that this was all done to try to ruin his new CD that was coming out. . . . Like the sheriff and I are really into that kind of music. Our kids are grown up."

 He later apologized, agreeing with critics that he failed to convey a more serious tone. He also said that he "should have known better." But his apology, however sincere, leaves a crack in the door for the irresponsible, illogical use of the race card. For his flippancy, of course, makes him a member of an unadulterated racist legal system with a vendetta against Michael Jackson.

 The race card -- don't leave home without it. It works. Just ask O.J. Simpson.