“The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading. The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the black man, I am the white man. I am not the one who was attacking. It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them. I am angry and outraged that I could be misinterpreted.”
“Thank you for allowing me to do this. (‘Oh, no, it’s quite all right. Prince Albert of Monaco’) Thank you! Thank you very much! I love you more, much more. These awards from you and the World Music Awards are very special to me. As a person who loves and adores and has concern for people of all nationalities and ethnic origins, my music serves as a way of making mankind aware of the inquisities that exist against all people of the world, and aren’t intended to be offensive to any ethnic group. I am not and never have been anti-Semitic. And do me a favor, don’t read the tabloids! I love you all very much. And this is our future right here! (Michael pointing to the children who accompanied him on stage) I love you!”
The narrow-minded live in the mud, holding onto their mantra: We deceive. You believe. Choosing not to be educated by the reality of facts, they cling to the hope that we, the public, will accept their false and tired, cut and paste agendas. Amazingly, I could have written that at any time during Michael Jackson’s career…and, it would have applied. Even more astounding, since Michael left us, nothing has changed. Myth-makers forge ahead, mud dripping, refusing to be educated. Funny, I remember our beautiful kitty, Sylvester. One morning, he decided to jump into the bathtub while it was filled with water. He skidded, turned around, and leapt out…hating every minute of it. He did that only once. Educated by reality, he chose to make a change. Isn’t it amazing that those in the tabloid media aren’t willing or able to do the same. Michael dealt with ignorance from the media by speaking out…in speeches, in lyrics, in his writings. We, The New Media, follow his lead.
Feeling the sting in his personal life, Michael was able to write about injustice while living it. When he wrote the words, “I am the victim of police brutality!” he had been.
“I have been forced to submit to a dehumanizing and humiliating examination by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department earlier this week. They served a search warrant on me which allowed them to view and photograph my body, including my penis, my buttocks, my lower torso, thighs and any other areas that they wanted. They were supposedly looking for any discoloration, spotting, blotches or other evidence of a skin color disorder called vitiligo which I have previously spoken about. The warrant also directed me to cooperate in any examination of my body by their physician to determine the condition of my skin, including whether I have vitiligo or any other skin disorder. The warrant also stated that I had no right to refuse the examination or photographs and if I failed to cooperate with them, they would introduce that refusal at any trial as an indication of my guilt. It was the most humiliating ordeal of my life, one that no person should ever have to suffer. And even after experiencing the indignity of this search, the parties involved were still not satisfied and wanted to take even more pictures. It was a nightmare, a horrifying nightmare. But if this is what I have to endure to prove my innocence, my compete innocence, so be it.”
Michael Jackson 1993
In an interview on December 28, 2004, Michael told of police brutality once again…this time in the form of handcuffs applied which made large swellings and black and blue marks on his arms.
“If you saw what they did to my arms, it was very bad, it was very swollen. They were placed in such a position, behind my back…it hurt my back…I cannot sleep at night. One time, I asked if I could use the restroom. They locked me in there for 45 minutes. There was feces thrown on the walls and the floor and the ceiling and it stank so bad. One of the police came to the window and made a sarcastic remark, ‘Does it smell good enough for you in there? How do you like the smell?’ (When asked to comment on Michael’s experience, the Police declined.)”
Ed Bradley CBS News Michael Jackson Interview
When Michael sings of police brutality, he knows whereof he speaks. The pain comes from inside. Alongside that, however, is Michael’s pain for others who have experienced authority that is both unethical and unlawful.
“In the midst of the intense racial and political turmoil of the time (Rodney King, race riots, O.J. Simpson, James Byrd Jr.), TDCAU delivers a targeted blow against an abusive, corrupt and oppressive apparatus of power. The lyrics throughout the song are some of Jackson’s most compelling and provocative. He speaks of those who are victims of hate, shame and police brutality.”
Is it any wonder that the inmates of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Cebu City, Philippines have taken TDCAU as their mantra…turning hate into a cooperative and creative dance outlet in this maximum security facility. Following Michael’s lead to speak out for those who feel the sting of injustice by the system. I was also reminded of Michael’s essay, “BUT THE HEART SAID NO.”
“They saw the poor living in cardboard shacks, so they knocked the shacks down and built projects. Huge blocks of cement and glass towered over asphalt parking lots. Somehow it wasn’t much like home, even home in a shack. ‘What do these people expect?’ they asked impatiently. ‘You’re too poor to live like us. Until you can do better for yourselves, you should be grateful, shouldn’t you?’ The head said yes, but the heart said no.”
Michael’s heart repeatedly said no to the system. He knew what it was like to feel degradation and humiliation. He felt it daily in the media. And, he experienced it when being falsely accused. TDCAU…“a brilliant, politically potent street-inspired rap-hop hybrid. It became a song that not only resonated for the disenfranchised in America, but also for those around the world. Sonically and lyrically it hits like a sledgehammer, with Jackson hurling rhymes over a crackling militant beat, ominous strings, and a haunting choir. It is an anthem of the oppressed, a rap of resistance. The track begins in what sounds like a city school yard with a woman leading children in a call and response chant of indignation. For those who assume that every Michael Jackson song must be about Michael Jackson, it is significant to note that he begins this track with someone else’s voice. When he comes in, he is simply inhabiting and witnessing for those previously unheard or unacknowledged voices. It is, in a way, an act of identification and empowerment. (The bridge section consists of 300 tracks.)
In an interview with Spike Lee during the filming of TDCAU, the director noted: “Michael’s marching orders were make the short film hard-driving with an edge with archival footage chronically man’s inhumanity to his brothers and sisters. Using that as a starting point, we came up with the idea of Michael being one of many convicts in prison.” Starting as one short film, the project became larger and turned into a prison short film and a short film shot in Brazil. “Shooting TDCAU was one of the highlights of my career, and I am including feature film. I had a great, great, great, great time. I think that was historic what we did. Everything he does he wants to be the very best that ever was. That’s a great attitude to take. That thinking is responsible for being in the position he’s in. I was humbled with Michael. I’ve always respected him. He’s a great artist.”
The international appeal of the short film and its political statement was made by using Rio de Janeiro as a microcosm for poverty around the globe. Two hundred members of the Afro-Brazilian percussion group OLODUM bring a raw energy and represented the organizations civil rights stance. The short film done in Brazil shows a natural chemistry between the people of Brazil and Michael…natural and spontaneous. There is a joyful solidarity in the dance and the music. Together, Michael and the people leave us hopeful in that solidarity to combat oppressive barriers.
“I love the Brazilian people, I feel for them in the same way that I feel for the Indians and the Africans. There’s a lot of poverty in Brazil, and I remember going there kind of left my heart…You know there’s bits of my heart in different countries around the world in which I travel…and I have a lot of heart for those people. The people are so sweet, and they were so happy to see me. You know, they were overwhelmed with excitement, and I was happy to be there for them. I wish I could do more, I just feel bad that I don’t do enough…I really do.”
Michael Jackson MAKING HISTORY Adrian Grant
“In the Brazilian movie, you see the love that people have for Michael.”
Having experienced police brutality, the prison short film shows the plight of prisoners and also the conditions ordinary people face in a society disciplined by constant surveillance and a more internalized form of power…disturbing realities are revealed. It is chilling to think that false accusations might well have placed Michael in that reality. However, the most appalling non-case in the American Justice System ended with complete exoneration…with a verdict of INNOCENT.
THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US is a powerful protest song with its outrage at injustice. Michael took its message and masterpiece composition to the stage during the HISTORY WORLD TOUR by introducing us to THE DRILL. This choreography in stunning theatre has become another of Michael’s dazzling classics.
In the days of information, ignorance is a choice. Michael was not content to simply wait for governments to fix the world. He devoutly believed in the power of the people. He asked the questions: “What do you need and how can I help?” Using his gifts and fame, he presented the crying needs of the world to us in his words and music, in his short films and live performances, in his speeches and interviews…and then set about trying to find solutions for every problem…asking for our help.
In a career of classics, THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US is another. It is a masterpiece of composition and lyrics…filling our senses and moving us to seek answers towards justice and civil rights. Michael sought a world with no boundaries, no borders, no barriers of any kind. He believed music was color blind. He loved all people, all cultures. The manufactured controversy of the media does not allow for these truths. Painting Michael Jackson as a racist takes ignorance to new levels.
“THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US IS NOT A RACIST SONG…IT IS AN ANTI-RACIST SONG.”