Sunday, July 12, 2009

Of all sad words of tongue and pen

Like every retail outlet in the U.S., Bookstore C currently has a display of Michael Jackson material -- in our case, commemorative zines. A table near the cash desk has stacks; each is different. Cover photos are all different too -- among them a close-up of the small boy Michael, with glowing unblemished skin; dancing Michael, in black pants and white shirt and socks; in a bright red uniform with lots of gold, looking astoundingly like a young, dark Elizabeth Taylor, with one random lock danging over his forehead; and an almost skeletal Michael, wearing sunglasses and beige lipstick.

Last night an African-American family came in together: Mom, Dad, big sis, little brother. He must have been about eight, and restless -- swinging off the umbrella stand, crouching under the display tables. He crawled out from under the display and stood up next to the zine with the young Michael cover. He looked from one magazine to another, and his baffled little voice piped up: "Mommy, Daddy, was Michael Jackson black?"

He was lifting one issue after another, now talking to himself. "No -- look, he was white. No --" and then his voice raised again -- "Mommy, Daddy, Michael Jackson was black. Look here -- you can see it yourself!"

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