Before the world knew his name, a boy looked into the mirror and hated what he saw: a busted lip, a swollen jaw, and a black eye. It was painful, but not nearly as painful as the words that came with the beating. “Your lips are too fat and your nose is too flat. And your skin doesn’t match your brothers’. I’m trying to run a business here!”
His violent father had a point. His face was not the face of a pop star. It was too dark and flawed. So, the boy found a solution in his mother’s cabinet: a glass jar filled with white powder. As he began spreading it over his face, he saw his complexion lighten. Would it be enough to please his father and satisfy his fans?
Over time, the boy became a household name. By the age of 30, he was the undisputed King of Pop. In spite of his success, he never stopped obsessing about his skin color. Even when his personal relationships began coming apart at the seams. Even when he got caught up in a scandal due to his unusual relationship with a 14-year-old boy. And even when he began to suffer from drug addiction and depression, the King of Pop continued to hide his true skin color, right up until the day he died. Alone. In bed.
Fast forward 200 years. Another boy looked into the mirror and hated what he saw: a busted lip, a swollen jaw, and a black eye. It was painful, but not nearly as painful as the words that came with the beating. “Your lips are too fat and your nose is too flat. And your skin doesn’t match your brothers’. I’m trying to run a business here!”
This boy was also born with dark skin. He was also raised by a violent father who exploited his talent to pay the bills. He also became the King of Pop in his era. And as an adult, he, too, had relationship problems. He, too, got caught up in a scandal involving his intimate relations with boys. He, too, struggled with addiction and depression. And with each passing year, his skin became lighter and lighter, right up until the day he kicked the bucket. Alone. In bed.
We know him as Michael Jackson. And if you Google his name, you can see the evolution of his face over time. But if you Google the name of the boy from 200 years ago, you will find no visual evidence of his Moorish ancestry, his natural skin tone, or any non-German features. All because of a jar of white powder, this boy was able to keep his true skin color a secret. His name?
(adapted from The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe, 123: Another Tortured Artist)
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