Continuing with more essay winners from my students! (Note: Some students titled their essays; others did not. I have given titles when they were provided; if the student did not title their essay, no title is provided here).
Aaron Terry, Alabama A&M University:
Symbolizing Black or White
Michael Jackson was one of the all time greatest artists that the world has experienced. He made great music, unbelievable dance moves, and cared deeply for the world. A lot of his songs had a deeper message from what appeared to be. Not only did the songs but also the videos to the songs. For example, the video “Black or White” had a lot of symbols that Jackson wanted the world to see.
One was the significance of the black panther. At some point of the video, the panther is walking around growling at gestures related to racism. The panther stood for The Black Panther Party, whose goal was mainly to fight against racism and help out blacks. When the panther turns into Michael Jackson, he shows what seems to be him releasing anger by breaking car windows, shop windows, dancing and so on. Everything he breaks is portrayed as a problem in the world, such as the KKK, or tap dancing as a reference to slavery.
Another point Jackson was trying to get across is that no matter what color your skin is, we can all come together as one. He showed this by dancing with different ethnicities. He danced with Africans, Asians, Natives, and Russians. To quote the Kaufmann essay, “this is the dance of life and it encircles all humans.” He wanted us to see that we are all humans; who cares about the color of our skin?
Many of Jackson’s videos and songs were like this one in the way of relaying a message. That’s what made Michael Jackson such a great artist as he was. He was loved by many but also hated. All he wanted was to make the world a better place. He sang because people would listen and danced because people would watch.
Javarrius Culpepper, Alabama A&M University:
Michael Jackson was a very unique individual. He was the one and only that had the ability to capture your heart in that way that he did. Michael had songs that inspired you in many ways. But he also had pieces of work that showed you how corrupt our society is.
We are placed in a world where it would be crazy if everyone looked alike. But people sometimes think people are crazy just because they don’t have the same skin color. Why should this be, though? That’s a question nobody can answer. But that’s where Michael comes in. In Michael Jackson’s short film “Black or White” you can conclude mixed emotions from it. But his works show us that it’s not really “Black or White,” it’s millions of races and nationalities. And what does color have to do with who you are?
Michael was a very amazing individual. He also had the sweetest voice. But for a period of time during this video we didn’t hear him say too much. Michael had a very outside-of-the-box mind. He used this part of the video to show how fed up he was with racism. But the way he did it drew a lot of criticism. People just didn’t really understand what he was trying to say.
Society today is intergrated but there is still very much racism. Michael was showing all of us that no matter what race, we are all people. No one should be outcast or treated badly because of their skin color. Skin color is one of the things, just like age, that really doesn’t matter unless you let it.
In conclusion, this film played a big role in our lives. Michael had a voice and he exercised it. We should be thankful. This video inspired change, and to view people in a different way. It also showed us it’s not just about white and black. It’s about our world in general.
Jarell Smith, Alabama A&M University:
Black or White Essay
In “Black or White,” Michael Jackson is trying to prove a point that being black, white, or any other race doesn’t matter. People should be together no matter what the color of someone is.
Michael Jackson comes into the video as a black panther, literally. Michael Jackson turns back to normal and starts to tear down the environment he is in while at the same time dancing around. I do not know why Michael Jackson is tearing down the things he did in the video, but I believe he was doing it to show that racism and violence is not the answer. Michael Jackson wants to be able to kill the hate as best he can. He knows he can’t do it by himself but he wants to influence others so they can spread the love.
Hopefully one day the world will see what Michael Jackson saw and possibly the world will be a better place.
Jamesha Tolbert, Alabama A&M University:
It’s Not About Your Race
Often, people are so categorized by race that their abilities for a task are never considered. In Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” he shows that we should not care about our racial ethnicity but should, rather, be able to remain in harmony with one another. He uses symbolism in the video to get this message across, such as his outfits.
In the first half of the video we can see the good in Michael. We see his cheerfulness and friendliness. He wears white, which is a sign of purity. So we know all the interaction with other races was good natured, but also foreshadowing later events. In a sense, Michael turns “evil.”
We all associate evil with the color black, but Michael uses the color as a SIGN OF RAGE. He takes us back to the ways before the present generation, associating black with powerful African-American movements such as “The Black Panthers.” It is known that The Black Panthers were full of rage-and sometimes outright hatred. Therefore, his turn from good to evil represents this.
Michael Jackson was a very controversial music artist. He always had great songs; hits all the time; but this video was “coded.” He wanted us to see the transition of how things are in the world. You can have people that are very pure and good hearted, and then comes along the evil people. The question is: Who has more power to influence others? It’s kind of a God vs. Satan. This video makes the audience ponder, but one thing is for sure, this video shows there can be a balance of good and evil.
Jazmine Adams, Alabama A&M University
“Connecting The Circle of Life Through Song: An Analysis of Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White””
Before analyzing Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” I did not know a music video could convey such a powerful message with meaning. Over the years, I have watched the video countless times as a Michael Jackson fan. However, the only thing I ever picked up on was the obvious message and theme, which is that ethnicity does not define an individual. The two bluntly intentional symbols that sparked my realization of the more meaningful message in the video were the scene with the fire, and the criticized ending with the solo dancing in the street.
To begin, in the scene where Michael is dancing in front of the fire he sings, “I ain’t afraid of no sheets.” According to Kaufmann that is a direct reference towards the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). A Ku Klux Klan symbol, the burning cross, appears and Michael “boldly” punches through it. Kaufmann also suggests that the image of the nuclear cloud represents “governments and an arms race out of control.” While I agree with Kaufmann’s analysis, I believe Michael chose fire as his background to symbolize how angry and fed up he was with injustice. Only the brave and most courageous would be willing to dance with fire.
Finally, Michael’s solo scene is what relayed the message to me most. He walks out of the studio as a black cat/leopard and morphs into Michael. Kaufmann states that the black leopard represnts the “Black Panthers” and the black pride movement. She even points out how Michael often danced with a closed fist, which was first done by James Brown with “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” All of the above is symbolic of fighting for equality and letting the African-American culture know to take pride in their heritage and skin color.
After Michael’s dance, he ends in front of a hotel, destroying a car and even throwing a trash can through the glass of a building. This act of seemingly violence is the part that confused most of its audience, including me. Kaufmann suggests that the violence is a “factual part of history.” She points out that the act symbolizes the many Chicago riots after the assasination of Martin Luther King. I even heard of a lady recognizing the name of the hotel the scene took place in front of because of the acts of riots that took place there.
In short, as Kaufmann stated, Michael was and is a civil rights activist. He may not have stood behind a podium or led boycotts, but he led through his music and dance. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached about equality and everyone coming together despite ethnicity and heritage. Michael danced with many different cultures, which helped prove Dr. King’s point. We are all united some type of way in the circle of life. Michael Jackson chose dance and music to represent this circle and to speak out and fight injustice and inequality.
I will post more student essays this Friday!