Language and power
Starting from the basics the very use of English in the song, has its impact on it’s power and influence. The song is mainly targeted at the problems surrounding the United States of America, and with the US being an English-heavy nation, the use of English aims to put ideas of social injustice and racism through to the minds of the average American. Jackson also uses English as a medium to voice his political opinions, with this song being the first time that jackson publicly presents his political view.
Another instance of subtle implications of power through his song includes the high social status and the highly influential celebrity status of Jackson; as he uses his fame and his powerful music videos to throw light on the poverty-stricken lands of Brazil and the violation of human rights towards the African-Americans. Jackson’s philanthropic persona and the charismatic disposition he exudes furthermore convince his listeners to accept his ideologies, be it racist or offensive. Utilizing a sense of national unity and togetherness, Michael forms a close bond with the listeners and draws sympathy from them. The phrase “they don’t really care about us” talks about two separate communities presumably the blacks and the whites (not to over generalize), this being one of the foremost triggers of the uproar that this song created. The history of this song retains a concentrated chain of irony around it, Jackson fighting for black human rights but himself having made a cosmetic change from black to white, or Jackson fighting for the abolition of racism but himself being accused of anti-Semitism, furthermore Jackson trying to communicate to the world the social injustices but his music video being banned in certain countries, and so the list goes on and on. In a way, jackson’s song corresponds to the unity and togetherness of kennedy’s speech by using common ideas of war and atrocities drawing sympathy from the audience.
Jackson with the use of the “Jew me” and “kike” although accused of antisemitism was simply referring to his own experiences being raised in a Jewish community. The second video shot in Brazil was to the dissolution of the Brazilian Government who tried to preclude Jackson’s efforts as much as possible to prevent the substandard conditions being exposed at the time of hosting the Olympics to preserve national pride. Moreover the line is supposed to expresses the opinion of an average man – a white man for whom Roosevelt is the most honorable and honest president, and a black man for whom Martin Luther King is the embodiment of the very spirit of the American civil rights movement.This symbolises the fact that great personalities exist regardless of the veil that is their colour. Spike Lee, a famous movie director at this time predominantly directed movies that depict problems of racial and social relationships – for instance, they tells what happens when a black man falls in love with a white woman and how their society reacts to this. One attribute that both videos share is that their opening contains children who sing the lyrics where pathos is effectively employed as they try to play on our heart strings to show that even children face these horrors.
I will be speaking about the effect of the language employed on the audience and the impact created on the society. Jackson employs political allusion through ‘if martin Luther was living’ and ‘if Roosevelt was living’, which helps us venture back to the times when Martin Luther king (African-American civil movement leader) and Roosevelt (president) ruled peacefully and helped keep the society satisfied always by resolving problems and ensuring equality.This is very powerful to communicate how the government is ignorant and gruesome to implicitly convey contempt towards the one-sided government, who were completely opposite to the great leaders- Martin Luther King and Roosevelt. Throughout the song a sense of protest and power in the tone is explicit, which helps to create influence on the audience and helps spread awareness regarding the theme of racial discrimination. Some evidences of the language used to relate to the theme of worlds disparity on the blacks are: ‘Black or white me’, ‘Black man, blackmail’, ‘they don’t care about us’, ‘throwing me in a class of bad name’. The use of this language and analogy in the song is highly effective not only to remind audience of the theme of racism but also to provoke pity and sympathy from the side of the audience, making them feel moved by the trepidation of the black society. Moreover, Jackson’s employment of brutal words such as ‘raped’ helps to convey the unthinkable magnitude of the ordeal, agony and emotional turbulence faced by the blacks due to the ill-treatment and reiterates the brutality of the people around created a gigantic impact on people. Michael effectively convinces people to fight for their rights, raising the spirit of protest against oppression and the world. Some words used such as kike, Jew suggests the desperation of Jackson, whose anti-Semitic tone holds an influencing power. US Jewish community was disturbed by the lyrics because it allegedly contained anti-Semitic words, which makes clear how languaghumiliation. The song remains one of the most controversial pieces Jackson ever composed, with so much influential power and protest to eradicate racial discrimination.
The fact that this is a song, euphemistically accentuates the harsh ideas such as racism antisemitism and police brutality. Although the steady and relentless rhythm along with fast paced body movements is hastily generalized to put forward a spirit of aggression and a sense of rebelliousness, Jackson intends to simply show civil disobedience. To start off, the title of the song having the word ‘us’ shows that the singer grouping himself with the blacks/ the Jewish, towards which the world is being very unfair. This also reveals that the song is going to be from the perspective of those who are mistreated(which are the Jews in this context). In the phrase ‘dead head’ the word ‘dead’ connotes how sufferers perceive the outside world to be not thinking. Likewise, the phrase ‘everybody allegation’ is conveying how everybody is pointing fingers at the lower class or the helpless ones just to get away with what they have done. This also ties in with Michael Jackson own life as he was also accused of a few charges in which he wasn’t even involved in. The use of cacophony, ‘bang bang’, referring to the use of guns to show how the police or the rather the ones with power are resorting to violence to fulfill what they want and desire. This also connects with the manner in which the song starts. The fast rap kind of style being used also connotes for the manner in which the world is coming to a possible end due violence, most resort to when it comes to what they want. Here Jackson rightly terms the world to have ‘gone mad’.
Contrasting with verses, the chorus is very catchy and comparatively slow so that the listeners get the message and understand what Jackson is trying to put forth. In the second verse, Jackson is seen to have used an excessive repetition of the word ‘me’ through which Jackson is conveying the unfairness and injustice he had suffered in his life. The phrase ‘Jew me’ in this case refers to how Jackson and the others (presumably the blacks) were treated just the way in which the Jews were treated as the lower class (unworthy citizens) during WWII. The use of the word ‘kike’ which is a way in which the Jews were offensively referred to as, conveys the presence of a social disharmony being present in the US. Which is further emphasized in the next line, ‘Don’t you black or white me’ thus showing that there was still a barrier between the two races. In this stanza Michael Jackson is also portraying himself as the ideal man who never gives up even in times of injustice. This is to give hope to those ones who find themselves in helpless situation and to make them have faith in themselves. It was also during this time that the racial divide was at its peak, thus making this song very impactful at the time.