We can leave it to Faux News and the likes of Bill O’Reilly to try and sum up the findings of the Pew study:
Why should Americans (black or otherwise) disengage from Michael Jackson just because his children appear to be white? Even more troubling is O’Reilly’s reference to the color of Michael Jackson’s skin.
Here is the thing – I believed Michael Jackson when he said he had a skin condition called Vitiligo. I have an in-law who has it, she is almost completely white. My mother has small patches of it on her legs and I have little white dots myself. It attracts a lot of attention from people who just don’t get it that your skin is changing and you can’t control it.
Michael Jackson was known to have a long standing relationship with a dermatologist (that is where he met Debbie Rowe). This dermatologist was more than likely treating Michael for vitiligo. Did Michael bleach his skin? He probably did bleach his skin to even out the tone. Some people with vitilago wear heavy makeup for years to try to even out the skin tone or they try to cover up the areas that are changing.
I wish Michael Jackson had talked about his skin condition more, as he may well be the most famous case of vitiligo in history. By the way, vitiligo also affects the hair. Consider this - it is possible that Michael Jackson died with natural blond hair.
What is Vitilago?
"Vitiligo (vit-ill-EYE-go) is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin, the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose and genital and rectal areas), and the retina (inner layer of the eyeball) are destroyed. As a result, white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. The hair that grows in areas affected by vitiligo usually turns white.
About 1 to 2 percent of the world's population, or 40 to 50 million people, have vitiligo. In the United States, 2 to 5 million people have the disorder. Ninety-five percent of people who have vitiligo develop it before their 40th birthday. The disorder affects all races and both sexes equally." National Institutes of Health
UPDATE - July 10, 2009
The cause of vitiligo is not known, but doctors and researchers have several different theories. One theory is that people develop antibodies that destroy the melanocytes in their own bodies. Another theory is that melanocytes destroy themselves. Finally, some people have reported that a single event such as sunburn or emotional distress triggered vitiligo; however, these events have not been scientifically proven to cause vitiligo.
Dr. Arnold Klein, Michael Jackson's dermatalogist, says Jackson relied on him to help in treating the skin condition vitiligo, which destroys pigment-producing cells and can cause patches of uneven tone. "His was bad because he began to get a totally speckled look over his body," said Klein. "[It was] all over his body, but on his face significantly [and] on his hands, which were very difficult to treat."
"You have one choice where you can use certain drugs and ultraviolet light treatments to try to make the white spots turn dark," Klein explained. However, Jackson’s vitiligo "became so severe, that the easier way is to use certain creams" – very likely hydroquinone derivatives, say other industry experts – "that will make the dark spots turn light so you can even out the pigments totally."
The treatment resulted in a uniform – albeit pale – skin tone. "That's ultimately what the decision had to be. He would have to wear heavy, heavy makeup on stage, which would be ridiculous. And he couldn't really go out in public without looking terribly peculiar."