Sammy Sosa, the man who until now has only had to fight steroid rumors, has a completely new look.
And I am startled by what I see. I'm not feeling Sammy Sosa as Michael Jackson's little brother. Sammy's new skin tone is shocking and creepy. And I'm being nice. It's a lot easier to deal with White people tanning themselves brown than to see a Black man bleach himself White.
I feel like there is something really wrong with this. I am a dark-skinned Black man. Proudly so. Today, I would like to say I have never wondered what it would be like to be lighter. But that would be a lie. I have lived the contradictions that many of us African Americans deal with about skin color but often chose not to think about. Still it's hard to forget the indignities.
Like – getting a whipping because I called my cousin "Black."
Being teased because of my dark skin – by several other Black boys in junior high. Most of what I remember about seventh grade is that I hated how dark I was. I had never realized that dark was considered "bad" until that year.
This is a complicated subject for many Black people. We have long been hung up on skin color. We used to call it "color-struck." These days we try to say it is not a problem – until some Black man, like Sammy Sosa or Michael Jackson, decides to lighten his skin. But the fact is, lightening one's skin color is something Black people used to do all the time. The skin-bleaching companies made a lot of money from Negroes years ago.
Despite everything, particularly the self-hatred, we have learned to just adapt. Somehow, I guess, I got over the fact that Michael Jackson became a White guy who had White kids. I now kind of think of him as two guys. The young Black kid and the old White weirdo.
But his dying so suddenly has sort of allowed me to forgive him for all of his weirdness. Because light or dark his talent was phenomenal. Which brings me back to Sammy Sosa, who now looks virtually unrecognizable in his newly-lightened skin.
For his part Sammy is saying that a rejuvenation process has changed his skin color. I'll just be watching to see if he gets dark again. For now this feels a lot worse to me than wondering whether Sammy did steroids.
Award-winning journalist David Burnett is former president of the Washington, D.C. Association of Black Journalists and founder of www.Sportssense.net. Column distributed by NNPA.