MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As the protests in Ferguson, Mo., continue into their tenth night, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a disturbing report Sunday revealing that racial tolerance in America was now at its lowest point since the release of Michael Jackson’s 1982 blockbuster album Thriller.
“We can now confirm that racial intolerance is at a nadir unseen since before the release of ‘Thriller,’ ” SPLC spokesperson LaTanya Williams told reporters Sunday. “If these trends continue, America might find itself at ‘Off the Wall’ levels of racial harmony by the end of the decade.”
According to Williams, relations between racial groups in America are, by a number of statistical measurements, no better—and in many cases have gotten worse—since the debut of the best-selling album of all-time, and its seven top-10 hits.
Williams noted that school and residential segregation are at their highest levels in decades. Ninety percent of Americans think race relations have failed to improve under our first black president. Parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have been struck down.
“As we can see in Ferguson,” she charged, “police brutality against minorities is still a serious problem. We are rapidly losing the gains made in the 1950s and ‘60s. For perspective, the last time we saw these kinds of figures, ‘Beat It’ and ‘Billie Jean’ were in non-stop rotation on MTV.”
The report confirms the increasingly fraught state of race relations in the country, highlighted by incidents such as the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the choking death of a Staten Island man at the hands of the NYPD this July. While the SPLC’s report noted that racial harmony briefly hit all-time highs following the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the release of Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in 2010, respectively, prolonged economic uncertainty and political dysfunction has contributed to racial unrest.
“America is very much in danger of falling to ‘ABC’-era race relations, and, God forbid, could tumble as far as ‘Tutti Frutti’-era racial tolerance if these trends are not reversed, and soon,” Williams warned. “It may take two, possibly even three ‘Thriller’-level albums to reduce racial tension in this country again.”
“And who the hell is going to make an album that defies racial boundaries like ‘Thriller’? Lorde? The Roots? That lady who did background vocals on ‘We Are Young’? Let’s get serious, people. Don’t let Dr. King’s dream die because no one can fill the King of Pop’s shoes,” Williams concluded.