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Most of Michael Jackson’s songs don’t have offensive lyrics; however, he used slurs in one of his hit songs. Jackson initially defended the song’s lyrics when they sparked controversy. He later said his lyrical choices undermined the message of the song.

Why 1 of Michael Jackson’s songs is so controversial

Jackson took a stand against hate in some of his songs. “Black or White” remains one of the most famous songs ever about equality. On the other hand, one of his other songs in the same vein was a lot more inflammatory.

They Don’t Care About Us” is one of the most controversial songs in Jackson’s discography. The song criticizes hatred and police brutality. At the same time, it uses slurs for people of Jewish descent.

Michael Jackson angrily defended ‘They Don’t Care About Us’

According to The New York Times, Jackson initially defended his use of slurs. “The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading,” he said. “The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the Black man, I am the white man. I am not the one who was attacking.”

Jackson further elaborated on his interpretation of “They Don’t Care About Us.” “It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them,” he said. “I am angry and outraged that I could be so misinterpreted.”

Michael Jackson apologized

The New York Times reported Jackson later apologized for the lyrics of “They Don’t Care About Us.” “Unfortunately, my choice of words may have unintentionally hurt the very people I wanted to stand in solidarity with,” Jackson said. “I just want you all to know how strongly I am committed to tolerance, peace and love, and I apologize to anyone who might have been hurt.” Later copies of the song did not include the slurs.

The way the world reacted to the song

Although “They Don’t Care About Us” was controversial, it was still a hit. “They Don’t Care About Us” reached No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 13 weeks. The song’s parent album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, was a hit as well. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 36 weeks.


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“They Don’t Care About Us” was considerably more popular in the United Kingdom. The Official Charts Company reports the song reached No. 4 in the U.K., remaining on the chart for 25 weeks. In addition, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I reached No. 1 in the U.K. and was on the chart for 95 weeks. Jackson released one subsequent studio album: Invincible. It didn’t feature any lyrical choices as controversial as his use of slurs on “They Don’t Care About Us.”