Monday, August 10, 2009
WHAT IS VITILIGO?
When Michael Jackson spoke, the world listened. He told of a chronic disorder that caused his skin to lose its color leaving it without color in some spots. Small patches at first and then larger more noticeable areas would have patches. The single glittered glove that took us by surprise during the Motown 25 Review was his way of covering up this disorder during the early stages.
The rumors spread that he was embarrassed to be a black man, and so he physically altered his appearance. I never quite understood why Mr. Jackson chose not to address the issue concerning his skin's gradual lightening immediately, but this was his challenge, and his alone.
I was all too familiar with vitiligo at a young age. An acquaintance of my mother had this disorder. On my first visit to her home, my mother gave me a brief explanation of what I could expect; and I was instructed to behave normally.
When she opened the door, I was not totally prepared for what I would see. I was shocked beyond belief. The pep talk worked, and I was able to rebound quickly and smile a very timid smile, as we were invited into her home. I was no more than 11 years old, and I had a lot of questions.
She was all too kind to answer any that I may have had. After a very brief introduction, she'd given me permission to ask her anything concerning her disorder. So I asked does it hurt? She told me no, that it did not physically hurt her. Then I wanted to know how does something like this happen, and is there a cure? She said that doctors did not know what caused it; and at that time, there was no known cure.
Our weekly visits, although brief, no doubt left a lasting impression on me. Considering that they'd taken place over twenty years ago, I was more prepared than the average person for MJ's battle with this disorder, which was far from the public scrutiny. I vigorously defended him because I was not afraid of vitiligo. Sometimes people are so mean and full of fear for something that they don't understand that they resort to name calling and other hurtful actions.
No, vitiligo is not contagious. As of today, there is no known cure for it, and it affects less than one percent of the world's population. It is my dream that through educating people, just as I was educated at a young age, that the world becomes more compassionate and accepting of the differences that make us unique.