I haven’t been compelled to blog in a long time.
In an era where everybody is twittering and text-messaging their lives away, a well-thought out essay that extends past 140 characters is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
But when our universe lost its brightest star on June 25, 2009, I felt a deep, overwhelming sadness that I haven’t experienced in many years and I felt moved to say….something.
My hero, Michael Joseph Jackson, is dead.
Honestly I’m still trying to process it, almost like the loss of a much-loved family member. I mean, hell, to many of us Michael WAS family. Much like Nike, or Coca-Cola, or McDonalds, Michael Jackson wasn’t so much a person as he was a living, breathing, American institution; a ubiquitous force that has seemingly existed forever and one that we couldn’t imagine a world without. Seeing Michael onstage was less like watching a musician perform and more akin to witnessing a magician at work.
But contrary to his otherworldly stage presence and magical aura, the man we called The King of Pop proved to be a mere mortal. And now my hero, Michael Joseph Jackson, is dead.
What isn’t dead, unfortunately, is the cloud of false accusations, unsubstantiated rumors, myths, slander, and outright lies that surround his life and his legacy. The greatest myth regarding Michael Jackson is that he was a pedophile who preyed on young children.
It is my belief now, just as it was 16 years ago, that the charges brought against Michael during his 1993 sexual abuse case were false. The allegations made by Jordan Chandler (the accuser) and his father Evan Chandler always seemed suspect to me for a few reasons:
1. Ask the average parent whether they’d want justice or money for their abused child and more than likely they’d say justice, if for no other reason than to protect their child (and other children) from a future attack. The fact that Evan Chandler was willing to essentially let Michael off the hook for a few million (reportedly 2-3), made their case seem like a well-orchestrated extortion attempt. In regards to the case, Evan was later caught on tape saying, “If I go through with this, I win big time. There’s no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever…Michael’s career will be over.” Notice that homeboy ain’t mention jack shit about his son. So much for being a concerned father…
2. Generally when victims of abuse come out with allegations against someone, other victims come forward to corroborate their story (i.e. the Catholic Church scandal, where a few parties came forward and it later led to thousands).
Very rarely do child molesters stop at just one kid, or even two for that matter. An alleged pedophile with only two accusers is kinda like an alleged serial killer with only one body. Or an alleged sneaker addict with only two pairs of Jordans in his closet. It just doesn’t make any logical sense, nor does it coincide with the recurring psychological characteristics of most people who fall into those categories.
In the case of Michael Jackson vs. the Chandler family, not a single corroborating witness could be found to help prosecute the case and after raids were conducted on several of Jackson’s homes, no hard evidence of sexual abuse was gathered.
Michael later settled the Chandler case out of court, not as an admission of guilt, but at the behest of his lawyers and financial advisors who warned him that a criminal trial could cost him millions of dollars in legal fees, as well as the loss of hundreds of millions in touring and endorsement revenue. With the Chandler case finally over, Michael continued to tour and released his greatest hits package “HIStory” in 1995. Ten years later though, he would face another trial that, in my opinion, would be the one to literally and figuratively, kill him.
Martin Bashir’s heinous, Machiavellian documentary “Living With Michael Jackson” aired in 2003. It was in this documentary that Mike (albeit foolishly) talked about his fondness for sharing his bed with children, and was seen holding hands with a young boy. Shortly afterwards the young boy from the documentary, 13 year-old Gavin Arvizo (a cancer survivor who had all his medical bills paid for by Michael), accused him of sexual abuse.
When Mike’s case against Arvizo hit airwaves in 2005, I must admit that I had my doubts. Much like the Chris Rock joke, I too shook my head in disbelief and said “ANOTHER kid!?! Mike, what the fuck?!! How could you be THAT stupid?!?!” As the case unraveled though, the financial motivations of the accuser’s family became much more apparent.
Similar to the Chandler case from ‘93, the prosecution couldn’t produce any credible witnesses to corroborate Arvizo’s testimony against Michael. Many of the prosecution’s witnesses were either former employees of Michael who had financial disputes with him, or had criminal convictions themselves. Arvizo’s testimony contradicted previous statements he’d made to officials saying that nothing ever took place between him and Michael, and Arvizo’s mother Janet Arvizo, an eccentric woman with a prior conviction for welfare fraud, single-handedly killed the case with her flippant remarks on the witness stand and overall bizarre courtroom behavior.
Actor Macaulay Culkin came forward in Michael’s defense and testified that no inappropriate behavior ever took place during their many times together, as did many other associates who had spent time at Neverland. Ultimately, Michael emerged from the Arvizo case with a Not Guilty verdict on all counts, but it proved to be a pyrrhic victory. The damage was already done. In the court of popular opinion, The King of Pop was an unrepentant child molestor.
When defending Michael Jackson against his detractors, I am often asked if I would let one of my sons sleep over at his house. The answer is no. Shit, I wouldn’t let my sons sleep over at YOUR house. But that doesn’t make you a pedophile, it just makes me a concerned and protective dad who doesn’t leave his kids around people I personally don’t know well enough to trust.
When it came to children, the only thing Michael was guilty of in my opinion, was naivete. While cuddling in the bed with children isn’t technically illegal, it does violate several social norms; norms that a man who dresses funny, lives at an amusement park and refers to himself as “Peter Pan” would certainly pay a higher price for breaking. When I hear the tales of Michael laying in bed with those children, watching movies, tickling, and engaging in general horseplay, it sounds less like the work of a pedophile and more like the actions of a man trying to experience a childhood he never had.
During his investigation for the Arvizo trial, Michael was examined by Dr. Stan Katz, a clinical psychologist who concluded that Michael didn’t fit the profile of a pedophile but instead that of a regressed 10 year old, an analysis which I agree with wholeheartedly. I mean after all, only a person with the simple, unsuspecting mind of a child could truly believe they could sleep in the same bed as their pre-pubescent buddies and not pay a price for it.
Still, the most saddening myth surrounding Michael’s life is that he was ashamed to be Black. During the mid 80’s, in the midst of his ever-changing skin complexion and facial features, popular opinion in the Black community was that Mike was a sellout. This was an opinion that would unfortunately haunt him for the rest of his life, but a closer look reveals quite the opposite.
As echoed by my man Scorpeze of the house music duo Windimoto in his excellent blog, Michael Jackson never tried to disown or separate himself from his Blackness at any point in his career. In fact, he was probably the most openly pro-Black pop entertainer of his time. Michael Jackson ashamed to be Black? I mean, this was the same guy who:
– Portrayed Black people as kings and queens in ancient Egypt (“Remember the Time” video)
– Called Tommy Mottola (his then label boss) a devil and a racist
– Sang “white man’s gotta make a change” live on the Grammies in ’88
– Sang about a beautiful African woman in “Liberian Girl”
– Featured an African chant at the end of “Wanna Be Startin Somethin”
– Donated over $25 million to the United Negro College Fund
– Sang “I ain’t scared of no sheets” in “Black or White” and upped the ante by morphing into a BLACK PANTHER at the video’s end
– Wrote a song called “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” with a Spike Lee-directed video that featured prisoners raising the Black power fist
– Uhhh “We Are The World” and USA for Africa, anyone?
What about this man wasn’t Black enough? Was it his battle with vitiligo and how it caused skin discoloration? Was it his excessive facial surgeries, due I’m sure in no small part to the teasing and ridicule he faced about his looks as a teenager?
Why did we turn our collective backs on a man who always reminded us that he never forgot who he was, or more importantly, whose he was?
This essay is my plea to all people who consider themselves a fan of Michael Jackson, but especially to Black people: Don’t let them talk about our Brother. Don’t let his naysayers convict him of crimes that were never proven. Don’t let people reduce the memory of one of our greatest heroes to that of a weird guy who wore a shiny glove and molested little boys.
When Elvis Presley died, did the media remember him as an overweight, drug-abusing racist who dated a 14 year-old, or was he eulogized as The King of Rock and Roll?
When Woody Allen dies, do you think the media will focus on the controversy behind him marrying his own stepdaughter, or on the films “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” and how great they were? (Ditto for Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock and roll pioneer who married his 13-year old cousin.)
When people accuse Michael of being a pedophile or a child molester, ask them to provide hard evidence. Ask them to provide an opinion rooted in fact, rather than one based on gossip, hearsay, and conjecture. Chances are, they won’t be able to. The Black community has done a great disservice in not reciprocating the love that Michael Jackson showed us when he was alive. The least we can do in honoring his death is ensure that his legacy is remembered properly for future generations.
Was Michael Jackson a weirdo? Of course he was a weirdo.
But maybe if you had been in the public eye since you were 7, had grown ass women throwing themselves at you since you were 13, suffered physical abuse at the hands of your father, watched your father and older brothers engage in sex with groupies on tour as a child, were called “Big Nose” and “ugly” by both family members AND fans, developed a skin disease that took away the one thing you repeatedly expressed your pride for, and spent the last half of your life as the most famous person on Earth, you’d probably be a bit of a weirdo too.
I am not attempting to paint Michael Jackson as a saint, as no man ever lives up to such a lofty title. But to me, the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” seems to sum up Michael Jackson’s life more than ever.
Why would people try to tear down a man who constantly used his power, money, and influence to help others?
Why would people express such disgust and contempt for a man who constantly sang of love and peace, and used his talent to entertain, uplift, and inspire millions?
Tell em that its human nature, I suppose…
Rest in Peace, Brother Michael. I love and miss you dearly.