“Nothing Strange” About Jackson?

Leave it to the ineffable Al Sharpton to inject ugly racial politics into the Jackson mournathon over the past few days. When did he get close to the Jacksons, anyway?

Jackson’s kids look like beautiful, sweet children. I wish them a far better life than he had. But what in the world did Sharpton mean in telling them, “There wasn’t  nothing strange about your daddy. But it was strange what he had to deal with. But he dealt with it anyway. He dealt with it for us.”

For “us”? Who’s us? Black people? But the vast majority of black people, thank God, do not end up paying millions to settle molestation charges, and they do not walk around swathed in masks and toting umbrellas, and they do not have household  shrines in which hundreds of candles burn 24/7 in honor of Diana Ross, and  above all, they do not undergo endless plastic surgeries and skin bleachings until they resemble waxen middle-aged white women. Was all this Jackson’s way of taking on the burden of black suffering? Please.

Sharpton seems to be shaping a martyrdom myth for Jackson that is  ill-suited to the facts, (if, as Ross Perot used to say, facts matter, which I often doubt. ) Of the many powerful forces that no doubt shaped Jackson’s life, does Sharpton  really believe that the criticism and ridicule of white people–who, by the way, spent untold millions on his records and concerts– was one of the chief drivers?

Based on what I’ve always read about Jackson, I’d say his early relationship with his parents, especially his father, had more to do with making him what he was than the machinations of  any white tabloid editor.  He was trapped in  a traveling circus from the age of five, cut off from reality, the captive goose that laid the golden eggs for an army of hangers-on.

So Jackson was in part a victim of his family’s exploitation. But there’s another side of him. Far from living as a puppet of the white oppressor, he was in truth a hugely powerful man who did more to create the life he wanted than most of us ever do.  Some actions in that life were harmlessly eccentric, kind,  charitable and touched with artistic genius.  Some  were  highly strange, neurotic, unhealthy, and perhaps predatory.  To say they were not is to wave away the truth, and to leave Jackson’s children a legacy of lies.


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