First let me explain to you what this post is NOT about:
- Cancelling Michael Jackson > I don’t believe in ‘cancelling’ anyone. How can a group of human beings cancel another? It’s impossible. I do believe in viewing a person or a situation from a nuanced perspective. At least as much as one can. We are all flawed and have committed evil acts in our time. As a matter of fact, as flawed humans we are presently capable of dastardly deeds as much as acts of generosity and love. We choose our actions daily.
- A Referendum on Michael Jackson’s Music >The root word of ‘fan’ is fanatic. Fanatic is defined as, ‘a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.. especially for an extreme religious or political cause.’ In this case the religious and political cause is Michael Jackson and his music. I’m not asking you to watch Leaving Neverland so that you can stop listening to Jackson’s music. How you reconcile love for his music vs what he’s accused of is up to you. In a world full of either/or’s, there is room for and/both. Facing harsh truths about our icons makes us better more responsible humans.
It’s frustrating to hear people dismiss something as a lie that they have not seen. I’ve heard and read more than a few in the Black community say they refuse to watch the documentary. The reasons vary from, ‘They just want money,‘, or ‘The media is out to destroy Jackson,’ or ‘Why didn’t the come forward years earlier or why lie about it before?’ These questions are tremendously shortsighted. For example, I was sexually molested as a child. Am I a liar because this is the first time I put it in print? Less than a handful knew before I hit ‘publish.’ Also I know that molestation has been an issue in my own family.
I recall a time when a family member called a family meeting to confront another member. The incident or incidents happened to them as a child. (I’m being vague to protect privacy) During this meeting they gave their account of what the person did to them. Their pain and agony filled with tears was devastating to watch as they described what was done to them as a child. This relative was in their 40s. On another occasion it was suspected that a member was molested. A safe space was provided for them to open up. They denied it for about 15 years. By the time they were ready to admit the truth and face the trauma, they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. There are more examples I could give but I’ll stop here. The point is one cannot determine for someone else when they should be ready to share their truth. And it should be understood that the high level of skepticism of victim’s stories is part of the reason why it’s so hard to come forward. First of all victims tend to blame themselves. The longer the secret is held, the deeper the guilt and shame. Couple that with the fear of not being believed creates a no win situation. Every time someone says, “I don’t believe any of the victims in the ‘insert public molestation or sexual abuse scandal,’ you reinforce the need to remain silent lest they too be called a liar. Not to be missed, it both covers and empowers the perpetrators.
I was listening to the radio the other morning and caught the tail end of an interview with Arsenio Hall. He was on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” talking about a sequel to the film, “Coming To America.” At the very end of it without being prompted he said, “Don’t waste your time on the Michael Jackson documentary. It’s slow, it’s annoying and people letting their kids go to Michael’s for five days in a row without their parents. …He then joked. “You know what? Tito didn’t send his kids to the ranch for five days.” Finally he took shots at one of the alleged victims Wade Robson, saying, …“the boy has Rob in his name…Unless you had ‘thief’ in your name you couldn’t have a worse name for the documentary.” This is fandom. Since Arsenio knew Jackson and is a lifelong fan, he would rather ‘cancel the accusers.’ Regardless of how he feels about Jackson’s guilt or innocence, discouraging people from watching the documentary and using their own judgment is weak!
As someone who has seen the complete documentary, including the Oprah Winfrey interview, “After Neverland,” I find the critics terribly uninformed. They site money as a motive. They question the timing. (as usual) They speak as if it’s merely 4 hours of simple minded accusations without any road maps, logic or rationale. I too didn’t know what to expect. What I found upon viewing is that it’s really not so much about Michael Jackson. It’s about grooming, not just the kids but the adult parents as well. It’s about how the young underdeveloped brains of children can be manipulated into a false sense of love. It’s about seduction and how even small children can be turned on both in a sexual and erotic sense, leading to confusion and self blame. It’s about the fallout of recognition, confusion, and deception as the child grows into teen and eventually adulthood. It’s about how those who are in charge of security can be hypnotized into forfeiting basic protections which should be forged with common sense. It’s a story of tragedy that the victims and their families including the wives of both Rob Robson and Jimmy Safechuck must endure for the rest of their lives. Jackson is merely a vehicle to illustrate the story.
Oprah (a sexual molestation survivor) said that what director Dan Reed accomplished with this doc was what she tried to accomplish with 217 shows on the subject matter. I agree. I have no idea how the director got all of the interviewees to open up the way he did. Even with the sometimes graphic descriptions it’s carefully done in a totally non salacious fashion. Personally, I believe it should be required viewing. I would consider Oprah’s interview ‘The Workbook’ if the documentary were text. Whatever one takes away from watching, these men are not laughing, they aren’t rejoicing, they certainly are not mentally or spiritually free. To ignore what is presented is missing an opportunity to learn how children are seduced and preyed upon, often right under our noses.
The truth of the matter is that historically we have had sexual abuse and assaults damaging our youth for generations. It’s happened in our homes, our churches, our schools, in back alleys and public spaces. Sadly we haven’t done a good job in protecting our children or creating a pathway of safety for them to reach for help when something evil happens to them. It’s all about preserving the secrets. Victims aren’t listened to enough. And when the accused perpetrator is a celebrity, we send clear messages that past and future victims will not be believed. But it’s time to take the covers off and recognize that this isn’t a problem, it’s an epidemic! We’ve ignored the injured. We’ve empowered and embolden the perpetrators. We must stop this vicious cycle!