Michael Jackson was a towering figure in life and his premature death has by no means diminished the popularity in his music. Michael Jackson has long captured the world’s attention due to a unique combination of compositional talent, vocal ability, dancing excellence and the fact that his rise from stardom to superstardom was all done in front of the world’s microphones and cameras. It cannot be denied that even by the standards of American stardom, Jackson lived an eccentric life. It can neither be denied that his child stardom played a significant role in shaping his adult life. Jackson was in fact the first to admit that because he did not have a traditional childhood, he sought to use his wealth as an adult to relive a lost childhood.
Over the years, Jackson has been accused of everything from being sexually abnormal, to a self-hating African American, to an anti-semite, to someone who had odd relationships with wild animals. But of all the many accusations against Jackson, the accusation of being a habitual child molester was the most serious and the one which upset him the most in his final decades.
Crucially, in 2005, Michael Jackson was tried and found not guilty on all 14 criminal counts of child molestation related charges. To put it in laymen’s terms, prosecutors attempted to attain 14 individual criminal convictions against Jackson and not a single one was proved to be true in a court of law. Likewise, over a decade earlier when similar accusations were brought against Jackson, prosecutors could not corroborate various accusations against him and decided that there was not even enough of a case against Jackson to bring the matter before a criminal court.
In the mid 1990s, Jackson did settle a civil (aka non-criminal) complaint regarding his relationship with a child but under the law, a settlement is not proof of any wrongdoing. As such, many celebrities including Donald Trump have settled civil matters with a payment rather than endure the stress of a sometimes more costly trial. In the American legal system, there was nothing unusual about Jackson’s settlement.
In today’s world when even most American children have comparatively sophisticated mobile devices, videos, photos and audio recordings of just about every event (and non-event) are on some sort of record. In the 1990s and even in the early 2000s, this was not the case. As such, if Jackson were alive and if similar accusations about Jackson’s behaviour were made today, many people would be more forthcoming in saying “where’s the recorded proof”. But at the time when Jackson stood accused of having inappropriate relations with children, such technology that could have either more easily vindicated him or proved his guilt, was not widespread.
In any case, the assumption of innocence before guilt is an essential part of any legitimate legal system. As such, those currently trying Jackson in the court of public opinion ten years after his death, are doing so in a manner that is deeply unethical and one which is certainly not going to be easy on his children who have frankly endured a great deal over the last decade.
Beyond this, it is difficult to believe that if Jackson were white, it would be so easy to excoriate him either in life or death. To put matters in context, ever since the 1995 trial of American footballer and Hollywood film star O.J. Simpson, in which Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife and her close companion, one of the few forms of anti-African American racism that remains acceptable to mainstream white America is when a black man is in court, charged with a crime of public interest. In such instances, the racist undertones of white middle class America come out of the woodwork in full force. Because Simpson was found not guilty, many white Americans have been desirous to see that another African American celebrity be put behind bars as “revenge” for what they felt was a “betrayal” of white America during the Simpson trial.
This was the case when in 2003, African American basketball star Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault before the charges were dropped and of course the world saw it a decade after the Simpson trial in 2005 when Michael Jackson was brought before a criminal court, only to be found completely not guilty. More recently, famed comedian Bill Cosby was jailed for sexual assault related charges that he vehemently denies.
In the United States, there is a long and troubling history of African Americans being falsely accused of sexual offences by European Americans. While hundreds of African Americans were lynched by white mobs in the American deep south without trial, the 1955 lynching of 14 year old Emmett Till – a boy who was falsely accused of sexually harassing a white woman in Mississippi, helped to catalyse the American Civil Rights Movement.
But in the 21st century, while white mobs attacking innocent black boys and men is far less common than it once was, today the media and the online white lynch mobs are picking up where their forebearers left off. In many ways, the only thing more cowardly than slandering the reputation of a living man is doing so to the dead. When Michael Jackson was able to defend himself in court, he proved his innocence. This is obviously no longer possible and yet the accusations still fly. Perhaps this is the very reason why the accusations still fly.
But while white men accused of sexual crimes tend to have their brushes with infamy muted by the media, when it comes to African American celebrities, the rules are very different. Michael Jackson is an innocent man according not only to his sworn testimony, but according to an American justice system that historically has been known to have anti-African American biases.
In 1987, Michael Jackson wrote the song Leave Me Alone as a way to hit back at negative press about his personal life. Thirty two years later, the racists, the scum and the untalented fame chasers are still not listening.
For the record, the author is a supporter of capital punishment and believes that actual paedophiles should be executed after being found guilty in a court of law.