Today, I can’t stop thinking about Paul Robeson dying in exile, and how most of the black community and black media essentially abandoned him when a racist media told us that he was a bad, bad man — a communist.
And po’ Zora Neale Hurston, who (quiet as it’s kept) was also accused of child molestation. The humiliation she must have felt cleaning the white folks’ house on that swelteringly oppressive Florida day — sweating, hair a mess — when reporters rolled up on her, snapping pictures of our fallen griot.
Why do we adore celebrating the suffering of others?
Mostly, I’m thinking bout po’ crazy Michael (I use this term adoringly, and reference Assata Shakur’s description of “crazy”) holding that baby over the balcony. We discussed what that act said about him, but nobody talked about what it must have meant to him — to have a crowd still saying “We love you” after child molestation charges. Or how he had to go into exile to find that crowd.
Nobody talked about how deeply he must have believed in humanity, how he must have loved the people below and believed they loved him enough to catch his seed should the child slip out of his arms. We didn’t talk about the trust this act required — how he loved those people without even knowing them, and believed them because they said they loved him.
I keep saying, Toni Morrison said it, any poet will tell you — words matter. Every interview I have seen, particularly the ones addressing Michael Jackson’s features, describes how the words we said to him motivated almost everything he did to and with himself.
It’s so much easier to talk about one another than to each other. And because we are so ashamed of our own weak places, when we do talk, it’s so much easier to search for and illuminate the flaws we find in others.
Michael Jackson has been writing us love letters for years. We got mad, tore ’em up and are now trying to paste them back together. But the paper is smudged, the yellow tape evidence of a painful, broken relationship. And there are words missing: Michael Jackson was accused of molesting little boys, but R. Kelly remained in this country and on many more playlists, although we have videotaped evidence of his sex crimes.
The love we are finally giving Michael Jackson now might have saved his life had it come years or even weeks ago. Can we stop fronting and hating, and remember tomorrow the “love” we’re talking about today?