Even before Michael Jackson's death was officially announced, fans began to gather—at his home, at the hospital he was whisked to, in traditionally black neighborhoods around the country (and far beyond)—to mourn and celebrate the genius of his life. But I suspect after the first shock wears off, there will be some musing aloud about parts of him that didn't merit celebrating.
We're all fully versed about the odd behavior (the veiled children, the surgical masks), the lawsuits claiming abuse (one settled, one acquitted, other rumored payoffs that didn't reach court), the increasingly bizarre physiogomy. But as one young brother I interviewed yesterday told me:"yes, there was trouble, but I think he will be remembered years and years from now as a musical genius, someone who gave back to the community. I think those things overshadow the troubles."
Maybe the thing to do when a friend or loved one who has died and left a mixed bag of a life behind is to acknowledge it without going into too much detail, but dwell more heavily on the dearly departed's positive qualities:
"Joe was a passionate man, passionate in a lot of ways. Sometimes in his passion, he let his hands do the talking for him. He would be the first one to say that's what cost him his first marriage, and that's what made him straighten up. And he got way straight. He found Carolyn and they had been happily married for 35 years when he died. He has been a fabulous father to Zoe and Omar. He almost single-handedly stopped the city from dividing this neighborhood with an unnecessary freeway offramp. Joe always liked to say "I'm no saint"—but he did have his saintly moments."
How should we remember Michael Jackson—flaws and all, or air-brushed?
How did you remember a loved one who was deeply human?
Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).
is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).