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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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#ACCESS901: Surviving R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby… and who else?

#ACCESS901 columnist Joy Doss

As rational, thinking adults, we kinda knew something was amiss with Michael. We subscribed to the Peter Pan and/or asexual fallacy ’cause we needed to.

We knew “Aruh Smelly” was stinkin’ no doubt. Hello? Aaliyah. We just didn’t know how funky it was. For me, it took a sec to completely divest (“TP.3 Reloaded,” “Chocolate Factory,” “12 Play”). His music was permissive. It created a space for a spring awakening, let’s say. It worked for us, as my generation was coming of age.

At least it worked when we thought he was talking about women who had already come of age. Welp. He has been scrubbed from my entire musical existence for the past several years, not even a digital trace left behind. “Backyard Party” got me caught up for awhile (radio only) but then I heard my baby girl singing along and it turned my entire stomach. No mas.

I got through two episodes of the Lifetime series documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” before I was in distress and completely revolted. That’s all.

AND SIR, THAT WAS YOU ON THOSE VIDEOS!! And hits keep coming. So just stop.

“Pill Cosby” was a stunner. America’s Dad? C’mon man! Sixty women ain’t telling the same lie bruh. “The Cosby Show,” “Fat Albert” and “A Different World” are still required TV in my household. The man changed the game. He upended stereotypes of black families and young black people, giving live and direct portraits of black excellence. And he gave us full bodied, round, multidimensional characters. Why, Bill, whyyyyy?

Our collective cultural conscience has been assaulted. It feels like a gut punch. Like everything we thought we knew now makes no sense. The world has gone mad I tell ya! It’s probably fair to say that many of us feel violated too, though obviously in a verrrry different, metaphorical way.

We do place unrealistic expectations of perfection on our icons and public figures and pastors even. However, it’s totally reasonable to expect common decency and a minimal subversive behavior. Minimal is subjective I know, as is how you define subversive. I’m absolutely not judging anybody’s freaky sneaky, but isn’t there a line somewhere? Gotta be.

I couldn’t even bring myself to watch HBO’s “Finding Neverland” documentary. Couldn’t do it. Can’t even talk about it. I just have to own my hypocrisy here. MJ isn’t getting the same treatment as these other two and I will brazenly listen to his music. Maybe “Off The Wall” and the music before was pre-creepy. Nonetheless, a couple of people made some good counterpoints.

From a very damning Forbes article:

“The allegations surrounding Jackson largely faded over the last decade for a reason: unlike the Bill Cosby or R. Kelly cases, the more people looked into the Jackson allegations, the more the evidence vindicated him.”

And this part:

“…there is a remarkable consistency to the way people who knew the artist speak of him – whether friends, family members, collaborators, fellow artists, recording engineers, attorneys, business associates….”

That isn’t even the damning part. It unpacks some of the facts and inconsistencies from top to bottom. Read the full article (https://bit.ly/2GZCHo7) and judge for yourself.

But how do we survive the upheaval?

It ain’t by pointing the finger at others. I mean yes, (Harvey) Weinstein. Yes Woody Allen. Yes, Roman Polanski. President 45 and all the king’s men too.

And yes, there is very clearly an imbalance in the way justice – and judgment – is meted out. See also: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. Weinstein for sure deserves a bid. But let’s be honest. Most black folks ain’t studdin’ them. Most of y’all probably don’t know enough about Weinstein, Allen or Polanski to effectively boycott their movies. This was painful like family.

All of this to say, I don’t have an answer. We won’t be able to mitigate the inevitable disappointment in people, celebrity or not. So purge them or not, cancel them or not. Protect your psyche. Be mindful of triggers. Find better models, expect less and cut swiftly. To be sure, we’ll still only know what we’re intended to know.

Let’s cherish what and who we do have. Don’t be so quick to dismiss or to delight in the downfall of others. Be real life models of good men and women so when it all falls down again, the younger ones can still look up. And we can all stay up.

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