Dalila Ali Rajah
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A stranger in

A stranger in

When Michael
Jackson was indicted, something in my gut told me he was
probably guilty. Pity, because I liked that he was becoming
so freaky over the years. As a lifelong weirdo myself
it’s always nice to have a talented celebrity
join the club. But a child molester? Not the kind of
company I need in my club.
I left it at that and didn’t put much
more thought into it.
When jury selection began, rebel documentary
production company World of Wonder asked me and my
directing partner to shoot a film about the fans who
were moving to Santa Maria, Calif., to voice support for
Jackson during the trial. Brilliant! Telling the
stories of those that most people dismiss as strange
is my thing.
But as I researched the case, I found it
difficult to get facts free of editorial. Trusted news
organizations peppered words like “weird” and
“wacko” throughout their coverage and took
knocks at his looks, voice, and manner. The jabs at
his race and gender reminded me how far we have to go
in acceptance not only of sexuality but of racial and gender diversity.
I reexamined my initial hunch. Why had I thought
he was “probably guilty”? Honestly?
Because I thought he was a closeted gay man. And
then—snap! I had made the leap from closeted gay to
pedophile all on my very own. It is one of the most
fundamental lies used to perpetuate homophobia, and on
some level I fell for it.
Ten years of raiding Neverland, Jackson’s
home, have turned up nothing but two art books and a
bunch of hetero porn. This trial could end proving
nothing except that Michael Jackson is heterosexual. What if
they’d found a Falcon video or even just a copy of
The Advocate? It’s frightening to think that
the discovery of one of those items could seal
someone’s conviction as a child molester. I’ve
got lots of both.
Last month I filmed a young woman who approached
Jackson’s SUV on his way home from court. She
was struggling with cancer and afraid the accusation
that Jackson had molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor
might frighten Jackson from ever reaching out again.
But Jackson held her hand tightly and gave her
encouragement as she told him of her impending bone-marrow
transplant. His simple gesture meant the world to her. With
his own family hanging in the balance, Jackson still
takes the time to make a difference to people. Every day.
After we’d spent weeks outside Neverland
filming the fans, Michael Jackson invited us all
inside. There were about 70 of us, ranging in age from
10 to 80. Leaving our camera behind, we walked with the fans
right up to the porch, and Michael stepped out to
greet us. He presented his children: Prince, Paris,
and Prince II (a.k.a. Blanket). The kids waved, and
the crowd screamed, “We love you!”
Once inside, I looked at the faces around me,
many of them so familiar. I knew what this moment
meant to them. I knew all of them were right then
experiencing one of the highlights of their lives.
It was then I realized, so was I.
Inside Neverland, Michael, his children, and his
parents mingled with us, making a point to personally
thank as many as possible. He smiled graciously as I
passed him, and all I could think to say was, “Thank
you for the music.” Later I kicked myself. I
could’ve said anything, but I quoted ABBA to
the King of Pop.
Since then, I’ve been unable to describe
the experience without thinking I sound like a
lunatic. The happiness was overwhelming. Tears welled up
in my eyes. There was something almost spiritual about it. I
felt kinder, more generous, a better person. I looked
around at my documentary subjects, giddy with
excitement, and finally saw what they had in common:
Michael Jackson brought out the best in them.
My friends say I’m brainwashed, a wacko.
I argue Jackson’s case every chance I get. But
it wasn’t Neverland that changed me as much as the
realization that homophobia and sexism play such large roles
in the public’s perception that he’s
“probably guilty.”
Whatever the eventual verdict, two things I
know: One, Michael Jackson has committed so much of
himself to helping others that thousands of people are
better off because of him. Two, Michael Jackson is an
American citizen. Just one of those is enough to let
him be innocent until proven guilty. Give him his day
in court.

Tags: World, World

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