Joe Jackson: Abusive Ogre or Misunderstood (but Loving) Father?

by Alicia Westberry

Joe Jackson: Abusive Ogre or Misunderstood (but Loving) Father?

Michael Jackson claimed for years that he was beaten by his father as a child. Many fans have been quick to jump on Joe Jackson as the root cause of all of Michael’s problems because of these claims. Even people who never believed anything Michael said that didn’t fit into their preconceived notions that he was some kind of ‘freak’, were quick to paint Joe as some kind of abusive ogre.


Is this fair? No, it’s not.


I freely admit that I don’t understand Joe’s motivations behind some of the things he’s done and said; particularly since Michael’s death. However, it’s past time that people quit making Joe out to be the bad guy. Joe isn’t the bad guy he’s made out to be and he never was. He grew up during a time when being black meant that he was looked down upon.


When Joe had his children he stayed with them and took on the responsibility of raising them, with his wife, to the best of his ability. Some men are too immature and selfish to take on that responsibility even today. Can you imagine what it must’ve been like trying to raise nine kids in a dangerous city while living in a house that was way too small for such a large family? Personally, I can’t even begin to imagine it.


Fortunately, Michael and his brothers were talented. Joe worked with his sons to cultivate that talent in the hope that it would get the family out of danger and into more suitable living arrangements. Michael has talked about rehearsing while Joe sat in a chair with a belt in his hand. I don’t know if Michael or any of his siblings were abused, but I don’t think so. Is it possible that Joe was too hard on them? Definitely, but I don’t doubt that, whatever Joe did or didn’t do, that he had the best of intentions. I can’t imagine what he and the rest of the Jacksons must be going through now that Michael is gone.


I don’t know why Michael had such a strong reaction to the discipline he and his siblings received. Something about talking about the abuse he says he suffered does seem to cause Michael a lot of pain. I would never make it seem like Michael’s feelings don’t matter, but Michael hasn’t been a child in a very long time. Whatever did or didn’t happen back then can’t be revisited or fixed.


In his 2001 speech at Oxford University, Michael said that he forgave his father and had come to realize that, despite not overtly showing it, Joe really did love him. Michael had an amazing ability to forgive. If he can find it within himself to realize that his father loved him, and not begrudge him for not showing that love the way Michael would’ve wanted, is it really our place to decide that Joe is some kind of monster?


Joe is suffering enough. One of his children is dead. No parent should have to go through that. Making him out to be some sort of demon doesn’t make anything any better. Michael would be appalled at what some people say about Joe. Leave him and the rest of the Jacksons alone to grieve in peace.