REHEMA ELLIS

As the reaction to the death of Michael Jackson continues across the country, one dynamic is emerging: how people remember the so-called King of Pop depends on a lot of factors, including how people viewed him in life.

In his sudden death, Michael Jackson may have regained what propelled him to stardom in the first place: widespread acceptance by the community he came from.

One after another, at Sunday night’s BET awards in Los Angeles, presenters made stunning tributes in Jackson’s memory.

A turnaround of sorts because for a while, Jackson’s personal life and legal troubles made people worldwide uncomfortable.

And there was a particular kind of disconnect for some in the African-American community.

“When he got to be a megastar he changed his looks and I think as African American that really hurt us,” said Allison Samuels of Newsweek. “He reminded us that no matter how big we get we still feel like we’re not quite there yet,” she said.

In the documentary “Living with Michael Jackson,” Jackson talked about how his distinct look as an African American even evoked comments from his own father.

“He would tease me about how I looked and said you didn’t get that from my side of the family,” Jackson said in the documentary.

Today, a lot of people are saying welcome back to the family and brushing aside the criticism of Jackson and his looks.

“What’s happening now is just overdue,” said Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. “A lot of people never rejected him but what’s happening now is just a – a recognition of what he meant to the music and to the larger African American community,” he said.