The explosive Lifetime special "Surviving R. Kelly" aired and it still has the internet buzzing. In a 6 part docu-series produced by the channel, it covers the allegations toward the singer over his career and includes multiple interviews of colleagues and women who claim themselves as victims. Before this special aired I knew it would receive harsh criticism. I was also prepared for some of the commentary I would see online.
What I was not prepared for was the amount of self-proclaimed ‘pro-Black’ people vehemently defending this man. I was not aware of how many Black men would attack their own sisters for standing against him. Even the Black women defending him is bewildering to me. I understand that this special does indeed seem like a deliberate smear campaign toward the singer. It is messy. I also understand that white celebrities under the same accusations don't seem to land 6 part documentaries on their misdeeds. But this does not relieve us of the responsibility of calling the pied piper what he is, a sick individual and a predator.
This hits close to home for me so I feel compelled to offer my dialogue. I was a young woman of color who had aspirations of a music career. When I was 19 I moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of my dream and experienced exactly what many of these women did. I luckily escaped being a victim; however, I witnessed with my own eyes and experienced what it felt like to have people with power and the ability to help me succeed in the industry try to take advantage of me. So do I believe some of these women? Of course, I do.
As Black people, many of us want to defend our own so badly that we willfully ignore the damage that even some of our own people are causing to our community. R. Kelly is a musical giant; some may even call him a genius. He indeed is the King of R&B. But what he is not in his personal life, is a moral human being and that matters. Your pro-Kelly sentiments are tired as ever.
“The media is out to get us”
“The parents are to blame”
“What about Donald Trump”
"White folks do it too"
“They are just trying to tear a Black man down”
“This is all about money and Black women trying to get on”
No. Just stop.
I know we all grew up listening to 12 Play, we stepped in the name of love, and many of us were probably even conceived to his music. I get it. It's hard to come to grips that some of our greatest Black icons whose music and talents were staples in our upbringing could be so flawed in their personal life. But we must acknowledge it. Stop pretending that you didn't know what R.Kelly was. I'll break it down...
Exhibit A: It is a fact that Robert Kelly married Aaliyah when she was just 15 years of age. Some of us may say "well her parents allowed it and they are to blame". This might very well be the case, however, R. Kelly was a grown man, and grown men should not be attracted to nor attempting to marry children. There is simply no justification. Her parents could have handed her over on a silver platter, but this still makes R. Kelly a statutory rapist and predator. End of story.
Exhibit B: R.Kelly is on a sex tape with a 14-year-old girl. You watched the tape. You saw it. You know it. Period.
Exhibit C: R. Kelly has paid off numerous civil suits in cases of sexual misconduct with minors and been in multiple relationships which began with women when they were underage. Again, end of story.
To sum it up, we all have known for years what R. Kelly was and perhaps still is. He simply has gotten away with it. At the time he was on top of his career, many of us were too young to truly understand the magnitude of what was going on. In fact, we probably didn't care. We bought his albums and relished in his musical gifts. But as adults, we now have to come to grips with the reality.
Unlike Bill Cosby, R. Kelly’s victims were Black. I saw many of you go to bat for Bill because you didn’t believe Becky. Well what about your sisters? As a people, we have to stop defending what we know to be wrong simply because someone is a celebrity, and also acknowledge the hurt it causes our own community. Just as there are white men, there are also powerful Black men out here using their prowess, money, fame, and stardom to coerce women of color. These are OUR women. We have to stand up for them as well. And to be fair Black women can also be sexual offenders.
Somewhere in America right now, there is a little Black girl or boy being molested by a family member who is remaining silent. This is largely in part to the similar type of banter being displayed in defense of R. Kelly. To shed light on just how damaging this is for us, I would like to share some facts with you about sexual abuse in the Black community.
- 1 in 4 Black women and 1 in 6 Black men report they were sexually abused as a minor.
- It is not just a white thing. Blacks are sexually victimized at about the same rate as whites.
- Two-thirds of Black victims who reported sexual assault were under 18. In 95 percent of these cases, the offender is a family member.
- Black women are less likely to report cases of sexual abuse. This is largely in part due to fears of turning in their family members to a racist system. They tend to not want to involve authorities in the family business.
- Among Black men, homophobia leads to the denial of sexual abuse of boys.
- For every 1 Black woman that reports sexual assault, 15 Black women do not.
- Black women are more severely abused and live with greater long term effects than white women. This includes depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.
In the Black community, we are keeping quiet about sexual violence and sweeping it under the rug. That has to stop. R. Kelly has multiple accusers and Black girls are rarely seen as victims. They are often seen as the aggressor or the ones who invited their abusers. They are labeled as seducers and sexually promiscuous therefore deserving of being victimized. Due to white supremacy, they are also inclined to protect their brothers from a racist system, and in the process, Black girls and women are sacrificing themselves.
R. Kelly himself admits he was a victim. He confessed to being sexually abused from the age of 7 to 14 by a family member. With this being said, had he been protected by one of his own or felt confident enough to report what was being done to him, perhaps he would not go on to victimize other women of color. Statistics show that many male sexual abuse survivors suffer from sex addiction and also go on to partake in the same behaviors inflicted on them. It is a vicious cycle which often is generational.
As Black people, we must stand up for victims. We cannot turn a blind eye to wrongdoing simply because one of our own is the culprit. It is our duty to protect our families, children, men, and women from sexual violence. If you are truly pro-Black you will recognize your moral responsibility to do so. Our children are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental illnesses at alarming rates and committing suicide due to the pain inflicted on them by those who harmed them in childhood. We don't want more of our young men and women to succumb to their pain.
It is so much bigger than R. Kelly. It is cancerous to be loyal to those who harm us. Being accountable is also a part of being Black and proud. We can’t let our sons and daughters be subject to being disposed of simply because of our desire to attack white supremacy. We've got snakes out here moving in silence and they come in all colors, even Black.
The generational curses don't have to be a part of our narrative if more of us are willing to stand up to those in our own community who perpetuate affliction onto our own. We have a sick affinity for celebrity worship that’s a part of the culture now. We have to cut it out. In the case of R. Kelly, you aren’t helping the cause by defending this man. Your “wokeness” and tendency to point out the similar offenses of white people is rooted in denial. Deflection has never cured what ails us. I hope more of us open our eyes and take a true pro-Black stance. His contributions to R&B will still live on and some of us will be able to separate the music from the man, but R. Kelly is not our guy.
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