#muteRKelly - Listen to Black Girls
My stomach churned with each interview. My rage reached a feverish pitch and could hardly be contained. I felt nauseous. Intermittent bouts of panic washed over me, while I watched woman after woman recount the atrocities she had suffered at the hands of a sick and twisted R. Kelly. My heart broke repeatedly after each sordid tale of debauchery. The quilt of depravity that these women wove as they painfully recounted their various experiences with R. Kelly, left me emotionally gutted. I became increasingly uncomfortable the deeper I delved into the twisted world that this man constructed for himself. Their torture was palpable.
I have always known about R. Kelly’s sexual predator history. I always firmly believed that if his victims were white girls, he would have long ago faced a completely different fate. However, watching first-hand accounts about the many monstrosities his victims suffered at the hands of this depraved abuser was heartbreaking. I was in shock. Awestruck. Infuriated. The pain these women suffered at the hands of this man was simply disgusting, but the harsh reality that an entire community enabled this man and failed to protect these victims is downright calamitous.
R. Kelly would not have been able to abuse as long as he has, without the support of an entire community that refused to hold him accountable for his actions. From the closely insulated group of adults, he employed to the parents of some of the victims, to law enforcement, the music industry, and then, finally all the people who dismissed the allegations and continued to support his music. The assistants who turned a blind eye to what was going on and even helped him accrue and detain young girls, should all be held equally accountable. It is fair to say that R. Kelly has some sort of illness, but what excuse would the adults have who knew that this was wrong but decided to assist him anyway? As a parent, it’s my job to protect my child from harm. To be the voice of reason and rationality. It is my job to provide for my child, not my child’s job to provide for me. I was truly shocked that despite knowing the reputation he had, parents still introduced and/or allowed their daughters to have interaction with this man.
Society tends to view the innocence of white females as being intrinsic to their whiteness. Conversely, Black females are often questioned about the motives, behavior, and attire, that would elicit a sexually charged response from a man. They are denied the very same protection and respect that is so freely given to white females and it is deplorable. The implication is they are somehow responsible, or worse, did something, to invite abuse. How anyone could hold a young impressionable TEENager responsible for this kind of inappropriate relationship, is beyond my realm of comprehension. There is no outfit, no behavior, or form of expression, that a young girl can indulge in, that would merit and justify a grown man taking advantage of her and sexually exploiting her for his amusement.
It is absolutely clear that had his victims been white girls, the rush to protect and uphold their innocence would have been resounding. But because his victims were Black, the sentiment was to ignore them. As a result, they were silenced and left to deal with this horrific experience on their own, while an entire community rallied behind and continued to support a serial predator. In the documentary, there was a juror from the sex tape trial that was interviewed. He explicitly stated that he “disregarded what a witness said based on how she was dressed”. He “just didn’t believe her”. Not only was this a great miscarriage of justice, since someone’s attire in court should have nothing to do with the facts of a case, but it speaks directly to the “how” R. Kelly has been able to do this for long. Society simply does not care to protect Black females or view them as “worthy” of protection, the same way they do white ones.
When discussing R. Kelly, there is a tendency for people to feel the need to point out the actions of other men who have been associated with females much younger than them. The argument goes, “if you hold R. Kelly accountable, you have to hold x, y, z accountable.” Is there a reason why we are unable to hold more than one predator accountable for his actions? Furthermore, why is there a need to detract from R. Kelly’s atrocities by pointing to what others have done or continue to do? You can be disgusted by R. Kelly’s actions and still be able to point to a larger societal issue. Those two are not mutually exclusive. However, to refuse to condemn R. Kelly, on the premise that you would have to condemn others, is cowardly and a covert way of refusing to support the victims that have come forward.
What about separating the artist from the music? Can I do this? I could, but I won’t and I urge you to do the same. To stream his music and contribute to him financially, is to ignore and minimize the magnitude of his depraved acts. The idea that he makes good music so his personal life is not a concern, is severely problematic. He used his artistry and brand to consistently prey on women. His position was to present himself as someone who could help promote careers, all the while scheming on how he could take advantage of, and control them.
As a Black woman, I believe it is the responsibility of the Black community to own the responsibility for communicating to our princesses and Queens that they are valuable and always deserving of our protection. We have to take on the task of vehemently and consistently listening to our girls and women when they speak and communicating that their voice matters. #muteRKelly is about more than just not playing his music or getting it banned from radio. It’s about cutting off the reach of a man who has pervasively abused and brought pain on Black girls and women. It’s about ending the proclivity to be dismissive of abuse when the victim is not white. It’s about taking a resounding stance to protect the segment of females that are often overlooked and denied the very same protection that we never hesitate to give to white females. It’s about a commitment to no longer being silent and by default, complicit, in allowing Black women and girls to be taken advantage of. It’s about accountability. It’s about putting the onus back on the abuser, where it belongs.