“The most unprotected person in America is the Black Woman!” -Malcolm X
R. Kelly is on the hot seat once again surrounded by scandals. On the latest episode of his real-time, Trapped in the Closet, a Dallas woman, wishing to remain anonymous accused the singer of intentionally infecting her with herpes. The woman, says she met Kelly last March at one of his concerts where she was invited backstage and exchanged information with him. She claims it was the beginning of her grooming to be a member of his “sex cult”.
Stories about R. Kelly’s abuse of young black women are not uncommon. The singer continues to live untouched enjoying the products of his fame and success touring the country. This is the same Kelly that had a romantic relationship with, and even married, 15 year old Aaliyah. The same Kelly who was seen on video carrying out disturbing sexual acts on a 14 year old. It is absurd that his indictment on the video took a record-breaking six years to go to trial. He continues to thrive despite having a growing list of abuses brought forward by other young Black girls who are not taken seriously.
Unfortunately, Kelly’s story is not an anomaly. It highlights the code of silence in the Black community on pedophilia and sexual abuse. The expectation that we should not air out our men’s dirty laundry continues to perpetuate this. According to an ongoing study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint, 60% of Black girls have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of Black men before the age of 18 and that 1 in 4 Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Beyond these facts are our personal stories as well. Why do we collectively keep quiet? Why do we turn a blind eye to sexual abuse? What is it about the Black man that makes him almost untouchable within the community?
The desire to protect Black men from white supremacy due to a history of racism has conditioned Black women to be their brother’s keeper at all times. As a result, we have created a glass shell around Black masculinity making it almost untouchable at the expense of our daughters. We have permitted this fragility and made it dangerous. We act as human shields for Black men leaving our daughters vulnerable. One of Bill Cosby’s accusers, Chelan Latasha, confessed that she did not come forward sooner due to “the extra burden of not really wanting to take an African American man down.” The argument that Black men are targeted enough by the state hence we as Black women shouldn’t as well is pathetic. It is pathetic because we continue to sacrifice our own health and well being for people who build off our pain. In the recent documentary done by BBC on R Kelly’s abuse, it is clear that other adult men around him knew and were uncomfortable with his pedophilia actions yet they tolerated his behaviors, with some participating. Why didn’t anyone confidently stand up for these girls? Why are people asking about what these girls did and not what was done to them?
In 2017, The Georgetown Law study reported that “Black girls as young as 5 yrs were perceived to be more knowledgeable about sex than their white peers.” Additionally, “they are viewed as needing less protection and nurturing than white girls.” Is this why there was a bigger outcry for Bill Cosby’s accusers who are predominantly white vs R. Kelly’s survivors? When asked to comment on this, Jerhonda Pace one of Kelly’s accusers asked, “What about us? What about R. Kelly’s victims?” She expressed that even with DNA evidence and hard documented proof, she was still required to provide other people to corroborate her story. Her accusations have been dismissed by even those claiming to support the #MeToo movement.
Does this mean that only we as Black women can protect ourselves? When it comes to R. Kelly, this might be the true. Oronike Odeleye began the #muteRKelly campaign which aims to de-power him by cutting off his income streams and fame which have shielded him from justice. Only 8 months in, the campaign has successfully led to the cancellation of 9 shows with some radio shows pulling off his music on air. Furthermore, his publicist, lawyer and assistant also quit days after his latest accusation. Is justice finally on its way? It is hard to tell because sadly, Black women still make up the majority of his fan base. At the end of it all, the Black community needs to evaluate what they deem more important; the lives and livelihood of Black women and girls or music.