We Should Be Just as Pissed at Ourselves as We Are at R. Kelly


On the fourth day of January in the year two thousand and nineteen of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my Facebook timeline exploded with copious rants, debates and threats of de-friendship and/or blockage surrounding the recent-yet-not-so-recent R. Kelly allegations covered in the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. Produced by Dream Hampton, a fellow Detroiter and alum of my beloved K-8 institution of higher learning Bates Academy (the school for the gifted and talented), the six-part series included very detailed personal accounts from several of Kelly's alleged victims as well as interviews with his brothers, former artists and employees, industry colleagues and a few clinical psychologists sprinkled throughout because: mental health.


As I was scrolling through my timeline (I hadn't watched any of the documentary yet at this point) I'm thinking to myself, but didn't we kinda know this stuff already? We'd heard that he married Aaliyah when she was only 15 years old and yet, still to this day, sing right along with the all-too-telling hit single that he wrote and produced for her, Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number. We'd watched the infamous sex tape of him urinating on a teenage girl and -- as if watching child pornography wasn't gross enough -- actually joked and had full-fledged discussions about it. Then after he was acquitted of the sex-tape charges, we went right on back to our R. Kelly scheduled programming, playing him on every Black radio station and at every Black function. Before the docuseries even aired we'd heard accusations of him running a secret sex cult of underage women in his Atlanta and Chicago properties. So, seeing this sudden outburst of outrage over R. Kelly -- over things we had already, in some capacity, known for decades -- had me hella perplexed. Then I watched the series and got pissed.


Pissed at R. Kelly for everything he put those ladies through. Pissed at all the grown-ass people around R. Kelly (his former manager, for one) who watched this man abuse numeorus women and girls like it was nothing. Pissed at all the parents for entrusting their daughters to a man who has long had an infamous reputation for preying on underage women. Pissed at the fact that if ANY of these women were any other race, R. Kelly would already be in jail. Pissed at the fact that the primary reason R. Kelly isn't in jail right now -- along with a long roster of other famous men known to have slept with minors -- is because he is a celebrity. Pissed at the Black community and particularly Black women (myself included) for sweeping this man's dirt under the rug for far too long, all in the name of him being a "musical genius." Pissed at the treacherous cycle of sexual abuse that is prevalent in too many childhoods, R. Kelly's included.


I won't go into the disturbing details of it all because the whole world has pretty much seen and discussed it at this point. But I will say this: We have GOT to do better when it comes to addressing issues of mental health and sexual abuse, especially in the Black community. We can't keep cherry-picking social issues we want to be vocal about. Black Lives should Matter in cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse as much as they do in cases of police brutality.


So yes, watching Surviving R. Kelly pissed me off, but the truth is, we should've been pissed a long time ago. We should've been pissed after we found out about him marrying Aaliyah when she was only a child. We should've been pissed after watching what he did to that baby in that video. Because if we were as pissed about all of this then as we are now -- enough to stop listening to his music and going to his concerts -- it wouldn't have even gotten to this point.

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