No matter your race or ethnicity, if you’re a woman, your voice is often ignored.
However, if you’re a Black woman, your voice isn’t even heard let alone ignored. We’re used to being overlooked and dismissed. Our cries aren’t heard as our tears don’t matter.
It took decades — more than 25 years — but Black women were finally heard when it came to Robert Sylvester Kelly, better known as R. Kelly. Kelly was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking. A jury comprised of seven men and five women and a federal judge finally listened to the Black women — and men — who provided horrific testimony of abuse at the hands of Kelly.
R. Kelly is a pedophile, and R. Kelly is abusive. Kelly’s behavior has been an open secret for years. The public first found out something was amiss with Kelly when he married Aaliyah. We dismissed it, and things seemed to get quiet. Then the infamous sex tape came out and all manner of sordid accusations. We heard about Kelly hanging out at his old school, picking up young girls.
We heard about him frequenting a nearby McDonald’s — a hangout spot for high schoolers — and picking up up girls there. People chose not to listen to the Black girls because Kelly is a musical genius and Black girls don’t matter. Those girls were “fast.”
He kept making music, and Kelly fans kept buying it. Radio stations kept playing it. TV stations kept playing his videos, and musicians kept working with him (some of my faves, too!). For a while, R. Kelly was everywhere. And all the while, he was abusing young women and molesting young girls. Their accusations were ignored, though, because a celebrity of Kelly’s stature doesn’t need to chase young girls when he could have any woman he wanted. The thing is Kelly didn’t want mature women. It’s been proven multiple times, and he’s all but said it. It’s too bad it took several articles, a documentary and TV interviews for us to see R. Kelly for who he is.
I find it interesting and telling that in all of these years, while the conversation centered on Kelly’s molestation and grooming of teen girls, the girls were blamed for their abuse. The girls were called promiscuous. People said they were searching for fame and celebrity and willing to do whatever it takes to get it (as if that’s a good excuse for Kelly to molest a teen). However, I heard none of these similar comments when during Kelly’s six-week trial, it came to light he also molested teen boys. The boys weren’t blamed. Matter of fact, it seemed like a collective hush fell over his supporters. I didn’t hear the outrage or the “they’re lying” comments as I do when we talk about these “fast girls.”
Kelly faces 10 years to life in prison and will be sentenced in May 2022. Chuck D., an artist I’ve long respected, took to Twitter to ask, “How long should R Kelly spend in prison – and does a USA system give a man a chance for a man to change his world around?” Chuck D. likened Kelly’s predicament to that of Ike Turner and Rick James, two artists who also went to prison and came out for the better, he said. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, who represents Chicago, expressed Kelly could be welcomed back into his city if he redeems himself.
Funny how both Black men centered the Black man accused of crimes not his Black women victims. Why is Kelly the first concern? Because he writes great songs? Yes, I understand Kelly was molested and abused as a child, and those who experience such trauma often inflict it on others. However, that isn’t an inevitable outcome. Kelly has not shown remorse and in fact denies any wrongdoing. If he wanted redemption, he had a chance to change his ways when he was acquitted of child pornography in 2008. Instead, he became more brazen and began flaunting his perverted ways in our faces. He even called himself the Pied Piper of R&B. R. Kelly wasn’t worried about redemption. He was too busy thinking he was untouchable.
I’m not happy to see a Black man go to prison. I am happy to see these Black women were finally heard. I also hope to see those in his circle, those Yes men and women who were his accomplices, pay a price for their role in aiding and abetting Kelly’s behavior. By covering for Kelly, those men and women allowed the abuse to continue and they’re culpable on some level as well. This shouldn’t just end with Kelly. I hope this signals a new day and sends a message to Black women that our voices will be heard.