Last September, Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and raping Andrea Constand and was sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison. The reaction to his sentencing was surprising and disappointing at the same time. Seeing, both, men and women defending Cosby’s inexcusable behavior was extremely frustrating. I made my feelings clear in my blog post entitled “Bill Cosby: A Race Issue or Women’s Issue?” and my feelings about it remain the same.
About a week and a half ago, the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” premiered on Lifetime. The three-night event consisted of six 60 minute episodes with victims speaking out about their experiences with the R&B singer. The documentary also had friends and family members of the victims and staff members of R. Kelly describing their encounters with him. The stories shared were disturbing and heartbreaking. From being starved for days on end to contracting incurable STDs, the stories were unfathomable.
The different reactions to this documentary were similar to the reactions of Cosby sentencing. Some were completely turned off by R. Kelly, posting the hashtag #MuteRKelly. While others felt they could separate the artists from the art and feel they should be able to continue to listen to his music. Then, there were those who were torn between the two; being fans of him, but not being able to look past his actions.
Also very similar to the Cosby case, those in support of R. Kelly, attempted to defend his poor behavior by making excuses. Some said he’s been this way for years and that these accusations were nothing new and others said they have no right to judge. Where these statements are true, it doesn’t justify R. Kelly’s actions. The issue here isn’t that they don’t believe he did it, but that they don’t care.
His supporters also placed the blame on the victims calling them “fast” and that they knew what they were getting into dealing with an older man. Some saying the girls allowed his behavior. They blamed the parents of the victims, as well, saying they should’ve been more aware. The victim blaming is all too familiar in cases such as this. For whatever reason, people like to point the finger at the victims rather than the person victimizing them.
The one difference between this case and the Cosby case is that it not only deals with women but black women, in particular. All but one of the accusers featured in the documentary were black women. This sparked the conversation of whether black women are protected or not. Looking at all R. Kelly has gotten away with, the answer is clear. This only confirmed that many people view black women as “disposable”.
There’s a lot of frustration around this issue. Why does it feel like some black men don’t want to come to the defense of black women? Why are we willing to defend the pedophile over the victim? Anyone who refuses to acknowledge the obvious issue is only further damaging our already messed up society. There needs to be a shift to ensure that this doesn’t continue to happen. Start in your homes or start by calling out friends and family members. It’s time to protect our black women and not just the black women we know personally.
I wish I could say I’m surprised we’re revisiting this issue, but I’m not. Yet again, the well-being of women has been dismissed. For the life of me, I can’t comprehend why people are so willing to defend a pedophile, but what I do know is that we’re no longer brushing this issue under the rug. As disappointing as it is to be back in this position, I know we’ll eventually make progress. We have no choice but to do better.