Surviving "Surviving R Kelly"
Surviving R Kelly was long and emotionally exhausting. By Episode 3, I was beyond clear on my conviction, R Kelly was the piece of sht I had always regarded him to be. I grieved over his catalogue like [you know] adopted friends and family that become the casualties of a messy break up. I thought I knew the R Kelly story: boy gets raped; grows up to become a rapist; sex tape; conflicting stances within the community; the collective and contradictory stepping “in the name of love”, ushered by the sounds of the Pied Piper; R Kelly decreases in popularity; the end.
However, as I watched the Lifetime special...it wouldn't stop. It just kept going.
Without speaking redundantly on what the public is already saying, there was and is one thing that just doesn't sit well with me. No one is talking about the kids; no one is explicitly talking about the importance of protecting Black Children. What isn't being addressed is how (in every situation) adults gave R Kelly direct access to these little girls.
Now, the danger is, R Kelly (being the subject) allows for this all to be received as entertainment - the series teeters on being a Biopic. And by the end it becomes so outrageous that there isn't much space for viewers to feel much more than shock. Shock doesn't protect children. Shock doesn't cause us to reevaluate how we can implement preventative measures within our communities. Shock distracts us from the fact that sexual violence against children and the normalization of child sexual objectification are not an R Kelly issue - but a much larger cultural issue.
No one, from what I've observed, is appalled that both R Kelly and his brother were raped as little boys; by adults, family members who they trusted, and were trusted with them. By the end of the series R Kelly is caricatured into a Villain of cinematic proportion - an elusive figure with almost no historical point of origin. Which is dangerous, because it sensationalizes the crime.
The fact is, most young boys and girls are not and will not be raped by music mega stars. Most children are not lured into sexual acts by media icons and the promise of fame. Young women are being trafficked by figures not as noticeable as an R Kelly. And it's happening because we as adults are-not-protecting-the-children.
The series is filled with so many confessions from people, members of his camp, who knew what he was doing and in many cases helped him. Unable to read and write well, R Kelly could not have pulled off this elaborate scheme on his own. In wanting to see him brought to justice, I can't help but also wish to see the many people who are assisting him in the recruiting, kidnapping, transporting, and gaslighting.
I was a minor, in Highschool, when the R Kelly sex tape came out. An even in hindsight, the “R Kelly Sex Tape” was an inappropriate name for a video containing child sex abuse. So many people bought the video. They sold it wherever you would find your bootleg CDs and DVDs. People watched it individually and in gatherings. It was a spectacle, yet never an outrage. As a child I noticed this, and it was the only confirmation I needed. I could see that it wasn't about the child - this was about R Kelly. It was as if sexual shock value was what we had come to expect from him. It was like ordering your usual cocktail, but this time it being a lot stronger than normal - at first taste, off putting, but forgivable. After millions of people watching the video, we still weren't sure if it was R Kelly. We weren't sure if it was really him, because at the end of the day we didn't want it to be.
Michael Jackson, Jay Z, Chance The Rapper, Kanye West, Teyana Taylor, Whitney Houston, and others, all rationalized their decision to work with Kelly despite numerous allegations. Also, since the Lifetime series, Kelly's streams have not gone down - they've gone up. Instagram comment sections are surprisingly filled with R Kelly defenders, and it seems much like the girls who found themselves under his spell, we as a community have found it hard to walk away from R Kelly.
Our community has a problem. To put it in plain view, happyplace.com, a mental health wellness site, wrote an article listing these statistics pertaining to the African-American community:
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men report that they were sexually abused as a child.
- Two-thirds of all victims of sexual assault reported to the police are under 18. In nearly 95 percent of the cases, the offender is a family member or acquaintance.
- Abuse is more likely to be reported among low-income families, but is often undetected in families whose money or status shield them from authorities.
- African-American women are less likely than white women to involve police in cases of child sexual abuse. Fears about betraying the family, turning abusers into "the system", distrust of institutions and authorities often lead blacks to remain silent about "family business".
- About 14 percent of all young victims of sexual assault are male, according to police reports. Twenty percent of sexual abuse of boys is committed by women. Among African Americans, homophobia perpetuates the denial of the sexual abuse of boys.
- Child sex offenders tend to victimize more often than other sexual offenders. Seventy percent of child sex offenders had between one and nine victims; 23 percent between 10 and 40 victims.
Personally, if watching the Surviving R Kelly series doesn't cause you to think about these things, what's the point? We’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. I would like to add, it also takes a village to protect one.
For the record, fuck his music.