Updated: Apr 26, 2020
On last night, Lifetime aired a bone-chilling documentary series recounting the life of R. Kelly and the allegations that have clouded his reputation for over 20 years. Millions of people tuned in for a bone-chilling hour of the docuseries watching family and friends of the popular R&B singer give their testimonies, solidifying the thoughts that so many have had, labeling him as a serial rapist. The first installment of a three-night series documented R. Kelly’s early life, which included background singers their first encounters dating back when they were only 13 years old. The singers also described their accounts regarding R. Kelly’s infamous relationship with the late R&B singer Aaliyah.
To simply say that viewers were shocked would be the understatement of the year and 2019 just got started.
Once again Black America has come to a crossroads of division on this issue. There are so many viewpoints being expressed on social media. Some persons feel that R. Kelly should have gone down long ago. A new movement was fired up in the rise of #MeToo and #TimesUp, called #MuteRKelly. This movement, founded last year by Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye, seeks to draw attention to the artist's controversial past and is pressuring companies to cut ties with him. The #MuteRKelly movement has drawn the attention and support of large names such as Shonda Rhimes, Tarana Burke, John Legend, and many others. They believe that if radio companies and record conglomerates cut their ties with Kelly, he will no longer have the resources to combat the accusations that have been flying against him since the late 90s.
There is also another side of this issue that people are looking at. There is the side where people feel that if he was so guilty, then why would people wait over 15 years and many lawsuits later to say something. They doubt the women who chose to tell their story. They ask questions. Why did these people not speak out when it happened, if it was so terrible? Why would so many celebrities, who worked closely with Kelly, not choose to speak out? Why would Aaliyah’s mother claim that everything those ladies said was a lie? Can we condemn him and not his music?
This entire ordeal is ugly, and will only get uglier as Lifetime still has two more nights to air what they claim to be irrefutable evidence that R. Kelly willingly seduced minors to have sex with them. However, what this ordeal has done is brought back the exposed divisions and hypocrisies among Black America. Rape culture remains a huge problem in this county and will remain so until rightfully address. It is very dangerous to assume the women are lying simply because they are just now coming out with their stories. Readers must remember the time period when all of this was going down. In 1997, the President of the United States was dealing with a sexual harassment scandal of his own, which eventually ended in the exile of Monica Lewinsky.
It is great that the lines of communication have been opened on a national level regarding this hazy ordeal, however, readers must acknowledge the struggles that women deal with daily. Women are charged to be seen and not heard. Women grow in a world where they are encouraged to play with dolls and take the jobs where they are not allowed to get their hands dirty. Women are usually regarded as soft and hypersexualized negatively on a daily basis. Since women have a long history where they have been told to “know their place,” it is no secret as to why they are hesitant to say that their bosses or superiors were abusing them. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports receiving 12,000 allegations of sex-based harassment each year, with women accounting for about 83 percent of the complainants. Out of that number, half are fired before there is resolution. Additionally, some women who choose to stay end up either committing suicide or live out their days mentally damaged due to the lack of support.
People must stop victim-blaming. People must stop assuming. It is time to start talking. That is will be the only way, that not only women, but black women will be able to truly heal.