Last year a story was released about R. Kelly and a kind of cult that he has with women in his homes in Georgia and Chicago. It was reported that the women are unable to leave without permission, have been given new cell phones where their use is monitored, and he controls every aspect of their lives from what they wear to who they can speak to. All the women involved in his “cult” are adults and say they are there out of their own free will. This story has caused R.Kelly’s name to be in the spotlight again and not in a good way but it made me think about other celebrities in the black community and they we treat our “stars”. Kelly has been troubled by sordid sexual claims throughout his career. His marriage to singer Aaliyah when she was 15 years old and his video showing proof of having sex with underage girls. Both times his defense was that he did not know their ages and/or that the girls had lied about their ages. Both of these stories did nothing to affect his career and while he is no longer at the top of the charts he is still sought after for concerts, endorsements, and to make public appearances. Some might argue that this is because he is rich and a man which I’m sure helps his case but, within the black community, we are very hesitant to say someone is guilty even when all the evidence proves that there might be something not quite right.
This is the case with O.J Simpson, Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson, and countless others. I was a child when O.J was on trial and I remember how excited people were that he was found not guilty. Many people now no longer believe that he was innocent in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. There was a time when many people believed that Bill Cosby was being rail-roaded for being a successful African-American man, and the question of Michael Jackson’s innocence is still discussed behind closed doors, I’m sure. There are so many arguments that people make; these parents and women are just after their money. These arguments take the guilt away from the person being accused. Yes, there are many cases when a wealthy person is blackmailed for a payout but there are also many instances when they are guilty and use their wealth as a way out. But my issue is why are we so quick to defend, even when the evidence is going against our beliefs?
A radio station in Detroit recently said that they will no longer be playing Kanye’s music after ignorant and racially insensitive comments he made this week https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/detroit-music-station-mutes-kanye-west-but-doesnt-know-1825749539. A listener called in and asked if they would also stop playing R.Kelly and Chris Brown’s music since they both have been in trouble with the law for abusing women in various forms. The station said that they agreed but didn’t know if they would be muting their music as well. It’s interesting that Kanye can make comments that no doubt are hurtful, but R.Kelly and Chris Brown have actually committed crimes.
I think the answer as to why we support these men is twofold: the strength of the African-American community and society’s lack of respect for women. Many of these men have been accused of abusing women and I think that because we don’t value our women we don’t think of their crimes as that severe. We often blame women for their part in these situations while removing all guilt from these men. If we create a culture where women are respected I believe that we won’t need a #Time’sUp Movemenet.
Within the black community, as a whole, we often feel that if one of us have made it we all have made it, i.e Issa Rae’s comment at the 2017 Emmy’s about “rooting for everyone black”. Because in our eyes you are representing your entire community. In American history, it hasn’t been easy for any Black person to be extremely successful. Our success is more of an uphill climb than it is for other people. To see someone make it, it means a lot for representation and also how other people view our race. So, when we see someone’s imminent fall from grace, we’re quick to deny and to put blame where it’s not due. But in doing this we have to remember that everyone is human, and no one is perfect. It’s doing far more damage to act like our celebrities are innocent rather than guilty. We have to do better and take them off of their pedestal. As for R.Kelly, the only surprise was to hear his name in the news again.