Yesterday morning R. Kelly walked out of Cook County jail a free man. The first thing he did was eat at a McDonald’s he allegedly picked up teens at in the 90s. Kelly’s bail was $1 million, however a woman who claimed to be Kelly’s friend paid the 10% necessary, $100,000, to free him. Kelly is pleading not guilty to sexually abusing four women, three of which were underage. After a disgusted, but not particularly shocked, public reeled from the details of the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series lawyer Michael Avenatti presented new evidence against Kelly. A recently resurfaced video shows Kelly allegedly engaging in sex acts with a minor, repeatedly referring to her 14 year old parts. With new and old accusations, video evidence, testimonies from family, friend, lawyers, and victims alike, there are still those who justify their loyalty to Kelly. At this point, its hard to believe that anyone’s art is this good.
There hasn’t been a single work of art profound enough to justify supporting pedophilia or sexual abuse. Simply because there is no excuse. R. Kelly hasn’t made a good song in over a decade. His greatest body of work, and by extension most of his sexual art, is about his encounters with minors. He doesn’t send anyone to college, nor does he contribute to the community. Even if he did, it wouldn’t erase accountability. With all this taken into account, there’s simply no justification for defending Kelly. The argument has gotten weaker, and points to a logical conclusion. It’s been said many times before however it needs to be restated: we simply do not care enough about Black girls. When we call the teenage victims of Kelly “fast”, when we exclaim that “they knew what they were doing”, or bring up Kelly’s own abuse to deflect from the issue, you’re showing how little you care about girls in the Black community.
Black girls simply are not allowed to grow up at the same pace as everyone else in society. From young they are expected to be more mature and poised than their peers while also being unfairly expected to be more adult, and to be almost innately promiscuous. Studies show that people find Black girls to be less innocent than white girls. We project our biases onto them, seeing them to be older than they actually are. We leave them to fend for themselves, with the most uplifting and support coming from other Black girls. In short, we police them too much and protect them too little.
As with most of our embedded ideologies, the lack of sympathy for Black girls stems back to slavery, and has simply morphed and reiterated itself in different ways. These are the attitudes that allows an epidemic of missing Black girls to go virtually unnoticed. Its what allows a grown security guard to toss a small girl like a rag doll, only to have people ask why she didn’t cooperate. Its the reason why so many celebrities, who were well aware of Kelly’s behavior, either spoke out to save face, or remained completely silent about it. Its the attitude that allows us to hyper-sexualize Black girls and convince ourselves that they are at fault for their own abuse. It’s nothing short of gross.
For the sake of our community, we need to unpack these attitudes and do away with them. We’re doing every black girl in our life a disservice doing anything less.