In the midst of all the chaos that has ensued with my returning to Wake Forest after two semesters on break, I finally got to watch the controversial docu-series Surviving R. Kelly. Episode after episode, I was glued to the screen, listening to the survivors tell their stories of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the critically-acclaimed singer, the story of how our justice system failed miserably and how R. Kelly’s staff went above and beyond to cover up his predatory behavior toward young girls. I was disgusted, infuriated and heartbroken by what I watched, but I was not the least bit surprised.
In the era of the #MeToo movement, the manipulative and abusive behavior of famous and powerful men in the dark is coming to light. Yet, the general public is still nowhere near as responsive to the core issues as they ought to be.
The men responsible might lose a couple of business deals, they might go to court and they may get shamed on social media. However, once it becomes old news and stops trending on social media, everyone gets quiet again and the perpetrator will more than likely will return to their old ways. They’re never held all the way accountable, and R. Kelly epitomizes that.
R. Kelly truly embodies the idea of a famous man’s crimes being swept under the rug simply because he’s famous. He can sing, dance, compose music and put on a hell of a show. He has a long list of accolades decades old. His music is constantly played at weddings, dances and clubs, and I’ve heard the song “Ignition (Remix)” play at almost every frat party I’ve attended. Of course, no one wanted him to be the bad guy, but he was. A really bad guy.
He preyed on young girls, some of whom were damn near pre-adolescents. He forcefully coerced them into sex, and he filmed them without their consent. He physically abused them. He isolated them from their families and placed them in circumstances that were nearly impossible for them to escape. He stole girls’ childhoods, took their dignity and created a lifetime of horrible memories that they’ll never forget. For that, he ought to rot in prison I don’t know who I’m most angry at: the court system for allowing this monster to walk free for six years before trial, only to acquit him; R. Kelly’s team for taking part in covering up everything to maintain his image; people my color who supported him through everything and turned the blame on the victims; or myself for not informing myself of what was going on and instead continuing to listen and dance to him.
I don’t know if the docu-series will truly aid in the fight to hold R. Kelly truly accountable. I do know one thing, though, even if the black community still supports R. Kelly, which I no longer condone, I can assure you that he would’ve at least been in prison for a long, long time if his survivors were white. I have to save that issue for another week, though; I reached my word limit again.