And yet again, Robert Kelly, otherwise known as his stage alias R. Kelly, is in the spotlight for another case of sexual predation and alleged brainwashing. In this new report, the parents of an aspiring nineteen-year-old artist claim that Kelly is holding young women against their will in a “cult.”
If you are an R. Kelly fan or have at least been following him through media outlets for the past twenty years or so, you’d be aware of the countless issues in which his name had arisen when the topic of sexual assault came up. The man has a long list of them, ranging from being charged (but acquitted) of twenty-one counts of child pornography, the infamous scandal of him having sexual intercourse and urinating on a teenage girl in 2002, and marrying the late R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994 when she was only fifteen-years-old, a minor, when he was twenty-four.
Many people often wonder how on Earth could a man with such a horrendous track-record still be on the streets, singing, performing, and making money. One could prescribe that to him being a man—male celebrities tend to still have flourishing careers despite histories of abuse against women. Another could attest that the reason he continuously is acquitted of these charges is because his victims are Black girls and women.
Women are already less likely to report cases of sexual assault because of our country’s failed system that tends to victim-blame and accept pay-offs from rich families, but this becomes an even larger issue when it comes to women of color, especially Black women.
In 2006, it was reported that Black American females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. Despite this large difference, they were still less likely to seek help from social services, shelters, programs, and hospitals. A separate study showed that whereas 44% of white women sought legal help after being assaulted, only 17% of Black women reported their assaults.
There are varying reasons as to why this is, but some that stand out among all others is Black women’s acclaimed “resiliency,” and the Black collective desire to protect the image of Black men because of the history of the world praying for their demise. R. Kelly was a successful Black artist who made bounds in musical culture, so of course there were many who wished not to damage his “good name” in efforts to maintain his success. But is all that work really worth the lives of these young Black women?
Although those reasons were more likely to come by in the past versus now, it is easy to imagine that if Kelly’s victims had been non-Black women, they would’ve garnered a larger mass of media coverage, and he more than likely would’ve been prosecuted. That may have to do with the fact he would’ve been a Black man (who are often depicted as “scary,” “violent,” and “sexually deviant”) and that kind of assault would’ve been seen as completely outrageous than if he were to assault a Black woman. This speaks to the greater issue that people tend to care less about the assault Black women face whether it’s at the hands of Black males or not.
A shocking study found that white women are less likely to intervene when they see it is a Black woman who is clearly in a situation of possibly being assaulted by a man (in which the race of the man did not play a factor.) The supposed reason behind this was that the white women needed to be able to psychologically identify with the victim if they wanted to help. While this of course does not speak for all non-Black women, there are year-long lists of anti-blackness seen in many cultures that express this truth.
There’s a generations-old overlying myth that because Black women are supposed to be seen a “strong,” (thus the aforementioned term of “resiliency,”) or because we are seen as “domineering,” that we are in less need of protecting.
All in all, this speaks to the ugly truth of how Black women are disrespected here in America and many other places. Our livelihoods are not deemed as sacred, worth nurturing or protecting, and it begs the question; do our lives actually matter?