RACISM has really done a number on some of my black brothers and sisters!
I wasn’t going to attempt to write about this, because it is so complicated and fraught with opportunities to misunderstand. But I’ll be damned if somebody didn’t just pull my trigger.
If you aren’t familiar with who R. Kelly is, think “I Believe I Can Fly.” He is an R&B superstar who was raised in Chicago. His circumstances were, like so many black families, less than ideal. For whatever reason, he came through Chicago’s public school system without ever learning to read. He was shy and he was bullied. So, yes, Robert Kelly had issues.
In spite of all that, Kelly discovered his uncanny ability to play the piano by ear. He also had a voice any angel would envy. Eventually, through his own unlimited commitment to music and his burgeoning talent for “writing” lyrics and composing music, R. Kelly became a megastar.
Lifetime television network has recently released a series about Kelly’s well-documented history of searching out, grooming and sometimes imprisoning black teenage girls. The documentary includes testimony from his brothers, his early co-workers, industry colleagues and yes, his victims. It tells the story of his trial in Chicago for child pornography and his acquittal of those charges. It is well worth the hours it takes to watch. And when you do, you will come away knowing Kelly is a monster who was saved from prison by family members who suspiciously refused to testify against him. Some believe Kelly paid them off. And by male jurors who said after the trial they simply didn’t believe the victims. One said he based that opinion on how they were dressed.
In the documentary the viewer sees people – black people – who refuse to believe the truth about this man’s horrendous behavior. And many black people over the years have done the same thing they’ve done when Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson and Bill Cosby have been accused. While they might believe there is some truth to the accusations, they refuse to “help the white man” ruin another black brother while so many white men get away with similar or worse offenses.
I have always believed this kind of convoluted thinking is a direct result of generations of racism. After centuries of lynching, mass incarceration, police murder and framing for raping white women, some of my people have become used to circling the wagons around our own, regardless of what they may or may not have done wrong, even when the value of our own young girls and their well-being is subordinated to defending the brother.
This is sick thinking. It is not rational. It is self-defeating.
We MUST be able to think clearly, if for no other reason than to protect our own children. When you’re wrong you are wrong! Yes, there are all kinds of reasons for black men and women to lose their ways – brutal reasons. But they are not excuses.
Yes, we love our heroes, our black people who, in spite of all the odds, succeed to become rich and famous. They have given us fabulous works of art, music that becomes soundtracks to our lives, sportsmen to idolize. But are they more important than the life of a 12 or 13-year old girl who is lured into a life of sexual slavery and brainwashing? Who, in their right mind, would answer “yes” to that question?
We black people have endured unspeakable cruelty and dehumanizing brutality ever since we were dragged here in chains. But we must always fight to use our ability to reason through all of these abuses and make sure we protect, not our heroes, but our kids.