Some time has passed since Lifetime aired its six-part docu-series, “Surviving R. Kelly” where alleged victims of the singer and people who were around him spoke and gave their accounts of what they witnessed. Overall I thought the entire production was well put together and it did its job of painting a picture of who R. Kelly was as a child and who he grew up to be.
While the series aired, I was on Twitter getting a gauge of where people’s emotions were at as a result of what we were all watching. The majority of the people on my timeline shared the same sentiments, “R. Kelly is a pedophile,” “R. Kelly is a predator,” or “R. Kelly is a monster.” Now, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t see anyone who opposed the information presented. Some people flat out didn’t believe anything that was being said, and some disregarded what was reported due to the fact there are other (read white) pedophiles and predators still on the loose and Lifetime did not put together six episodes to expose them. In my opinion, it is the latter argument that represented a microcosm of what causes the divide in the Black community, deflection.
To be very clear, what R. Kelly is accused of doing is reprehensible, disgusting, and plain sick. Everything that comes his way as a result of the documentary is well deserved and two decades late if you ask me. But I also want to acknowledge the point others are trying to make in the wake of this situation that there are PLENTY of other people that can be called to the front of the congregation for their sexual crimes towards minors. People like Tariq Nasheed have taken it upon themselves to expose white celebrities for their crimes to prove that American media picks and chooses who they want to go after, and who they want to protect. There is a hashtag going called #FirstThem, and Nasheed and other people have pulled name after name like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Pressley, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Don Johnson, and countless others who have been accused of similar behavior as R. Kelly but there are no documentaries exposing them..
It’s all nasty, and everyone has a point.
That point, however, gets lost when they are brought up in spite of people’s feelings about R. Kelly instead of in addition to them. I think you’ll find it very difficult to find someone to defend a child predator openly. In that, everyone is on the same side, or they wouldn’t bring up other people in the first place. Its when your point comes at the expense of the victims, who are mostly Black women, you will see why other Black women are less likely to want to hear what you have to say. You come off as dismissive when in actuality you agree. Black men (for a good reason) feel the justice system in America is set up for them to fail. When they say “well what about [insert any white predator]” it’s not in defense of R. Kelly nor his actions (I hope) but in defense of all the Black men who have been railroaded by the justice system and the media. From where I sit, it looks to me like we all agree at the most basic level; child predator’s regardless of race need to be dealt with. If your mission is to take down all chid predator’s I commend you and your effort should be recognized, but let’s not dismiss the predators in our own community, and let’s not pretend that their aren’t predators that are in fact being protected.
Malcom X. Bowser is a writer, curator, and founder of Urban X.