Kelly is in the news again, but not for the right reasons. Incredibly, he has been accused of operating a “cult” wherein he is allegedly keeping women against their will as what can only be called sex slaves. According to some reports, he allegedly controls all of their movements and determines when they can or cannot eat, sleep, etc. One of the women in the case has come forward to deny the allegations. She insists that she is not being kept against her will, but her parents have another take on the situation. At this point, the truth of the matter remains to be seen.
Kelly is no stranger to controversy. He has repeatedly been accused of being a pedophile, and a video actually circulated with him urinating on an underage girl. Moreover, it is known that he also wed Aaliyah, the late singer/actress, when she was a teen. Now, however, his “women” are older, though one of the members of his alleged “cult” was 19 years old when he first met her. R. Kelly is 50 years old.
A lot of observers seem to have no problem with the allegations. They say that any young women involved with R. Kelly have made a choice. It is as though people don’t understand the psychological behavior of people caught up in domestic situations.
One of worst aspects of the whole R. Kelly case is that the armload of allegations of sexual misconduct without consequences have left young Black women vulnerable. It is almost a given that any male celebrity accused of mistreating a woman, or even a girl, will be given a pass because of the strength of their fame or wealth. Women and girls in the Black community, therefore, are faced with double jeopardy; they can be sexually exploited by “famous” celebrities, and then again by a community that refuses to take their accusations seriously. This is not to say that women have not lied in the past; some have. But all such allegations are not lies. The atmosphere permeating the current social fabric causes women to hesitate before they accuse rich and famous celebrities of wrongdoing. The result is that rich and famous celebrities, if actually guilty, can continue with what they are doing without worrying about repercussions.
Kelly is arguably one of the most accomplished musical geniuses of our times. We can give him this. But where there is smoke there is fire, and it’s time that we take seriously charges that, if true, can have very damaging consequences. It is clear that R. Kelly has a predilection for women many years his junior. A television host once asked him if he was attracted to teenaged girls. His response was a question – “What do you consider a teenager?” or words to that effect.
Because there are a disproportionate number of impoverished individuals in America’s Black communities, there is a tendency to idolize anyone who has amassed significant wealth. Add to this the historic oppression that Black men have traditionally faced, and the result is that any man who is inclined to misbehave toward females will automatically be given full support by members of the Black community, and this support comes from both males AND females. It is said that at least one of the girls in R. Kelly’s presence was introduced to him by her mom! Apparently, it’s okay if someone is an accomplished star with money, that an underage female can be subjected to potential abuse because of hopes of financial gain.
It is time that we become more discerning about allegations of sexual misconduct against women, and especially against those who are underage. We cannot say that R. Kelly is guilty of the current accusations; he has not, and probably will not, face a judge and jury regarding them. We certainly hope that they are not true, because if they are, it means that he is engaging in a type of slavery that is characteristic of sex trafficking.
Ultimately, we need to start addressing the issue of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior in the Black community more seriously, and we must realize that the predators must be punished even if they are rich and famous. Wealth does not absolve one of guilt! A luta continua.