The Root: R. Kelly Fans, Stop Blaming His Victims

I can’t say I’m all that surprised about the backlash against the folks who have been denouncing R. Kelly lately. I called on people who still supported him to rethink that position after the Village Voice interviewed Jim DeRogatis—the journalist who broke the story of R. Kelly’s sexual conduct with underage girls nearly 15 years ago—in a story that has now gone viral.

Since then, seemingly every major site that blacks and feminists frequent has run an article calling for readers to stop supporting a “monster” by not purchasing R. Kelly’s latest album, Black Panties. Over at Hello Beautiful, where the site ran a full-on “We Love R. Kelly” piece after hosting a listening session for his latest music, there was backtracking after the Village Voice interview. The writer of the original article, Leigh Davenport, said that she now feels “shocked” and “horrified” by the depth of the allegations against one of her favorite singers. “I was, perhaps willingly, quite ignorant to the details of R. Kelly’s offenses,” she said in a follow-up interview on the Hello Beautiful site.

So many of us are just now putting a clichéd two and two together about exactly what R. Kelly has been accused of by dozens of young women in Chicago. And as many of us rightfully balk at his misdeeds, there are those who acknowledge his alleged actions and still do mental contortions of Cirque du Soleil proportions to avoid holding him accountable for anything.

I’ve read countless commenters who wondered, “Where were these girls’ parents?” as if their parents knew every move they made at 14 and we weren’t all doing our damnedest to elude our own parents. Then there were people—women, even—blaming the victims, who were teenagers, as more or less fast girls who knew exactly

what they were doing when they chose to have sex with a man twice their age in exchange for tennis shoes, Coach bags and promises of a fairy-tale life.

“Question: At 14 years old did you know who and what you were doing with your body … I did,” one woman wrote on Facebook.

Oh, really? Did you? Never mind. It doesn’t matter. Whether or not a 14-year-old girl fully understands the grown-up ramifications of sex is actually irrelevant. Statutory rape is illegal in most states in America, including Illinois, where the age of consent is 17.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. KarenR says:

    Thank you for writing this. As mentioned in the article: black girls/women are the least protected people in our society. After reading it, I can’t fully understand why he isn’t in jail. I have never been a fan or R.Kelly, but after hearing bits and pieces of what he was accused of and then reading this Village Voice piece, I completely don’t understand why anyone supports him.

  2. Anne says:

    At 47, R. Kelly’s attitudes about sex have not matured as he has aged. Almost everything he sings is about the sex act, and knowing he has preyed on underage girls makes this fixation on sex even more disturbing. The adults who make excuses for R. Kelly, especially those in the name of religious faith, are part of the problem rather than any solution. That’s because at some level, they have internalized the racist and sexist mentality that began in the slavery era toward black girls and women. By that twisted logic, black women and girls couldn’t be raped. While they say not to judge him lest we be judged, they are quick to judge the girls as if they were willing, knowledgeable adults instead of impressionable, vulnerable kids. It’s a sad commentary that the white reporter who unearthed this story could see how little many of us value our young girls. Those who blame these girls for their exploitation are just as morally bankrupt as those who still blame Trayvon Martin for the victimization that resulted in his being murdered. Of course, R. Kelly is one of many predators of kids, but there are others out here who are not celebrities. Many of them are intimate relatives, family friends, and/or acquaintances of the kids they molest, not to mention strangers. They are destructive to black communities, or any other communities for that matter, and do not deserve to be protected. All children, boys and girls, should be protected. It does not matter if those who would harm them are black or non-black, or celebrity or average Joe or Jane.

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