Til this very day if you walked into your neighborhood ‘Black Barbershop’ and drag the names Tupac, Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, Bill Cosby and now R. Kelly up, at the very least you might be shamed into silence; at worse you might walk out of there missing a couple of teeth.
The aftermath of #survivingRKelly has spurned a delicate and terrifying war of attrition between the ‘Orthodox’ Black Community who are thoroughly anti lgbtq, mostly Christian, and have limited access to resources versus their more progressive counterparts who are champions of the ‘New Left.’ I spent hours reading through threads and comment sections dedicated to R. Kelly and a few dominant theme’s emerged: “He’s a rapist…the end”, “Grown men should be held to a higher standard,” “Those girls knew what they were getting into foh” “Where were the parents?” “If they were black, he’d be in jail already’ and the least popular “Everyone is responsible.”
Watching members of my own community launch ferocious salvos across the digital battlefield was not only deeply hurtful but a detriment to the black communities greatest asset – our numbers. As stories such as these drives a bigger wedge between us I fear that one day our waning political strength might be further eroded. In these crucial times when our adversaries are planted firmly behind ‘45’ and have resiliently held their own during the midterms we don’t have the luxury to squabble amongst ourselves.
Let me stop pontificating…I do that.
For the friends, colleagues and associates worn out by comments in defense of R. Kelly I want you to understand something’… No matter what you say or how you feel, you cannot change these people and you shouldn’t burn yourself out trying to. Now take a breath…and forgive them.
(Trust me, it’s therapeutic.)
Still with me? Lets Continue.
Yesterday, while my wife worked on the family laptop and our son fell asleep on my chest I read a headline on Yahoo News:
“Police say woman’s dramatic account of attack by ‘black male wearing a hoodie’ was a lie.”
For centuries hundreds of Black Men have been lynched, burned and castrated (sometimes in that order) for false reports. The genesis of most reported race riots and lynchings, (See-Omaha Race Riot of 1919, Lynching of Jesse Washington) have originated in the dangerous mischaracterization of black men as violent sexual monsters, which is the male counterpart to the Black Woman’s ‘Jezebel.’
R. Kelly, like Bill Cosby, like Mike Tyson, like Tupac and like Michael Jackson rip open a bloody scab that we don’t know how to properly process. Juxtaposed to African-American history the spectre of a black sexual predator is very difficult to digest. Remember that it was the Murder of Emmet Till that kicked off the Civil Rights movement; an irrational fear propagated by the acolytes of White Supremacy.
Behind every R. Kelly excuse is an image of Black Men, hanging, bleeding, mutilated in front of us. These pictures have been indelibly seared into our collective psyche causing intergenerational trauma across the black diaspora. This ‘defend first’ reaction is not limited in scope to crimes of a sexual nature, but pretty much every type of vice a black man has been associated with.
You know damn well that ‘lil skrap’, ‘lil Rell’, ‘Ty-Ty’ and ‘them’ was scamming, gangbanging, and drug dealing but we still wear the t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase ‘free my ni**a.’ And in some twisted sense of entitlement we attribute robinhood like qualities to people who are bonafide criminals. Be honest, we root them on, we want them to win. ( See-Jay-Z)
Still doubt me?
In 2019 why do Black Momma’s everywhere continue to caution their sons against dating White woman? Why is there this ‘awkward’ space between White men and everyone else? You can’t just sum up everything a person is today by saying they are ‘trash’ that’s unsophisticated.
We’re smarter than that, unlike our forebears we have access to information and resources that we can draw upon to create a mosaic of how we got here and we also possess the intellectual capital that we can leverage to get ourselves out of this mess.
If you haven’t figured out by now, this article is not a defense of R. Kelly or acknowledgement of the ignorant, belligerent and disrespectful defenses for him. This is an illumination of the black subconscious that has been damaged over years by repeated unscrupulous prosecution and execution of black men.
How bad is the damage?
The trauma’s so severe that almost 20 years ago we all watched a video of an adult Robert Kelly urinating on an adolescent Black female and we collectively said ‘nah’ and still ‘Stepped in the Name of Love.’
About the author: Charles Becco is a film writer who has written such films as “Guns” starring 50 Cent and “Tapestry” featuring Stephen Baldwin. He is also the associate producer for the upcoming “Death Row” Movie which highlights the life of Music Mogul Suge Knight.