After ‘Surviving R Kelly,’ the #MuteRKelly movement gains momentum
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The “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary broke ratings records for the Lifetime TV Network.
An estimated 1.9 million tuned in to the expose that included a tearful account by Kelly’s ex-wife, Andrea Lee Kelly, of domestic violence and abuse she allegedly suffered during her marriage to the R&B superstar.
But now what?
Are we to rally around the alleged victims the same way Hollywood rallied around the victims of Harvey Weinstein and a host of other white males accused of sexual harassment?
Will these women of color be honored for their courage like the white women behind the #MeToo movement?
Or will they be condemned by many of us as gold-digging troublemakers trying to bring a successful brother down?
Because whenever you call out a black man for his physical, emotional or sexual abuse of a woman, some black people quickly turn the conversation to how a white man has been treated under similar circumstances.
I was at the grocery store Sunday and overheard two men arguing about whether or not the documentary was fair to Kelly.
“They didn’t do Bill O’Reilly like that,” one man said to the other.
But in 2017, O’Reilly was forced from his perch as the top-rated host on cable TV after five women accused him of sexual harassment.
I heard the same kind of defense when Kelly was prosecuted for allegedly taping himself having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
His supporters kept harping on the fact that Elvis Presley met his wife, Priscilla Presley, when she was 14 years old.
Yet I doubt that even the King of Rock & Roll could have survived the public distribution of a sex tape that showed him urinating on her.
But Kelly did.
In 2008, a Cook County jury acquitted Kelly on 14 counts of child pornography despite the existence of a video that purportedly showed the singer and what appeared to be an underage black girl engaging in a sex act.
The girl’s parents denied it was their tween daughter on the video, and after the trial, Kelly went back to making sexually provocative music.
But thanks to the #MuteRKelly movement, while Kelly’s music can still be heard on the airwaves, and he can still pack a concert venue, there are signs that other high-profile celebrities are backing away from him.
Indeed, in an interview, a portion of which was aired in “Surviving R Kelly,” another wildly popular Chicago superstar expressed regret that he collaborated with Kelly in 2015.
“We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to black male oppression. But black women are exponentially [a] higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world,” Chance the Rapper explained in an interview with Jamilah Lemieux in May.
“Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women. Usually, n—– that get in trouble for sh** like this on their magnitude of celebrity, it’s light-skinned women or white women. That’s when it’s a big story. I never really seen any pictures of R. Kelly’s accusers,” he said.
Sadly, when it comes to sexual abuse, black women’s complaints are often ignored.
For instance, Tarana Burke, a brown-skinned African-American woman, founded the Me Too Movement in 2006, after starting a nonprofit organization to help victims of sexual harassment.
But the #MeToo movement didn’t take off until actress Alyssa Milano, a white woman, asked women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write “me too” as a reply to a tweet.
The voices of black women on sexual harassment, and in particular, misogyny in music lyrics, have been drowned out by verbal attacks.
Civil rights icon Dorothy Height went to her grave under attack from rappers because of her stance against misogynistic lyrics in rap music.
“This music is damaging because it is degrading to women to have it suggested in our popular music that [women] are to be abused,” she said.
To his credit, Chance the Rapper can admit he made a mistake.
“I’m happy that those women are getting voices now and I can grow to understand better what my positioning should be or should’ve been when that opportunity came,” he told the interviewer.
What about the rest of us?
We saw a parade of young black women sit in a chair in front of a green screen and reveal the sexual, physical and mental abuse they allegedly endured at the hands of one man who has proven untouchable.
If that isn’t our #MeTooMovement moment, I don’t know what is.