African Amer­i­cans al­lowed R. Kelly to soar. They al­ways had the power to bring him down.

Miami Herald - - WORLD | DEATHS - BY DAHLEEN GLAN­TON Chicago Tri­bune

Lots of trou­bling in­for­ma­tion was re­vealed in the Life­time net­work doc­u­men­tary “Sur­viv­ing R. Kelly.” For African Amer­i­cans, it should be a wake-up call.

There is no way of get­ting around the fact that African Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­larly women, cre­ated R. Kelly, the su­per­star. We bought so many of his record­ings that nearly ev­ery­thing he touched reached No. 1 on the mu­sic charts.

We couldn’t wait to “Step in the Name of Love” on Satur­day nights, then turn around and sing “I Be­lieve I Can Fly” in church on Sun­day morn­ings.

There is no need to con­tinue beat­ing our­selves up over the fact that we let Kelly re­main in our good graces way too long. Noth­ing pos­i­tive can come from blam­ing each other for mak­ing a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion to close our eyes to the al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct that swirled around him for decades.

We chose to lis­ten to Kelly’s stead­fast de­nials, though we be­lieved in our hearts that the sto­ries of sex with un­der­age girls, hold­ing women in cap­tiv­ity and in­flict­ing phys­i­cal abuse per­haps were true.

Kelly con­tin­ues to deny the al­le­ga­tions made by nu­mer­ous women in the six-part tele­vi­sion se­ries that aired last week. But that’s on him.

For the rest of us, it is the time for reck­on­ing. Now is the time to face an ugly truth about our­selves as African Amer­i­cans as we try to fig­ure out how to move for­ward.

Chance the Rap­per said it straight out in the fi­nal in­stall­ment of the se­ries. He ad­mit­ted that he’d made a mis­take col­lab­o­rat­ing with Kelly on the song “Some­where in Par­adise” in 2015, while Kelly’s al­leged vic­tims were speak­ing out.

The Chicago rap­per went on to say, “I didn’t value the ac­cusers’ sto­ries be­cause they were black women. … I made a mis­take.” That’s a pow­er­ful state­ment com­ing from a black per­son.

Later, on Twit­ter, he said the mean­ing was taken out of con­text and apol­o­gized to the sur­vivors for tak­ing so long to speak out. I wish he would stop backpedal­ing and stand up and say it louder. That state­ment was both hon­est and nec­es­sary.

It is dif­fi­cult for African Amer­i­cans to ad­mit that we are some­times guilty of the same things we of­ten ac­cuse white peo­ple of do­ing. It is shame­ful to ac­knowl­edge that like oth­ers, African Amer­i­cans also can place less value on the lives of African Amer­i­cans. Some­times, we don’t even re­al­ize we’re do­ing it.

Like Chance, we gave lit­tle cre­dence to the stream of African-Amer­i­can women who were com­ing for­ward to talk about the phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse Kelly al­legedly in­flicted on them. We dis­missed them as gold dig­gers, op­por­tunists and groupies.

For too long, many of us sat by silently and con­trib­uted to the mu­si­cian’s fi­nan­cial cof­fers, al­low­ing the al­leged abuse to flour­ish. After watch­ing the doc­u­men­tary, we feel ashamed that we did not give more at­ten­tion to these women.

Thank­fully, some AfricanAmer­i­can women came for­ward and stood be­side them early on. Be­cause of peo­ple like Oronike Odel­eye and the other co-founders of #MuteRKelly, protests were held, con­certs were can­celed and record sales di­min­ished.

Grad­u­ally, more and more African Amer­i­cans be­gan to re­al­ize that we had to si­lence the mon­ster we had cre­ated. We be­gan to see that mu­si­cal ge­nius is less im­por­tant than hu­man lives. We be­gan look­ing out­ward. Now it is time to look in­ward.

What have African Amer­i­cans learned from this episode with R. Kelly?

We learned that we hold the power to put an end to any­thing that does harm to our com­mu­ni­ties. We learned that it is use­less to wait for oth­ers to come in from the out­side and do the work for us.

We learned that no good comes from mak­ing ex­cuses for the sex­ual preda­tors who live among us, and that we only em­power them by blam­ing the vic­tims.

And where do we go from here?

We must be vig­i­lant in de­mand­ing that any­one who does harm to our com­mu­nity, re­gard­less of their race, be held ac­count­able.

In Illi­nois, where some of the ac­tiv­i­ties al­legedly oc­curred, there is no statute of lim­i­ta­tions on felony crim­i­nal sex­ual as­sault and sex­ual abuse crimes against chil­dren. We must in­sist that law en­force­ment of­fi­cials do their job and in­ves­ti­gate these al­le­ga­tions against Kelly to the fullest ex­tent.

And at the end of the day, we must for­give our­selves for not be­liev­ing in our­selves. Only then can we start valu­ing African Amer­i­cans the way we want to be val­ued by oth­ers.

Only then can we say, “Black lives mat­ter” as though we be­lieve it.

The Chicago Tri­bune


R. Kelly is still sell­ing out con­cert halls de­spite years of ru­mors about his mis­treat­ment of women.

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