Like most people, I am familiar with the music of R. Kelly.
Like most people, I remember hearing the rumors about what took place behind the music.
Like some people, I sat through Surviving R. Kelly.
In the days since the docuseries aired, Robert (his birth name, which is how he is spoken of on the series) has been evicted from his Studio and there is a warrant for his former manager’s arrest. It appears as if justice might be on the way.
It’s hard to watch the docuseries and emerge from it without questions. I’ve heard many of them:
Where were the parents?
Didn’t they know better?
Why did his team go along with it?
Are they telling the truth?
And the list goes on.
Only one question pops into my head:
Why did it take so long to pay attention?
Unfortunately, there are many answers to my question, none of which are flattering.
Robert’s cycle of abuse has gone on for decades.
Many people knew about what was going on and did nothing. People were benefiting from Robert’s success and if he came crumbling down, they would too. Some people lived in fear. Some people thought that the victims were willing participants. Some people saw nothing wrong with what he was doing (and continues to do).
Many people heard the stories and refused to believe them. Some were in disbelief because R. Kelly would never… Some found it easier to doubt the tales coming from the mouths of women of color.
Whatever the reasons, nothing was done for a long time.
We are living in the social media age where nothing is a secret anymore and everything goes viral. It is believed that this influence is one of the reasons that Alice Marie Johnson was released from prison and why Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency..regardless of the fact that there have been social justice groups fighting hard for both women for a long time.
With the emergence of the Me Too and Times Up movements, hashtags and celebrity presence have forced dirty deeds out of the closet in waves. Harvey Weinstein is facing trial for some of the atrocities he is accused of committing. His is another story of decades of abuse, countless people in the know, and no justice to be served…until a movement went viral.
It seems wrong to even think but it feels as if the only reason monsters are being dragged into the light is because it’s the cool thing to do right now.
Have the victims not been telling their stories, for many of them at the risk of losing everything, for as long as the abuse has been around?
Why are we choosing to listen now?
Why are we choosing to believe now?
My hope, my prayer, is that this movement that has been going on long before it was considered a movement continues with full steam and full support from your favorite social media presence. We should never go back to not listening. We should never go back to not believing.
What I heard from Surviving R.Kelly, unfortunately, isn’t new. What is new is choosing to believe women and women of color and I hope that it’s a “trend” that never goes away.
It turns out that it doesn’t matter how long it took, but that things are changing now…and maybe in the future, we’ll listen the first time we’re told.