‘Surviving R.Kelly’ is a turning point for women of colour

R. Kelly performing at the pre-Grammy gala & salute to industry icons with Clive Davis honouring David Geffen in Beverly Hills, Calif. Picture: AP
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Since the first part of the R Kelly docuseries premiered on Lifetime over the weekend, the R&B singer has been at the centre of heated conversations around the globe.

The six-part series features his alleged sexual and physical abuse victims, Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly, his brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly, along with experts on abuse.

While it was difficult to watch, it was eye-opening to see Robert Kelly for the predator that he is.

The show documents everything from the start of his career to the claims of him recently having a “sex cult”, where several women are allegedly being held captive.

What’s evident from the women Kelly targets is that he preys on women of colour.

The majority are African-American women who are in dire situations and might have some talent, and they see him as a way out of their circumstances.

Listening to the women, who were mostly underage, recount how Kelly lured them with the promise of fame and fortune only to trap them in his physical and psychological abuse web was frightening.

Those who appear on the show offer insight into how he operates.

Their stories are shocking and heartbreaking.

Most surprising, though, was the response following the airing of the documentary, which showed how little society cares for victims of sexual and physical abuse.

Specifically, it was cishet black men who came out in droves to defend him.

Twitter was out in full force, blaming the victims and had overall disregard for the women who came forward to share their traumatic stories.

These men were saying things like “a 16-year-old is almost an adult”, “there are two sides to the story”, “maybe these girls were just fast”.

And I was looking at these tweets going: “Y’all are really defending a known paedophile because of Ignition Remix and Step In The Name Love?”

Another means of defection was fans of Kelly going, “But why aren’t you guys dragging in all the celebrities who worked with him such as Jay Z, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga?”, to name a few.

Well, the last time I checked none of them has a history of sexual and physical abuse or a sex tape with an under-age girl. This is yet again a means of steering the conversation away from Kelly in an attempt to excuse his behaviour.

The funniest thing I saw was a cishet black man crying in a video defending Kelly and venting about how America is trying to target one black man, when there are so many white men raping women and getting away with it.

Race dynamics play a huge role in the way abusers and predators are treated.

This defence cishet black men jump to is a prime example of how they don’t want real equality, they just want an exchange of power with white men.

What they’re really saying is that it’s unfair that white men get away with rape and they can’t get away with it, too.

Which leads to the real issue of how men view women and why black women are one of the most overlooked people in society.

It was just the lack of empathy and compassion so many people showed in their response to the realisation that the man that sang, I Believe I Can Fly is the same person who uses women as sexual objects that he controls like puppets.

And in the process he has been ruining these young girls’ lives just so he can fulfil a need to exert his authority over them.

There really needs to be a change in society when it comes to how we treat entertainers when it has been proven that they are abusers, paedophiles and sex offenders.

And the fact that Kelly has been able to get away with this for so many years without any real punishment, says a lot about our society.

Kelly’s sexual assault has never been a secret nor the fact that most of his victims were under-age girls. And it’s great that the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Georgia has launched a criminal investigation.

Black women shouldn’t need to go the ends of the Earth for people to believe them and take their stories of abuse seriously. R Kelly is a paedophile and an abuser and it’s time people acknowledged that.