By Regina Bolton. Regina is a Social Justice Activist, Mental Health Advocate, & Political correspondent for various Progressive Movements including @Dactivst
“Until he takes ownership of his despicable actions, No he can’t be forgiven, nor can he expect the public to be so generous in giving him, or men like him the benefit of the doubt any longer.”
R. Kelly, synonymous for his 90s hits like “Bump N Grind,” “Seems Like You’re Ready,” “Can’t Sleep,” “Sex Me” and “I Believe I Can Fly” were hits that made the R&B legend a household name. R.Kelly initially made his debut alongside the group, Public Announcement. Unlike most young teenagers, I didn’t particularly care for R. Kelly. Undoubtedly, he had a smooth voice and jarring lyrics, but I just had more of an interest in Guy, Tevin Campbell, Jodeci, Blackstreet & Jagged Edge. I was still infatuated with Aaron Hall in my life and had really no negative opinions about R. Kelly- until the marriage of him and Aaliyah. Once the rumor was confirmed on MTV news, everyone was shocked and thought this HAD to be untrue. There was no way possible this 27 year old artist married a 15 year old girl. Beyond the surprise and disbelief, the parents didn’t pursue pressing charges, but were adamant about having the marriage annulled.
Over time this “publicity stunt” became part of pop culture history. R. Kelly was never charged and it all seemingly got swept under the rug, as if it never happened. R. Kelly was notorious for liking underage girls, that was common knowledge. Numerous students and teachers recall seeing him revisit his high school campus and hanging out at a local McDonald’s preying on and scouting out young girls…
Although those were the rumors that circulated around for years, jurors finally got a sneak peak they don’t know personally. These deniers will always dismiss the common thread the victims all share. Make no mistakes, it isnt someone elses fault. That is all R.Kelly’s undoing. How difficult it has been to be on the receiving end of Robert Kelly’s sexual and physical abuse, the aggressive & heinous predatory behavior and the damage inflicted from his presence in their lives. So that brings us to the question asked in the title, can black women forgive R Kelly? The answer is simply this. Yes. Only on these conditions. R.Kelly has to own the starring role he has orchestrated and played in this fiasco. He created this chaos and instilled fear in his victims. If R.Kelly can hold himself accountable, then we no longer have to. Since he is unable to do that the judicial system will ensure he will. His cries of innocence are not only meaningless publicity stunts but they are disingenuous and insulting to his victims first, his fans and family. And its exhausting to those who saw through his theatrics of a sham long ago.
Until he takes ownership of his despicable actions NO he can’t be forgiven, nor can he expect the public to be so generous in giving him, or men like him the benefit of the doubt any longer. If he can genuinely apologize to his victims, the ones who have had the courage to come forward and those who are still afraid, suffering in silence can begin to heal. That is how he can be forgiven. How do black women move forward? Beyond the R. Kelly’s, after the Harvey Weinstein’s, past the Bill Cosby’s and other predators who will use their influence and scare tactics to continue to silence, discourage victims from coming forward to seek justice. Do we as a society, continue to discredit and scrutinize women when they speak out? Do we continue to question their motives or analyze their behavior when they in essence want justice NOT revenge? Do we pick apart their pain because of doubt and disbelief based off of who the predator is? Cause there will be many more R. Kelly’s in this world. How do we stand up and believe our black women by holding black men accountable? Black men cannot continue to remain mute on the subject of R.Kelly or PREDATORS like him. This goes beyond him. We must not continue to uphold predatory behavior no matter who the person is and despite how unsettling and uncomfortable that might be.
As a society we can learn to support black women, in solidarity bc we know that society does not care about black women. It is essential that we listen to the victims who are so desperately seeking help and justice. These troubling events of shock and disappointment can be a teachable moment where we offer compassion and understanding by providing support where it belongs, with our young and beautiful black sisters.