People Really Need to Shut Up about R. Kelly

R. Kelly has everyone bugging. Or should I say, that Lifetime special about “Surviving R. Kelly” has everyone bugging.

It’s pathetic, disgusting and miserably sad that it took a TV documentary to produce a decent amount of outrage for his actions. That creature’s crimes against women aren’t new. They’re literally decades old. One of those tongue in cheek Hollywood’s best kept secret type things only for the music industry. Yet, now everyone’s so outraged and upset? Bah.

Is it guilt that has everyone clucking in this ridiculous manner? Gut sickness that we knew how those naïve girls were being abused and did nothing? Or is it a desperate rearguard reaction to distance oneself from the self-absorbed stink of “Well, I just overlooked it because he’s a musical genius…”

A friend of mine texted me about Taraji P. Henson’s R. Kelly incident earlier this week: “So Taraji P. Henson just sorta defended R. Kelly on her Instagram.”

For those who didn’t see it, Henson posted an Instagram story showing herself scrolling the hashtag #muteRKelly. A ton of things came up. Then she scrolled the hashtag #muteHarveyWeinstein. One thing came up. She zoomed in and out a few times, and you hear her say, “hmmm.” It was a very evocative hmmm.

I told my girl: “She’s not defending R. Kelly; she’s calling out racist hypocrisy.”

I didn’t even understand the mute thing, about Spotify offering an option to remove his music from playlists and radio streams. My girl had to explain it to me. Apparently it’s been a hashtag for a while. I never paid it any attention; his music has been on mute for me for years.

As for the Weinstein comparison, we went back and forth a bit; my friend didn’t immediately understand what Henson was doing. I did. She was making a statement about the differences between punishment for white and black criminals.

It’s not a perfect example. One person is a music maker. The other is a movie maker. One person targeted and preyed upon underage girls. The other targeted vulnerable career women trying to work in an unforgiving and misogynistic industry that preys on those without power. Muting one would mostly be muting one person, as Kelly sang, wrote and produced most of his music himself. Muting Weinstein would mean banishing a ton of films featuring a diverse roster of actors and actresses who likely don’t deserve to have their work summarily dismissed because a psycho bankrolled it.

At their most simplistic root, however, Kelly and Weinstein are the same: They are men who abused their positions to get sex. They coerced, manipulated and committed moral crimes, even if the lines on degrees of criminal activity are for some subjectively blurry.

But Lifetime has the public on a belated witch hunt, and anyone who opens his or her mouth about R. Kelly is potentially food for the noose. Erykah Badu found herself in a defensive posture after word got out that she made stupid remarks at a recent concert at the Aragon in Chicago. I say stupid because I was at the show and heard her first hand. It was dumb.

Badu’s known for her peace and love schtick, and ordinarily I would be more careful not to seem disparaging of such a philosophy. Peace is my preferred greeting and ending while on my phone. I pray often for more empathy and kindness toward others, and I will work to achieve peace of mind until my last, shuddering breath. But I’m afraid I’m not – shall we say – evolved enough to wish light and love on R. Kelly. I’d rather that creature vanish in a puff of acrid smoke.

But instead of pouncing on everyone who says something about R. Kelly, we need to devote that energy to making his victims whole. Then, let’s fix the societal culture that breeds predators like R. Kelly and lets them run amok, committing all kinds of horror on female minds and bodies with relative impunity.

Not to get on a soap box, but that’s what this boils down to. All this noise after the fact, when that person is still not in jail despite victims stepping forward to say “R. Kelly did this or that to me; I saw bruises; she was underage.” WTF. I’m morbidly sick of it.

Mute R. Kelly. More like mute everyone about – and including – R. Kelly. That would be a fitting punishment of sorts for a bloated, diseased ego, no? No attention, no play, no royalties, it would be as though that person never existed. A global turning of the back if you will, as though he was branded with a modern-day scarlet letter. That as opposed to his music sales increasing, I mean.

The internet has given speed and volume to media and the public’s ability to cry out and point fingers. Everyone has a chance to squawk and at least superficially put themselves on the right side of an issue, whatever side that is.

It’s too bad that speed and volume haven’t done as much to curb the behaviors that cause us to cry out in the first place. It’s too bad the systems at play in our world allow – despite evidence and outcry – creatures like Weinstein and Kelly to walk around in society unbothered. And it is tragic that it took a televised display of degradation and abuse to generate the outrage and demands for justice and restitution that these black girls’ bodies alone could not create.

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