Thursday, July 27, 2017

No Defense

It must have been the day after I wrote that piece about discussing sex that the latest R. Kelly scandal erupted. And for the next few days, I read commentary on Facebook and wow, if my only worries about sex education were just about menstruation and age-appropriate magazine articles...

I was initially encouraged by the number of opinions posted by men in condemnation of R. Kelly's behavior, so I'm betting that their daughters probably will not end up in a pop star's harem. One brother boldly declared that he would gladly go to jail if he had to confront the singer, to which he received plenty of Facebook high fives and amens.

So my issue is with the equal number of women who came to Kelly's defense. Now there were plenty of women who condemned his behavior and certainly there were men who didn't see "nuthin" wrong, but I have to take issue with the sisters, especially the one who challenged my comments regarding the support he was receiving. Her position represented the "fans" whose affection for Kelly date back to the time before he was branded a pedophile...and she went on to argue that she could separate the sin from the sinner and still enjoy his talents. And then she finished up with how other artists have done bad things too, and cited the examples of Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby.

Well Sistahgurl, maybe YOU can enjoy his music, go to his concerts and toss your panties on stage, whilst a barely legal woman is sitting backstage in an outfit he chose for her to wear, applauding his performance under the watchful eye of a bodyguard or roadie or lesser accomplice who might report back that her excitement was insufficient, which might very well earn her some kind of kinky punishment (I thought in response). Maybe his alleged behavior is only problematic to me, the mother of a toddler who at present is in no immediate danger of being seduced by his fame, fortune, or talent, but one day she might be given that by the time he's 70, she would be of age...

But I cannot.

I haven't enjoyed R. Kelly's music since his Mr. Big phase that involved a series of collaborations with Ronald Isley, Chante Moore, and Kelly Price. On the way to my first wedding ceremony in 2001, my friends and I sang along to the lyrics like a chorus of eager background singers. Ironically, this was before Kelly had been accused of urinating on a 13 year old girl, but well after his marriage and annulment to Aaliyah (which we knew about since college), who had died literally weeks beforehand in a plane crash.

I don't remember if we danced to R. Kelly music at my second wedding the following year, or if the playlist included Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Usher, Ronald Isley, or any other artist accused of doing "bad things". But I got her point, that we often enjoy the talents of people whom we don't really know, which could make our fandom seem hypocritical if we judged them all as harshly. And to be honest, I can appreciate her dilemma as a fan, since I just acknowledged my current position on watching Bill Cosby and had a similar crisis of conscience years ago when Michael Jackson was accused a second time of molesting a young boy.

I won't explain how I resolved the MJ conflict, but I will say that the not-guilty verdict certainly helped. And unfortunately, so did his death eight years ago. I could offer many of the same arguments about baseless allegations and folks not actually witnessing anything untoward, and if you called me a hypocrite for choosing to remain an unapologetic fan of Jackson's, then you might be right.

So, instead of questioning anyone's values, I will just offer a few questions. How are we supposed to argue that our children deserve protection from predators if we don't protect them? How do we explain why that creepy old ass cousin who always says inappropriate things is still able to live in the basement of Big Mama's house? What do we tell our nieces when they go off to college and experience an unwanted sexual encounter with the star athlete? Do we encourage that talented cousin to seek out the support of a well-connected mentor like R. Kelly or Bill Cosby, and do we allow her to be "groomed" by either? When we see the cuts and bruises that cannot be masked by makeup on our girlfriend, do we suggest that she should just pray over the situation?

I could keep on asking questions. And perhaps there is reasonable answer for each one until we get to the uncomfortable truth.

I made up my mind about R. Kelly when the urination allegation occurred. To date, there has been no reason for me to reconsider that position, despite the fact that plenty of artists continue to work with him. I cannot speak for them, nor am I in a position to question their choices. So I am left with making my own choices, and I am capable of deciding for myself whether an artist deserves anything from me that I am under no obligation to give.

It is courtesy of this episode of The Boondocks and this speech delivered by Huey Freeman that I pose my last open question:

What the hell is wrong with you people?...You a fan of R. Kelly? You want to help R. Kelly? Then get some counseling for R. Kelly! Introduce him to some older women...hide his camcorder. But don't pretend like the man is a hero!

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