Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Stop in the Name of Love

I am combing topics, which is something I have done in the past when my emotions are boiling over and I just can't limit or focus...

When I first began writing about the new museum and memorial in Alabama dedicated to victims of lynching the other day, it was my intention to address the discomfort expressed by some that this effort is divisive because it exhumes the unpleasant memories of an era that many would rather leave unmarked, buried, and forgotten.

I had drafted my list of reasons why this most recent incarnation of what I call 'convenient historical amnesia' is utter bullshit, especially as this country debates the public utility of Confederate memorials that stand in places of honor throughout parts of this country. I got distracted and had other work to complete (still do), so I set this aside. That was until I saw the words "public lynching" used to describe how R&B singer R. Kelly felt in response to the efforts of the #MeToo and #TimesUp Movements to convince companies and artists to disavow him in light of accusations against him for sexual violence and abuse against young women of color.

This is the statement by #TimesUp that was posted on Instagram and also published in The Root. This article addresses how his legal team referred to this effort as a public lynching. This is the video statement Kelly released to his fans via social media. This is the statement I posted to the Busy Black Woman Facebook page after I processed my feelings of his careless invocation of lynching to describe his actions as detailed in this article published on Vox. I also need to acknowledge how Tarana Burke addressed his use of that term in an NPR interview.

So, yeah...

I won't waste too much energy on Robert Kelly except to tweet and retweet #TimesUp and #MuteRKelly whenever I hear his music on the radio. I've already written about my position and suspect that it won't be any more persuasive to his ardent fans than what has already been written by many, many other women (and also men, like this Very Smart Brotha).

So I will pivot back to my initial topic, which was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It is both a memorial and a museum, located in Montgomery, AL and founded by the Equal Justice Initiative. The museum and memorial opened on April 26. I actually first learned about this project when I saw a clip that featured Oprah taking a tour of the memorial for a segment on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago.

There is way too much to unpack with respect to this project. My initial reaction upon seeing the 60 Minutes footage was to post it on Facebook and declare my continued confusion over support for the Confederacy. I don't have any immediate plans to be in Alabama any time soon, but if I am ever there, I will make it my business to visit.

I am sure that it will make me uncomfortable. It will make me sad. Angry. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. It will likely cause an emotional reaction that I cannot yet fully describe or anticipate. Or it might just make me numb. Lately, in this current era of hyperactive breaking news, I have found that even the most shocking and devastating occurrences leave limited emotional imprints on me. But my expectation is that someone will walk away from this experience ready to fundamentally reconsider how Americans reconcile our ideals to our past.

So I hope this memorial makes every visitor uncomfortable. I hope it makes you itchy in places that cannot be scratched or soothed with lotion. I hope it makes you cry. I hope it makes you vomit. I hope it gives you nightmares. I hope it haunts your children. I hope it makes you want to burn your Confederate flags. I hope it makes you reconsider your pride steeped in a heritage based on heroes of a Lost Cause. I hope it makes you seek forgiveness. I hope it causes you to lose your religion. I hope it makes you oppose the Mexican wall and the Muslim travel ban. I hope it causes you to question every belief you ever had in basic human decency.

I hope it resurrects the spirits of every man, woman, or child whose body ever swung from a Southern tree. Or a Western one (because they lynched folks on the frontier too). I hope it makes you examine your views on immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and Jews. I hope it causes you to question everything you have ever been taught about people being too lazy, too dependent, or too eager to redistribute the ill-gotten wealth some people "earned" by exploiting the fears of others.

And then, I want you to ask yourself why the fuck Robert Kelly would EVER call this campaign of negative publicity a public lynching (and you can substitute his name for whomever else might have invoked similar imagery). How dare he compare having a few shows cancelled to having your 14 year old son kidnapped, shot, and killed for whistling at a white woman? Or your husband strung up in a tree for registering to vote? Or your pregnant wife burned alive during a racial riot?

The fact that he can even defend himself against 24 years of accumulated allegations with well-paid top-notch lawyers belies the very notion of a public lynching where the angry assembled mob acted as accuser, judge, jury, and executioner. There was no due process. Newspaper articles reported the grisly details without inquiry or investigation of the victims' guilt. Remains were photographed and the images were printed on postcards. Entire communities lived in fear of inciting the ire of the local Klan; or families joined the Great Migration.

So yeah, I am beyond offended that R. Kelly has the audacity to compare the inconvenience of bad press to the atrocities documented at the National Museum for Peace and Justice. His social media followers have defiantly argued that he not be judged for his behavior, no matter how outrageous or cruel. His fans continue to attend his concerts and buy his music. His collaborators have remained silent even when confronted with these rumors and stories of impressionable young women forced to live as his sex slaves. As far as I know, Robert Kelly is still alive and breathing and planning to perform at a sold out show this weekend in Chicago. No unruly mob of angry fathers, brothers, or uncles, has managed to shoot him, string him up, castrate him, or burn him alive.

But it is time for the self-described Pied Piper of R&B to face the music that his #TimesUp #MuteRKelly #saveourgirls

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