For the Surviving R. Kelly documentary many celebrities were asked to comment on R. Kelly’s behavior, but most declined. One of the least surprising names they mentioned on the decline list was Jay-Z. Jay-Z is 49 years-old and Beyonce is 37. He says they met in ’97, which would’ve made Beyonce 16. Russell Simmons was 35 when he met then-17-year-old Kimora Lee, who he would later marry and have two children with. Older men messing with young women is a tale as old as time, but that doesn’t make it okay.
The younger generation isn’t finding it hard to call R. Kelly a sexual abuser, but the same can’t be said for older black people. At first I couldn’t figure out why, but then it dawned on me – the older generation can’t say anything about R. Kelly because it would mean taking a good, long look in the mirror. The older generation would have to look at these girls and realize that they watched it happen to the people they love. If they admit that R. Kelly is a predator they might have to realize their high school buddy is, that their baby father is and that maybe even – their husband is too. Some people would even have to admit that they let their daughters, sisters, nieces and cousins be preyed upon.
Many would have to take a good, long look at what they let pass for “okay” and “normal.” To be honest, most of the #RKellySympathizers would probably end up looking the way Aaliyah’s family looks right now – baffled and stressed out. Trying to clear her name and their own name for letting everything go down the way it did, and all in the name of what? They’ll say all in the name of a fruitful and iconic career. But to all you around the way mamas, aunties and grandmas, it was all in the name of a light bill, a ride to school, some new clothes or just a blind eye.
I can only imagine how hard it must be to admit that you absent-mindedly aided a filthy adult in snatching the innocence from your loved one. You let them take advantage, you let them have their way, you let them ride around without as much as a discussion about the road they were barreling down. You may have sent a trustworthy family member along when you sent your daughter to the store for milk, but when she came back hours later with a new purse you let it roll right off your back.
We know that times were different, and we know that nobody is a perfect parent or guardian, but we do know that sometimes our children deserve apologies. We live in a world where parents have never had to say sorry to their children. No matter how wrong they were. That’s why your mom never apologized for yelling at you for something you didn’t do. It was always, “Oh. Well, go on and clean up that mess anyway.” It’s why your dad never apologized for stepping on your favorite toy. It was always, “It shouldn’t have been on the floor.”
But in this moment, as the Surviving R. Kelly documentary is aired, as the curtain is peeled back to reveal a dark and dusty box of memories of pain and discomfort, the older generation could decide to say sorry. They could decide to be accountable. They could muster up the courage to say, “We f*cked up.” “We let that happen. It was wrong, and it shouldn’t ever happen again,” they could say.
“I’m desensitized to the R. Kelly situation because it has been happening for so long,” my dad said. He recalled being in high school and not dating any of the girls in his grade because they would all get scooped up by 20-something year olds at the end of the school let out.
Just because you’re desensitized, doesn’t mean you stop speaking out on something. If we’re using that logic, we should be quiet about gun control. Mass shootings and deaths related to gun violence run rampant in the United States, but that has never made us stop fighting for stricter gun laws and begging congress for gun control. We shouldn’t stop fighting for our girls just because something is dubbed “normal.” We should be telling our grown ass brothers, uncles, cousins, friends, fathers and grandfathers to stop preying on our girls because predatory behavior is predatory behavior, whether the prey is consenting or not.