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 while 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 why are we still sweeping it under the rug?
The younger generation isn’t finding it hard to call R. Kelly a sexual abuser, but the same can’t be said for the older generation. 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 long look in the mirror. The older generation would have to look at these girls and realize that they watched the same things 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 also 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.” Most of the #RKellySympathizers would probably end up looking the way Aaliyah’s family looks right now, baffled and stressed out while attempting to clear her name and theirs for letting everything go down the way it did. 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, let them have their way, and let them ride around without as much 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 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 now, as the Surviving R. Kelly documentary airs, 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 choose to be accountable. They could muster up the courage to say, “We messed 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 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.