NEW YORK — For years, decades, allegations swirled that R&B superstar R. Kelly was abusing young women and girls with impunity.
They were mostly young black women. and black girls.
And that, say the accusers and others who have called on her to face accountability, is part of what took so long to turn the wheels of the criminal justice system, finally on Monday about her sex trafficking. He was convicted in the trial. It did exactly this, he says, because of the efforts of black women who are unwilling to be forgotten.
Speaking out against sexual harassment and violence is dangerous for anyone who tries to do it. Those who work in the field say the barriers faced by black women and girls are raised even higher by a society that hypersexualizes them from an early age, treating them as separate Stereotypes and judges their physique, and in a country that has a history of racism and sexism. Long denied his autonomy over his body.
“Black women have been in this country for a long time and … our bodies were never with us,” said Kalima Johnson, executive director of the Sasha Center in Detroit.
“No one allows us to deserve protection,” she said. “A human being who needs love and purity.” It’s as if, she said, “there is nothing sacred about a black woman’s body.”
In a 2017 study from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, adults were asked about their perceptions of black girls compared to white girls of the same age in terms of their upbringing and protection needs, as well as their knowledge of adult subjects. was asked about. like sex.
At every age, black girls were considered more adults than white girls, needed less protection and were more aware of sex. The difference between black and white was highest for girls aged 10 to 14, followed by girls aged 5 to 9.
Rebecca Epstein, the center’s executive director, said: “We don’t value black girls, they are dehumanized, and they are also blamed for the sexual violence they experienced to a greater extent than white girls. ” Author.
Over the years, R. The girls who suffered at the hands of Kelly were treated more as a punchline than a ridicule, even during a trial on child pornography charges, where a video, purportedly showing a girl being abused Giving was shown, was shown. He was acquitted in 2008.
Lisa Van Allen, who testified against Kelly in 2008, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview that aired Tuesday that she “almost cried” upon learning of Monday’s decision. “You know, that’s what I was looking for back in 2008,” Van Allen said. “So I would say the difference this time around is that there is power in numbers. A lot of people came forward.”
Asked if she believes the accusers were initially not believed because they were black women, Van Allen said, “Yes, I believe that’s the main reason.”
Music writer Jim DeRogatis couldn’t figure it out. In December 2000, he and a colleague first published R. Kelly’s interactions with the girls, and Derogatis continued to write about it for years.
Every time something came out, like the video, DeRogatis thought it had to happen—that was the thing that would make the difference in the end. And every time, it was not so.
It brought a realization home to DeRogatis, a middle-aged white man: injustice that “no one matters less in our society than young black girls.”
And the girls and women he interviewed knew it, he said. Of the dozens of people he interviewed, the first thing he heard was, “Who’s going to believe us? We’re black girls.”
And so, R. Kelly continued for years, creating hit songs, performing with other artists, even calling himself “Pied Piper” at times, but saying he didn’t know the story of that musician. knew who had kidnapped the children of a city.
Those who welcomed Monday’s sentencing, which came after weeks of disturbing testimony and the possibility that Kelly would now remain in prison for decades, said it was a testament to the strength and perseverance of black women, who are particularly vulnerable. Recently it has been a driving force. Sal, speaking out against him and demanding his attention.
Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement against sexual abuse, pointed to the #MuteRKelly campaign, a protest started by two black women in Atlanta in 2017 to pressure radio stations to stop playing their music and venues. to allow them to perform. .
And the most widespread public condemnation came in the wake of the 2019 documentary “Surviving Are Kelly,” executive produced by Dream Hampton, a black woman.
When asked about the guilty verdict on “CBS This Morning” Tuesday, Hampton said, “You know, I like to believe it means that black women will be listened to, but I don’t. Wants it to be up to a piece of media. Going viral or succeeding.” She added that she “thinks of all the stories of everyday black girls in the neighborhood, like the ones I grew up in Detroit Am, who has no hunter, who does not have an abuser who was famous or prosperous.”
Burke, who was interviewed for “Surviving Are Kelly”, said, “I think it says you have to believe in the power of your community, because it wouldn’t have happened if black women were to stay the course. It was decided by black women, ‘We will not let this fall on deaf ears.’ It was black women who decided, ‘If there’s no one else to care for, we’re going to take care of black women and girls in our community.'”