The Surviving R. Kelly documentary was released earlier this month, and the reactions to it have abounded across the internet. Everyone watched, and everyone seems to have an opinion on R. Kelly, the women who gave detailed accounts of their experiences with him, and who is really to blame for it all.
As people argue online about the credibility of these women, who enabled R. Kelly, and whether or not abuse begetting abuse is an acceptable reason to ease up on critique of predators, there is one area that seems to be getting glossed over: that black women and girls are not protected. Many parts of the world seem to be just waking up to this fact, while others of us have known this to be true for quite some time.
But, what about that part? Yes, it is nice to see people on the grand stage seemingly acknowledging the hard-wired skepticism most people have in determining whether or not dark-skinned women and girls can be victims. It was a relief to have Chance the Rapper admit (on behalf of more people than just himself) that he did not bother to look closely at R. Kelly or his accusers because the purported victims were black. But what does all of this admission and public discussion of remorse actually mean for dark-skinned women? Are we now “safe”? Can we now trust that if confronted with violence or abuse that others can plainly see that we will have the same avenues for protection and justice as other races of women? I have a few thoughts.
First, I want to state unapologetically that it is not dark-skinned women’s responsibility to now console the masses of people that have been ignoring us for so long. The awakening of the masses is wonderful and appropriate, but you will never hear me utter, “That’s okay,” in response to anyone else’s admission that they harshly judged women and girls as somehow being deserving of abuse simply because their skin was not light and bright enough. I won’t utter anything, really, but you can believe that a silent, “Shame on you,” will echo in my mind as I walk away.
Next, and probably the most important point I want to make, is that I do not wish to see black women use this revelation as more reason to resign to victimhood. In a very sick way, this allows the abuse to continue. It degrades our individual value as well as the collective value of dark-skinned women. Instead, I would love for this to serve as a jump-off point for showcasing the resiliency of black women. That resiliency does not somehow warrant our mistreatment, but if we can survive the history of abuses that have befallen us for decades (centuries, even) that says something. We have purpose beyond propping up the people around us.
I want to see more black mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles being vigilant to report abusers not just because they have a score to settle, but simply because abuse is wrong. It does not matter how many hit singles one has, great movies one has starred in, funny dances one can do, or millions of dollars one has donated. Predatory behavior, along with the enabling of such, is wrong on every level imaginable, and every breathing person deserves the right to live free from abuse. That includes us dark-skinned women. We deserve it.
I will leave you with one final request, and that is a call for black women to look out for each other. It is already painfully obvious that hardly anyone else is looking out for us, yet sometimes we feed our own sisters to the fire when it comes to believing, protecting, and standing up for one another. Let’s cut that out. Let’s arrive at the club together AND leave together. Let’s make sure our homegirl gets inside her front door safe after dropping her off at her apartment building.
Let’s stop betraying each other because we feel it will earn us something from black men, other black women, white people, rich people, people online, etc. Regardless of what you might want to believe, we are all in this together. So are our daughters, sisters, nieces, and cousins. Let’s create a brighter and safer future for them and for us by honoring ourselves and each other as valuable, worthy of love, and worthy of looking out for.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as a author, editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.