It was a relief when the jury convicted R. Kelly. It took just nine hours. But really, it took thirty years.
Because, to quote Kenyette Barnes co-founder of the #MuteRKelly campaign, “our society just does not view Black women and girls as credible.”
Here’s another truth, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James, “one in four Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18 — far more than their white counterparts.”
And so, as Chicago Tribune music writer Britt Julious said on Twitter, “multiple generations of Chicago women and girls have had to face this menace with no escape.”
Because patriarchy protects men. And creative men are offered special protection. Kelly reminds me of too many the white men I met in my advertising days – there were no Black men to be found. These men were full of bravado, assuming no one would question what they did. They were right. Their creative privilege insulated them. Creative, patriarchal privilege leaves women like me, like all the brave women who testified against R. Kelly, like the thousands more who did not speak but who bear the scars, it leaves us all vulnerable to abuse.
And not once, I can assure you. But over and over.
There is no justification. We can only stare at the pathetic systemic “logic” of patriarchy and racism, which allows and encourages women to be treated as chattel - with Black women and girls, too long devalued, suffering beyond compare. When you’ve experienced the sexual violence of men hiding behind their creative facade, their medical coat, or their police badge - these victories, these guilty verdicts, they are personal.
They are life affirming. I know.
To all the girls and women who have been silenced by a system that did not believe them and a society that did not value them, I hear you.
I see you.