The “Black man's image” is not, never has been, and never will be more important than the safety of Black women.
This essay contains discussion of sexual violence against minors and child pornography
Black men find new ways to tell the world they hate Black women every day. It's hard to talk about this. Not just because it involves talking about how harmful misogynoir is, but because it's dangerous for someone like me to tell the truth about this harm and how prevalent it is. It's dangerous in the same way that it's dangerous for us to tell the truth about white supremacy in public, because there is always the chance that we will be met with reactionary white violence and attempts to silence us, and because the way Black men treat us often feels so similar to how white people treat us. Sometimes, it feels worse.
A week ago, a private screening for Lifetime's “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries was canceled after the the theater received a gun and bomb threat. The theater was filled with survivors and parents of survivors of R. Kelly's sexual and misogynistic violences. “Me Too” founder Tarana Burke was in attendance. As was #OscarsSoWhite originator, April Reign. “There is no question in my mind that this was a deliberate attempt to intimidate R. Kelly survivors and their supporters," Reign stated, and I agree wholeheartedly. In response to the threat and the canceled private screening, Burke said, “[F]rom being a survivor and my work with survivors, I think that it's really hard to get into a consistent healing process when there is always the threat of being re-traumatized. And so that's the worry I have is that people who are trying to put it behind them, trying to move ahead get railroaded in ways like this, you know, it's just detrimental."
The writing has been on the wall about R. Kelly for a very long time, and it has taken more than two decades for people to finally start listening to the Black women who have been organizing against him and understand how dangerous he is. Even before his high profile relationship with Aaliyah, marrying her when she was only 15 years old and he was 27, he was a known predator in the Chicago area. From there, he went on to violate multiple underage girls and young women, often promising to help with their music career, with at least two videos with evidence of his statutory rape of Black girls surfacing and a large collection of child pornography being found at his home. Somehow, he always managed to escape accountability and prison time for these things, and this has allowed him to now become the leader of a cult where he keeps young women under his complete control, “dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.” One former assistant testified that the women around him even have to ask for food and get his permission to go to the bathroom, and if they break his rules, they are punished with physical and verbal assaults.
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