I Don’t See Nothin’ Wrong

by: Jackie Cotham

I sat pensively on the edge of the seat of the oversized chair in my living room, awaiting what was sure to be a sad series of events. Surviving R. Kelly was about to air on the Lifetime Network. Though, I’d lived through all the scandal from the Aliyah marriage to the infamous sex tape, something about what was about to air on the television spoke to my spirit, stirring a sense of apprehension inside me.  Like many, I’d watched the celebratory “not guilty” post-trial happenings, once R. Kelly was acquitted years before; however, also like many, I never for one second, believed in his innocence. It was just another example of the elite buying their way out of the ramifications of their deplorable actions. Boys will be boys, even. Just a teenager myself, I swept my feelings under the rug, and moved on, continuing to blast the artist’s sexually provocative and explicit music over my stereo speakers.

At the opening of episode one, grown women, once child victims of R. Kelly’s vile and lude sexual acts, began to pour their hearts out about the pain he’d caused them and the abuse they’d suffered. My heart ached for them, not only because he had robbed them of their innocence as young girls, but also because even years later, they were clearly still living in bondage, unable to break free of the irreparable damage that he’d caused. A grown man, dangling his fame, fortune, and not to mention, his penis, in the faces of unsuspecting young girls, not yet mature of enough to even grasp the concept of love or sex and what it all meant, taking full advantage of their innocence. The insidiousness of it all was unbearable. Each time, I thought that it couldn’t get any worse, it did. It was like a train wreck. You didn’t want to see it unfold, but couldn’t help watching. By the time it was all over, I learned that my somber feelings prior to the docuseries had been justified. This was indeed a travesty. But, why? What would give a man the inclination to do these things? After having been embroiled in scandal, nearly convicted, and then acquitted, what would make a person continue in his depravity? Shouldn’t he feel a sense of gratitude that the “God” that he sang so passionately about when he wasn’t crooning about indecent sexual acts had shown him mercy and allowed him to walk free? Instead, he continued in his perpetual trajectory of debauchery ruining life after innocent life, having an infinitely far-reaching ripple effect not only on the girls he violated, but on all the people who would become a part of their lives in both present and future generations.

Now what I am about to say next, may rub some people the wrong way, but consider it carefully before disregarding it. In the docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, Kelly’s brothers Bruce and Carey spoke out about all of the brothers, including Kelly being molested as children, as well as their brother’s strange and promiscuous behavior as a child and into his young adult years. Family friends, church members, teachers, and members of his entourage, all shared similar accounts in which they too had either suspected or knew with certainty that R. Kelly had an unhealthy preoccupation with sex. With so many people privy to his disposition, why is it that everyone chose to take on the “I don’t see nothin’ wrong attitude”? When we suspect a loved one has a drug or alcohol problem, we intervene by seeking out help. If our friend is suffering from a gambling addiction, do we not try to bring them back from the brink before all is lost? So why is it that when it comes to sexual abuse and addictions, we are quick to either label the offender as a pervert and condemn them to hell or turn a blind eye altogether? In the case of R. Kelly, isn’t that exactly what we have done? Evidently, there is a history of something vile and unhealthy that began when Kelly, too, was a young boy that no one cared to address that has led us to the perpetual decimation of a slew of young women. So while my heart bleeds for the women and their circumstances, I can’t help but to feel sorry for the young R. Kelly that “the village” so badly neglected and an intense aversion for the bystanders that allowed this child-victim to transform into a monster. I feel repugnance toward the “yes men” that instead of calling him out on his shit, chose to film the vileness, or arrange the encounters, or even participate alongside him, following blindly, complicit in every manner of the word. When will we get to the root of the problem and begin to try to rectify the true issues that beget sexual abuse, particularly in the black community? We can no longer turn a blind eye to overtly friendly uncles and cousins or deny and ignore signs that are right in front of our faces and expect there not to be more of the same. The “I don’t see nothin’ wrong” attitude has to change in order to prevent a never ending cycle of boys who grow up to be sexual predators and abusers like R. Kelly with a complete and utter disregard and disrespect for women that they are supposed to love and protect.

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