BY CHARLES BECCO
‘Til this very day if you walked into your neighborhood ‘Black Barbershop’ and drag Tupac, Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, Bill Cosby and now R.Kelly at the very least you might be shamed into silence; at worse you might walk out of there missing a couple of teeth.
The aftermath of #survivingRKelly has spurned a delicate and terrifying war of attrition between the ‘Orthodox’ Black Community who in many cases may be anti-LGBTQ, mostly Christian, and have limited access to resources versus their more progressive counterparts who are champions of the ‘New Left.’ I spent hours reading through threads and comment sections dedicated to R.Kelly and a few dominant themes emerged: “He’s a rapist…the end”, “Grown men should be held to a higher standard” ,“Those girls knew what they were getting into” ,“Where were the parents?” “ and the least popular, “Everyone is responsible.”
Watching members of my own community launch ferocious salvos across the digital battlefield was not only deeply hurtful but a detriment to the Black community’s greatest asset – our numbers. As stories such as these drives a bigger wedge between us I fear that one day our waning political strength might be further eroded. In these crucial times when our adversaries are planted firmly behind ‘45’ and have resiliently held their own during the midterms we don’t have the luxury to squabble amongst ourselves.
For the friends, colleagues and associates worn out by comments in defense of R.Kelly I want you to understand something….. No matter what you say or how you feel, you cannot change these people and you shouldn’t burn yourself out trying to. Now take a breath……and forgive them.
For centuries…like ‘hundred hundreds’ Black Men have been lynched, burned and castrated (sometimes in that order) for false reports. The genesis of most reported race riots and lynchings, (See-Omaha Race Riot of 1919, Lynching of Jesse Washington) have originated in the
dangerous mischaracterization of Black men as violent sexual monsters, which is the male
counterpart to the Black Woman’s ‘Jezebel.’
R.Kelly, like Bill Cosby, and other high profile celebrities we have heard about, rip open a bloody scab that we don’t know how to properly process. Juxtaposed to African American history the spectre of a Black sexual predator is very difficult to digest. Remember that it was the Murder of Emmet Till that kicked off the Civil Rights movement; an irrational fear propagated by the acolytes of White Supremacy.
Behind every R.Kelly excuse is an image of Black Men, hanging, bleeding, mutilated in front of us. These pictures have been indelibly seared into our collective psyche causing intergenerational trauma across the Black diaspora. This ‘defend first’ reaction is not limited in scope to crimes of a sexual nature, but pretty much every type of vice a Black man has been associated with.
This article is not a defense of R.Kelly or acknowledgement of the ignorant, belligerent and disrespectful defenses for him. This is an illumination of the Black subconscious that has been damaged over the years by repeated unscrupulous prosecution and execution of Black men.
How bad is the damage?
The trauma’s so severe that almost 20 years ago we all watched a video of an adult Robert Kelly do unspeakable things to an adolescent Black female and we collectively said ‘nah’ and still ‘Stepped in the Name of Love.’
The opinions in this article are personal views of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of the editorial staff.
Charles Becco is a New York film writer who has written such films as “Gun” starring 50 Cent and “Tapestry,” featuring Stephen Baldwin. He is also the associate producer for the upcoming “Death Row” Movie which highlights the life of music mogul Suge Knight. Follow him on social media @charlesbecco