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Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly

Source: Stephanie Keith/Gilbert Carrasquillo/Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty

During a hearing for his sexual assault trial on January 3, Harvey Weinstein appeared in court using a walker. Many looked at the use of a walking aid, in Weinstein’s case, as a ploy for sympathy.

At that moment we were brought back to Bill Cosby when the comedian appeared frail and in need of a handler as he entered the courtroom during his sexual assault trial in 2018. Later, a report revealed that the comedian was going blind.

Even embattled singer R. Kelly made a reach for public favor when the walls began to close on him. However, his interview with Gayle King in 2018 turned into an explosive monologue, and instead of creating an emotional and unassuming image, the pr stunt made him appear guilty.

It’s ironic how these men had inflicted pain and suffering on their victims for years but suddenly before a court hearing, they appeared tattered and frail. The three men present a startling thread, oftentimes used to justify or ignore violence against Black women. By publicly appearing shattered and stripped of power, they hoped to garner sympathy from the very communities they sought to oppress.

Over the course of history white patriarchy has set the standards for society, so much so that Black communities and marginalized groups use it to measure their success and mindsets. Some Black men’s fixation with being held to the same standard as white men, and some Black women’s allegiance to protect Black men at all costs, keeps us from holding dangerous people responsible for their actions. It is a knee-jerk reaction with many layers, spurred from the break up of our families during chattel slavery.

And while the majority of Weinstein’s victims were white, in discussions regarding Cosby and Kelly, Weinstein is used as a barometer on whether or not to excuse Cosby and R. Kelly of their accusations. Leaving the victims and their stories warrantless and without weight. Our “off-limits” culture puts Cosby and Kelly on pedestals within the Black community and like Weinstein, when you reach a certain status, you become immune to criticism or consequences for bad behavior.

The only real difference between Cosby and Kelly is that the majority of Kelly’s victims were young Black girls. So, when we rally for Kelly and Cosby, in fear that Weinstein will get away with something they could not, that isn’t justice. That is a perverted balance with no respect for their actual victims.

Part of the reason Kelly was able to evade prison for so long was in part due to his influence and money. But it was also because of how we as a community view young black girls. Black women are not afforded the same girlhood as other women because even in our youth we’re hyper-sexualized, deemed less innocent, loud and aggressive.

Black girls are so overlooked that for every 15 black women who are raped only one reports the assault. This is oftentimes based on the standards we are held to as children, because many view us as more mature and more adult than our counterparts, which is a gross injustice. It is based on an idea that we know better which is also a dangerous mindset.

When Malcolm X said in his “Who Taught You To Hate Yourself” speech in 1962; “The most unprotected woman in America is the black woman,” he spoke of times like this when Black women are the most vulnerable to abuse than any other demographic. Black women are murdered at a higher rate than other female groups, 22% have been raped and 40% will endure domestic violence in their lifetime.

Our dismissal of abuse against Black girls reflects how seriously we take sexual violence in this country. There isn’t much to say about a country that won’t protect its children and until we do so, affluent men will continue to approach the stand for their crimes toward the end of their lives–much like an afterthought, an accurate depiction of how we address sexual violence against women.

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