Victim Blaming From The Victim: R Kelly Waited Decades To Discuss His Sexual Assault But Finds Cosby Accusers’ Silence Strange
I’ve never denied R Kelly’s musical genius. Though I can no longer listen to his music in peace, I can’t deny the fact that the man had jams, many of which characterized my childhood and adolescence. But as the saying goes, or as my father would like to say, “Genius ain’t free.”
It often comes with quirks, eccentricities and in the case of R Kelly, [alleged] perverse sexual desires. In his recent, three day interview with GQ‘s Chris Heath, titled “The Confessions of R Kelly,” we see both sides. We learned of the boy who looked at the Sears (now Willis) Tower and vowed to become great and formidable like the structure itself. The child turned man who couldn’t and still struggles to read, spell and solve math problems. And a man who, despite these deficiencies, is quite clever with analogies.
In describing his own mind, R Kelly said:
“If you look around, you see cars rolling down the street all the time, but if you ever see a floating car, you gonna be like, ‘Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute, what is that? I’ve never seen that before.’ You can’t figure it out because you don’t know who built it, you don’t know who created it, you don’t know who came up with the concept, you don’t know the blueprint of it, you don’t even know how it works, but you love it because it looks so sweet, floating down the street. And that one car, if it has any type of feeling in it, is gonna feel alone, because it’s not understood.”
It makes sense. He is different.
And for all of his strengths, including his musical giftedness, unique mind and ability to overcome growing up without a father, illiteracy, being repeatedly molested; the interview also showed Kelly’s often warped, disturbing, cringe-worthy thought processes. There are moments when he seems to speak about the affection and connection to his family members in strange terms. Like being “in love” with his grandfather and “in a son/mother way having a serious, serious crush” on his mom.
There was his discussion of his relationship with Aaliyah (the very little he would say about it) where he, a 27-year-old, when they met, talked about being her “best, best, best, best friend.”
Most notably, he went into detail about the sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of an older female relative from the time he was 7-8 until he was 14 or 15. Until his 2012 autobiography Soulacoaster, Kelly had never told anyone about it. Not his wife, not his mother. No one. He told Heath it started as oral sex and then became forced intercourse. When he tried to confront this woman, as an adult, eight or nine years ago, he said she:
“Didn’t want to talk about it. Didn’t own up to it. Told me, ‘Sometime when you’re kids, you think you’ve been through something, or did something, that you didn’t do, probably was a dream.’ Things like that. But it was definitely not a dream.”
And then interestingly enough he talked about forgiving this woman for perpetuating what he considers a generational curse.
“I, well, definitely forgive them. As I’m older, I look at it and I know that it had to be not just about me and them, but them and somebody older than them when they were younger, and whatever happened to them when they were younger. I looked at it as if there was a sort of like, I don’t know, a generational curse, so to speak, going down through the family. Not just started with her doing that to me.”
It’s a curse Kelly says he has broken. Then the interviewer and author asked Kelly if he wished that this woman were held accountable for her actions.
“Back then, too young to judge. As I’m older, I’ve only learned to forgive it. Was it wrong? Absolutely. But it’s a family member that I love so I would definitely say no to that one. To be honest, even if my mom, I saw her kill somebody, I’m not gonna say, ‘Well, yeah, she definitely should go to jail.’ It’s just something I wouldn’t do.”
Let’s put a pin there and we’ll return to it in a minute.
When talking about fatherhood, R Kelly likened himself to the Bill Cosby. The Bill Cosby we once knew as father figure Heathcliff Huxtable from the show. Naturally, choosing to evoke that name, Heath had to ask Kelly what he thought about the allegations lodged against him.
His answer was very interesting.
“I can say is that it was a long time ago. And when I look on TV and I see the 70-, 80-, 90-year-old ladies talking about what happened when they were 17, 18, or 19, there’s something strange about it. That’s my opinion. It’s just strange.
“[interrupts] It’s strange. Strange is strange. I can’t explain strange. That’s why strange is strange. Because it’s something we can’t explain.”
But don’t you think that if they’re telling the truth, it doesn’t matter how long ago it was?
“If God showed me that they were telling the truth, I would say that’s wrong. I don’t care if it was a zillion years ago. But God would have to do that, because God is the only one can show me that. No man can tell me that. No woman can tell me that. And when you wait 70 years, 50 years, 40 years, to say something that simple, it’s strange. You know why I say that is because it happened to me, and it wasn’t true.”
R Kelly is not the only Black person to proclaim Bill Cosby’s innocence. He’s not the only man or woman to question why the women waited so long to report the incidents of sexual assault. He’s not the only famous person to question whether or not these women are after fame or notoriety.
But being that R Kelly is a survivor of childhood rape who waited decades, 38 years to be precise, to talk about the experience, it is incredibly hypocritical for him to question these women for coming forward years after their alleged assaults with Cosby. The same shame, guilt, confusion he felt as a child might have been the same feelings these 50 + women dealt with as well. Not to mention Kelly’s relative was not famous and powerful like Bill Cosby was. Clearly, he’s viewing the situation from the lens of a famous Black man, accused, time and time and time again, of his own sexual deviance.
Which brings me back to the comments he made about his relative. R Kelly talks about eventually coming into the knowledge that what happened to him was wrong. But he doesn’t believe his relative should have been held accountable for her actions because he loved her.
Listen, I’m all for love; really I am. But love doesn’t excuse wrongdoing. It seeks to correct it and make the loved one better. And if you want to talk about breaking generational curses, his relative being punished for sexually abusing him would have gone a long way in accomplishing that both psychologically and symbolically. Children and adults need to see that their bodies and their feelings are so valuable, that there is punishment associated with the violation of them. You don’t cease to love someone because they’ve been punished for inflicting bodily, emotional and psychological harm on someone else. You hope it makes the better and prevents them and even the victim from perpetuating that evil onto someone else. Maybe if R Kelly had seen those type of consequences, it a might have helped to hold him accountable for his own predatory relationships with young girls.
Perhaps R Kelly feels like he’s broken the curse because his victims, for all we know, are not family members. But romantic and sexual relationships with girls, children, is not breaking the curse. It’s continuing it on a grander scale, with the money and access to not only feed his proclivities but cover them up and evade punishment as well.
I could be completely off base; but the same forgiveness R Kelly is issuing to his relative might be the same leniency he’s extending to himself. In one part of his mind, he realizes his behavior is not right. But in another, he excuses it by saying it happened to him. And since he’s loved and adored by fans and was exonerated by the justice system, he feels he should be excused.
But it’s just not true.
What R Kelly needs is to be honest about his past, his patterns, (a couple of other things like his mother’s death) and seek to really break the curse through acknowledgement, therapy and then reform.
If you haven’t already, carve out some time to read the entire interview. It’s very well-written, well constructed and very telling.