The recent Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” reportedly aimed at addressing the antics, abuses, exploits and escapades of the famed R&B singer/songwriter/producer R. Kelly, whether alleged or established as facts, has struck like an atomic bomb, dominating conversations in every barbershop, beauty parlor — even fueling chatter from preachers in the pulpits and radio talk show hosts — in Black neighborhoods from Maine to Miami and Alabama to Arizona.
This time, however, we’ve been guaranteed to get the real scoop about the “Pied Piper of R&B” from a host of women, even a few brothers, now willing to emerge from their closets and the shadows to share their stories. Yes, with the #MeToo Movement still in full force, we’re seeing sisters who now want to substantiate long-held rumors about the legendary singer’s predilection for sexual and mental abuse, predatory behavior and his inclination for pedophilia in this tell-all TV show.
As for me, I’ve been able to do little more than listen from the sidelines because I haven’t tuned in to the show. That’s right, I haven’t viewed one episode — my explanation is simple. We’ve heard about R. Kelly’s bizarre behavior and lifestyle over and over again. We’re aware of some of the dastardly deeds he’s committed. We know he’s crossed the line more than a few times, breaking with established societal norms and doing things that should only be elements included within an entertaining piece of fiction.
Still, we continue to praise his creative genius and the music he conceives. Still, we go to his concerts and buy his CDs. Still, we seem to ignore or overlook some of the baggage that has followed him or been essential fixtures for his modus operandi. Still, we invite him into our homes, snapping our fingers to his ditties, swaying via the Chicago hustle to his rhythms and keeping his bank accounts full.
Here’s the question that I’ve been asking for decades which remains unanswered: Why are Black folks so willing to invite our cousins and kinfolk to the dinner table — uncles, cousins, aunts, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers — even preachers and teachers — when we know, but refuse to admit, that among them are wolves ensconced in more palatable sheep’s clothing?
Why do we hold our tongues and allow “Chester the Molester” to park his feet at the table, free to use one hand to grab some of Mom’s golden-fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens and cornbread while the other roams freely and without restraint under the table in pursuit of other “treats ripe for the taking”?
Far too many Black families have allowed dysfunctional behavior and attitudes to go unchecked, maybe for no other reason than because we’re unwilling or afraid to face the demons. But with our silence, we’ve given a green light to those who have no qualms about stealing the innocence from the innocent.
I’m not interested in viewing or discussing scenes from the lives of those who have survived R. Kelly. I’ve been busy maintaining my own safety, survival and sanity. Ignorance is not bliss, counter to the popular adage. Ignorance is nothing more than … ignorance.