Surviving the Pimp

This weekend I watched the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly. At times it was too much to watch over and over again the girls being sucked into his sickness, to become his harem. I needed a few breaks to get through it.

Even before the last episode, I was thinking of R. Kelly as a pimp, but instead of the girls being put out on the street, they are at his beck and call. No girl, as far as I know, has been killed, But like the pimp game, girls stay for years on end, and those who get out suffer from lifelong post-traumatic stress.

Surviving Black Enablers the show should be called, because we as black people enable black men to engage in rape and sexual abuse. We know all about them, because they are in our families.

Comedian Chris Rock joked about the molesting uncle, and the mother admonishing her children for going down to see him alone. “I told you not to go down there. Now walk it off,” he says to a roaring crowd.

We know who they are, but we do not disclose that information, and we never tell the police. First of all, we don’t trust the police, and we don’t want one more black man incarcerated. We would rather take that secret to our grave. Secondly, we can never believe our men would do it. Thirdly, and perhaps the most tragic, how would we survive without them?

It is true, we are a forgiving people. It is because of the religion that turned us passive 400 years ago, and we have no problems now being on our knees, asking God for deliverance. Being on our feet, demanding accountability is far scarier, and something the black church repeatedly fails to do.

In fact, they are as complicit when they blame the victim. What was she wearing? Why was she in the room alone with him? Did she lead him on? Was she really saying no?

Minister Louis Farrakhan, one of the black community’s most prominent spiritual leaders, blasted Desiree Washington during the Mike Tyson rape case. He said at a rally for Mike Tyson in 1991, "I mean how many times, sisters, have you said no, and you mean yes all the time?"

Except for Ms. Washington’s family, it seemed the entire black community was fighting for Tyson to beat the charges, and in the process making her out to being the villain.

Same with R. Kelly. For over 20 years his avid fans denied the allegations, vilified the accusers, and claimed that these women were just trying to bring a good black man down and take his money.

And this is how these human traffickers, these pimps, these rapists, are allowed to operate with impunity.

The black church wrapped their arms around them because they are easily manipulated. All R. Kelly had to do was sing a few spiritual songs, and they embraced him as the prodigal son returning home. I’m quite sure some dollars being placed in their hands did not hurt either.

But it all makes sense. Ever since people began believing that myth that Eve was responsible for Adam getting kicked out of Eden, women have been bearing that pain.

I have absolute contempt for those blindly devoted fans who now are discovering the truth as a result of the serial documentary, for they enabled R. Kelly to remain a human trafficker for over 20 years. They threw themselves at his feet during his 2008 trial, and rejoiced when he was acquitted. They might as well have spit in the faces of the victims, because metaphorically they did.

They have long been part of the problem, and they need to look long and deep in the mirror to see the depth of their vileness.

What would they say to the survivors now? Sorry, I didn’t know? Sorry I didn’t believe you? What if it was one of their family members? What if it was them? But people don’t think that way, do they? They never think it could happen to them, so they are quick to judge.

Besides, to them it is all about the music, not the man. That is how we were able to separate James Brown the abuser and James Brown the musical genius, as well as Ike Turner and Rick James. There is a distinction between the musician and the man? Really?

None of us say that about Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and all the other white male celebrities that have been exposed. We love to see that sort of accountability, but our eyes are blind to our own.

Historically we have depicted black women: as gold digging, crude, nasty, vicious, backstabbing over-sexualized bitches and whores. Even more sinister is how we treat them: as objects, pawns to be manipulated for power and control.

So for all our superficial rhetoric of black women being queens and mothers of our civilization, we treat them as dirty peasants confined to a room with a piss bucket.

Black women have had to bear the brunt of struggle to break the chains of slavery and become full citizens with equal protection under the law. Still, in 2019, whether it is violence, rape, sexual assault, these heinous acts are under reported, under investigated, and under prosecuted.

It took the relentless pressure of #MuteRKelly, Time’s Up, and #BlackGirlsMatter to make the industry begin hitting R. Kelly in his pocket. Radio guru Tom Joyner took Kelly’s music off all his syndicated radio shows.

But according to a New York Times article, his music is still in demand, and it may be more difficult for his label, RCA, to contractually terminate him.

Additionally, there are legal hurdles to putting together another case against him. “Even so, any case could be difficult to try. It routinely takes people many years to come forward, by which time memories have faded and records have vanished,” said the Times.

Which means it is possible that R. Kelly will never see a jail cell, nor be financially ruined. What’s worst is there are still a multitude of people who are praying neither one will ever happen, while they continue to cheer him on to fly away.


Ron Kipling Williams