Last week, I was asked by HuffPo Live to appear with three other people on a segment about the moral quandary of supporting an artist or an athlete with an unsavory past. The half hour-long conversation was supposed to touch on a few different instances of this happening in pop culture, but ended up focusing solely on R. Kelly. While it was structured in a way to place people against R. Kelly and people for R. Kelly in the same conversation, at this point, the pro R-uh argument is so weak that the “opposing sides” lasted for maybe four minutes. The rest of the time was spent with the anti camp pointing out the absurdity of things like R. Kelly calling himself the Pied Piper, and the pro camp basically saying “Yeah, I guess you all are right. I should probably stop stepping in the name of love too.”
Whenever I write about R. Kelly, most people — well, most people who read and respond to what I write — agree with what I’m saying. But, invariably, there are always a few who question my intent. They don’t even bother challenging what I’m saying. Instead, they ask why I’m even saying what I’m saying; with the implication being “Why are you hating on this man?” And, on some level, I get it. There’s nothing I can say at this point that would have a tangible effect on the lives of those sexually assaulted by him. Nor is there anything I can say that will make him face some sort of legal justice. That ship seems to have sailed, anyway.
Anyway, to answer that question, I write about R. Kelly so people will continue to have those types of conversations — and, hopefully, eventual epiphanies — about him. So people who continue to support him financially and creatively are fully aware of who they’re supporting and what that support means. So that, if you are one of these people, you have to admit and accept that you value the pleasure you receive from listening to his music more than you care about divesting support from a person who’s been accused of multiple sex crimes against multiple young Black girls. And, I’d even go as far to say that today, in 2015, R. Kelly is a proxy. The current criticisms of him are more directed towards his fans and the type of mindset that excuses, willfully ignores, and even supports this type of criminality. We talk and write about R. Kelly today to help prevent more R. Kelly’s from existing tomorrow.
Also, if you happen to still be an R. Kelly supporter and you happen to be reading this, you should also be aware that your savior is a fucking coward too. This, his pervasive cowardice, is as essential to R. Kelly’s persona as anything else. It’s just as much a part of him as “I Believe I Can Fly” is. Only a coward would intentionally stalk, lure, and sexually assault the people in his community with the least amount of power and status. Only a coward would choose those who need the most protection as his prey. Only a coward would, for years (decades!), refuse to even acknowledge any of these allegations in a meaningful way. Or offer any type of contrition. Because that would take some guts. Cowards don’t have guts. And so it’s fitting that R. Kelly, that singing-ass coward from Chicago, would walk off the set of the HuffPost Live today when faced with difficult questions during an interview he agreed to do.
Because, again, that’s who R. Kelly is. Prolific and influential musician. Rapist. And coward.
And that’s who you are supporting.