Dear Black People, Please Stop Defending R. Kelly!

R. Kelly (Andrew Steinmetz)

A few days ago, I posted on my Facebook profile “Some black women love R. Kelly more than they love their pastor.”

There is some truth to this. Black churches are known to have predominantly female congregations and the women often venerate the pastors. A former girlfriend, who was dating a pastor, remarked they were treated like rock stars in the black community. She also said that her boyfriend often had female parishioners slip him business cards when he was in church.

Black pastors are also known for taking liberties with female congregants. Some of them, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, father children out of wedlock. One of the most famous incidents of this kind of behavior was the Rev. Henry Lyons, former president of the National Baptist Convention USA. In 1997, his wife burned down the house he bought for his mistress.

In spite of this kind of bad behavior, black women are often some of the staunchest defenders of black clergy. I have heard stories of black women who are so devoted to their pastors, it causes their marriages to break up. They also often stand by prosperity-gospel preachers, such as Creflo Dollar, who leach money off their congregation. (In 2015, Dollar got his congregation to buy him a new $65 million Gulfstream jet.) A female associate once told me she didn’t want to hear anything bad about Dollar since he was her pastor.

And this is where the comparison to R&B star R. Kelly (real name Robert Kelly) comes in. Kelly has been accused of having sex with underage women for more than 20 years. This goes back to the days of his quickie marriage to R&B ingenue Aliyah, who he wed when she was 15. (The marriage was later annulled.)

However, his shenanigans with underage women didn’t stop there. In 2002, a videotape surfaced showing Kelly having sex and urinating on a girl who looked about 14. Somehow he managed to avoid imprisonment on that case.

Kelly cropped up in the news again in 2017 when it was revealed he was keeping several young women in a “sex cult.” The floodgates finally burst with Lifetime’s documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” that ran through Kelly’s long history of sex crimes in graphic detail. The documentary also profiled many of his victims who were teenage girls often picked up in McDonald’s or outside high schools, sexually exploited and then dumped.

The increased spotlight led to more videotapes coming forward, one that included more “golden showers,” and finally charges. Kelly was recently imprisoned on 10 sex crime indictments and faced a $1 million bail.

And here’s where the story gets even weirder. Valencia Patrice Love, a suburban Chicago resident, came forward and paid Kelly’s bail. In spite of a 20-year history of sex crimes, she still believed in him.

“He’s my friend and I knew he needed help,” said Love in an interview with a Chicago radio station. “There are three sides to every story, his side, there’s [the alleged victims], and the truth.”

Although Love received a million-dollar settlement for a wrongful death claim, it’s still not clear where the bail money came from.

However, it wasn’t just women who were Kelly defenders. After the Lifetime documentary aired, my social media on fire with a war between the pro-Kelly and the anti-Kelly camp. And there were plenty of male defenders. Some men asked why was Kelly being arrested, while Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey were still free? Several Kelly defenders blamed the girls, claiming they knew what they were getting into. Other people blamed the girls’ parents who “allowed” their children to be exploited.

In a 2017 BuzzFeed article, “Theresa,” mother of a young woman who got ensnared in Kelly’s sex cult, defended her decision to allow her 17-year-old daughter to move in with him.

“He is a lyrical genius — he is R. Kelly! And the fact is he went to court, he was never found guilty — he was acquitted — and we were led to believe there was no truth in it. Now I got all of these people asking about why my daughter is there, telling me, ‘All of that, the charges against Kelly, was true.’ Well, how come you didn’t tell me that before?” she said.

But now Kelly’s sex crime spree seems to be finally coming to an end. If he beats the latest round of charges, federal prosecutors could hit him with a sex trafficking indictment.

Kelly is innocent until proven guilty, but he has a long, documented history of physically and sexually abusing women. So black people, please stop defending him!

Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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