It’s now been a week since Lifetime aired the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries. As a survivor, seeing the first two hours was enough for me to conclude: The allegations against R. Kelly are too numerous and widespread not to believe.
The three-day special featured numerous women who described being controlled or physically, mentally, or emotionally abused by the singer, often when they were teenagers. And former associates and managers admitted to the interviewers they had assisted or ignored Kelly’s actions.
The docuseries also highlighted accusations, first reported by BuzzFeed in 2017, that Kelly has been keeping women in a so-called sex cult in recent years.
Over the past few days, people from across the country have set social media ablaze with mostly two responses to the special: They denigrated Kelly for the predatory, abusive acts he’d been accused of committing against underaged Black girls—or defended him because they could not get enough of “stepping in the name of love” at the family reunion, possibly even with the creepy uncle who has experienced similar allegations as Kelly. The latter argument—deeply troubling in a country led by a president accused of rape himself—has often been voiced by other Black men who justify it with one reason: because white men rape too.
The “white men rape too” crowd has become more vocal over the past several years among heterosexual Black men. Instead of critiquing the pervasive rape culture that we as Black men have perpetuated and the acts of violence some of us commit against women and girls, we minimize (or simply fail to acknowledge) those actions by implying if white men can get away with a crime, then so can Black men. Though this derailment