The Racial Myths Used to Defend Abusers

Last week, many viewers watched Surviving R. Kelly in horror as the documentary highlighted old and new sexual-abuse allegations against the singer. The six-part documentary series, which premiered on January 3, featured dozens of testimonials from survivors, activists, police officers, and legal experts, as well as Kelly’s family members and former employees. Their collective accounts paint a picture of a predator of vast proportion and shine a light on the pervasive, insidious culture of sexual violence within the music industry.

Though the exposé has done much to erode the singer’s image (and has spurred an investigation into Kelly by Georgia’s Fulton County district attorney), it has also seemingly bolstered his support. Plays of Kelly’s records spiked on Spotify just after the film aired. And despite the fact that black female activists have successfully campaigned to ban Kelly and his music from several national radio shows and event venues, the artist’s long-standing recording contract with RCA records remains intact. (Kelly has largely denied the allegations against him.)

Further, die-hard fans haven’t skipped a beat in enjoying his music and performances. “I am an R. Kelly fan. I’m here for the music and nothing else,” one woman says in the film. Those who have expressed outrage after seeing Surviving R. Kelly are bewildered about how, despite the preponderance of damning testimonies, Kelly’s support from fans—black fans, in particular—remains largely unscathed.

[Read: ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ is an uncomfortable, visual testimony]

In the final episode, some of the singer’s black concertgoers are interviewed while lining up for his show. Presumably, they are being asked what they think of the allegations against Kelly, and most offer hollow justifications such as “There are two sides to every story,” “Who are we to judge?” and “He’s been the same for years.” Coming from people who look like they could be the parents of any one of Kelly’s alleged victims, the comments sting. Within them, however, lies a larger issue: Why do sexual predators often get their staunchest support from the very communities they prey on?

In my professorial work on race, masculinity, and rape culture, I explain this problem as racialized rape myths. You may already be familiar with rape myths: narratives about sexual assault that provide false logic about the “nature” of men, women, or sexuality. The idea that women “ask for it,” for example, shifts the blame onto victims, as sexual-assault researchers have noted. And these

Source:: The Atlantic – Culture


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