THE EDITOR: We know the solemn saying, “Everyone has a price.” The dark reality behind it is haunting. Because it means that for a lot of us, our convictions and ethics can be bought. That who we are and what we stand for can be compromised for a price.
With this in mind we should consider some of the local reactions to the recently released Lifetime documentary Surviving R Kelly.
The case against artist R Kelly includes multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and indecency with underage girls. These crimes were allegedly committed over the course of his career and continued for as long as it did because he is said to have had help. It was not a mere one-man operation but instead a concerted effort by a network of close affiliates.
Why then would a number of comments on social media contain scepticism and even vitriol towards the girls who are said to have been abused? Where is the rightfully placed outrage against Kelly and his people? Do we not prosecute the accused and seek to compensate and console victims? What line of reasoning allows one to shift blame from the alleged perpetrator and others towards the hurt parties – the victims?
I suspect that it may be a “dey look for dat” mentality at play. We’ve all heard it before. When someone is provoked and they lash out in retaliation, we say the person who provoked them was “looking for that.” It’s our local equivalent of the law of cause and effect.
However, in this case, we aren’t talking about peers resolving squabbles at work or play. We’re talking about a grown man, his adult associates and the underage girls they allowed to be around him. This is no peer disagreement, this is a very large power gap where the girls held virtually no power to resist any coercion or advances that may have come their way.
Let’s be clear, there is nothing these girls or anyone else could have done to warrant any abuse they may have suffered. I admit, some of us in our own pasts have been made to feel that the hurt we endured from others was our own fault.
Some of us were made the cause of our pain by the disbelief of those we confided in or the fingers pointed by those who wrongfully blamed us. Yet, despite it being done to us, how can we turn around and do the same? That dangerous line of thinking must be stopped.
In any society where victim blaming exists, such as our own, injustice will be prevalent. Victim blaming, put simply, is the practice of holding the victim at fault (partially or entirely) for the harm they experienced at the hand of another.
Not only does this excuse the perpetrator, sometimes further enabling them to commit more crimes, but it also makes the hurt party suffer twice. First a victim by the perpetrator, and then again by those who hold that they themselves are at fault.
So to everyone out there maintaining that this is somehow the fault of the underage girls involved, I’d like to know what’s the price? What amount written on a cheque, transferred in the bank or gifted in cash makes the alleged actions of Kelly and his affiliates excusable? What possible motivation could they have had that makes their involvement something to overlook?
But no, let’s dig deeper. What’s your price? At what price are you willing to sell these girls for? To censor their stories and invalidate their pain? It seems that it’s a few well known songs that you regard as classics. Have you really elevated music over the well-being of so many young black girls?
From your own dismissal of these victims, instead of the one who allegedly hurt them, you’ve proven two things: everyone does have a price, and you think victims should pay twice.
JON HUBERT BRISTOL via e-mail