“They say you shouldn’t say nothin’ about the dead unless it’s good. He’s dead. Good!” - Moms Mabley
(This story contains discussions of child abuse, rape and rape culture. Discretion is advised.)
What remains alive and unsettling is the way we rally around a predator.
The way that we regard death as an excuse to kill truth.
The way we will look away or close our eyes when our children are in danger. Turn our children over, in fact, as an offering, as another kind of tithe to a person who means to use them as food or sex-toy in the name of White Jesus.
The way we blame the child for being “fast” or “grown” or for “letting” it happen to them and being “old enough to know better.” No balm offered, just “Suck it up. It happened to all of us. Next time, you’ll keep your damn legs closed!” What we are saying to our children here is that what happened to them is justifiable and our primary concern is to excuse or justify it.
We never talk about our complicity. How, in some ways, we’re glad the horror was perpetrated by someone with some influence and some money. Our children, then, have a more practical, material use: as meal tickets rather than as lights. Isn’t that why we still attend services even after we know that our churches conspire to rape our children on a mass scale — become rape factories draped in religious symbols and dogma — and cover it up?
Isn’t that what Corey Feldman told us? That his parents knew he was being raped by wealthy heads of studios and his parents told him to endure it for the money, and the millions would be their own cure?
R. Kelly married Aaliyah when she was 15 years old, stalked middle school playgrounds for “fresh meat,” and peed on the face of a girl who still wore pigtails and barrettes — and had the gall to record it. And yet, we went down to the courthouse, proud for no reason, with signs held high above our heads that read: “R. Kelly is innocent!” not knowing that also written on those signs, in invisible ink, was the postscript: “But we ain’t!”
I guess this is how it works in churches, too. We’re good with the pastor fucking our children as long as he wines and dines them first; shows them the same “favor” Jehovah showed a little girl named Mary; grooms them for who knows what, unloading puddles onto them and into them, before discarding them for the next, younger, fresher batch.
Then, when we look into the eyes of those children and the shine is gone, we pretend it was never there to begin with; that they were born with that dullness and the dullness is a good thing because now nothing they endure can tarnish them any further. You cannot debase the already debased. And this is our gift to them.
In this country, we love ovum and sperm. We love zygotes and embryos. We even love fetuses. But we do not — no, we absolutely do not — love children.
I imagine that the real reason so many of us despise abortion is because it robs us of our cannon fodder. If children are taken away before we’ve had the opportunity to abuse them, disappoint them, and use them as our outhouses, then how in the world could we ever understand what it means to be godly?
I believe Eddie Long raped our sons. Any tiny, hypo-Christian outrage we felt about that came from his choice of gender/sex, not from his choice to rape. We don’t mind rape/pedophilia/pederasty; it’s queer people we can’t stand. And, in any event, if Long was raping girls, none of us would give a shit — R. Kelly is proof of that. There’s no one we hate more righteously than black girls. We celebrate the victimization of black girls and define them as
“available” and “unrapeable,” but we expect black boys to be “men,” which is to say “not queer” and “rape-proof.” Thus, we are double-indicted and our own humanity is twice lost.
But I digress: Long groomed them boys, gained their trust, offered them baubles and prestige, made them feel a sense of loyalty and obligation, and then, when he felt them ripe and pliable, and, maybe even, in some cases, “legal,” he pulled down his pants and, in rock-hard seriousness, commanded them to suck with all of the same gravitas that Moses had on the mount. He bent them over and inserted himself inside. He left his ivory mark upon them. And in our profound and impenetrable denial, we called it an anointing.
And then, still smelling of our babies, their newly sprouted pubic hairs still stuck between his teeth, he got up onto the stage, stepped behind the pulpit, opened a book that commands rapists to marry their victims (did Long ever propose to any of his?), wiped our children’s blood from the corners of his mouth before he opened it to spew, in the most literal sense, textbook lies. And we — because it is what any master’s religion indoctrinates us to do (which is why in biblical metaphor, we are referred to as “sheep”) — loved him in spite of it; perhaps because of it. We have, after all, always been more loyal to the domination-philosophies of our masters than to the veracity of blood memory.
These very obvious betrayals of children — if we must hear it in the language of our oppressors — are the thirty pieces of silver.
What this means is very simple:
Eddie Long is not the only one who’s dead.
Robert Jones, Jr. is a writer from Brooklyn, N.Y. He earned both his B.F.A. in creative writing and M.F.A. in fiction from Brooklyn College. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Essence, Gawker, and The Grio. He is the creator of the social justice social media community, Son of Baldwin, which can be found on Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Medium, Tumblr, and Twitter. His first novel is completed and is in the pitching stage, and he’s currently working on the second.