Surviving R. Kelly’s Defenders: Reckoning with the Minions of Misogynoir

The horror that R. Kelly has brought to literally countless children, women and families for the last three decades is beyond words. I searched for adjectives twisted enough, vile enough to define it, but failed. Some evil is just that way; wordless traumatized victims prove it to us again and again. Still what’s equally horrific is the beast that birthed and has sustained this charismatic monster. It is the broader culture of misogynoir that taught him this behavior is ok and provided him with an army of supporters to enable his sick fantasies. Drea Kelly, his ex-wife said it plain, “Not tryna be funny, but you [Robert] don’t read and write well. Who’s booking these flights [for these girls]?” Ya boy had help and for far more than written paperwork. Security, personal assistants, attorneys, managers, friends etc. all minions of misogynoir just as brainwashed as the girls they mocked.

These people that helped, and continue to help, R. Kelly aren’t some tribe of “others” shipped in from an unknown land of ignorance. They are a part of us, our society, indoctrinated right here. So it’s no surprise that as his evils are further exposed so are the minions among us. People — public figures and within our private networks — in person, by phone and all over our social media. Minions. Perpetrators of a system they did not create yet are emboldening and further injuring survivors and present victims.“What to do with these people?” is indeed a question of the hour, because they are agonizing and infuriating. Some are curious minds willing to listen but many are NOT and debating the worth of black girls is costly. Misogynoir is not an intellectual topic. It is lived oppression and arguing is emotional labor.

So we sit in the reality of so many deceived minds that voice poison and we fume. I am certain we do so for a variety of reasons. Still many of us are deeply enraged and lured into dead-end debates because the ignorance of these minions reminds us of people that did not believe our stories. It reminds us of unprotected childhoods, adolescence, and abusive romantic silos in adulthood. The resonance of these survivor’s stories extends to women and men who’ve been sexually abused while overlapping into the stories of those of us who’ve been physically, emotionally, and verbally abused. Yes I said us.

Because I have not experienced sexual abuse I respectfully acknowledge that it bears unique anguish I cannot fathom. It is in the areas of pain that overlap in which my younger-selves still reel from being unheard and unbelieved every time I see someone shame these victims. I am still distraught and baffled at how little I was valued as a victim. Millions of us are heartbroken from not only being traumatized by abuse but further traumatized by being muted, told we’re crazy, making things up, exaggerating, brought it on ourselves, or stirring up trouble — ahhh yes the troublemaker label…

It is from this place of profound empathy that many of us fervidly wish no victim to ever EVER be treated this way. So I did what I always do when I feel strongly about something. I sat with it to think about solutions. Seriously. Picture BBC Sherlock shifting into his mind palace to calculate every variable he can pinpoint but melanated and female. I went there, but my pondering session did not end with an arrogant smirk, instead a humble, although hopeful, exhale.

There will always be people who shame victims. Always. Yet there will also always be survivors who need to know we believe them. Grieve the deaf ears and also be on the lookout for the heavy hearts who need holding, who need safe space, who need supernatural healing prayed over them, who need advocates, who need you, us. Empathy. Compassion. Justice. These are gifts we have, salves for the poison spewed by these minions of misogynoir. Pray for the stubborn ones. Dodge their bait. Breathe. Exercise. Vent to trustworthy persons about how they trigger you. Create. Pray. Deal with the sting, then focus your gifts on the ones who need and want it. Convincing closed minds is not a human battlefield, but offering some relief to wounded hearts is. Our kindness, our understanding, our vigilance is just as powerful as the words that fuel misogynoir’s flames. Deceived ones are everywhere, but you know what? So are we.

Believe you me I am furious. These words aren’t coming to me as I skip peacefully through a field or smile in a meditative pose. I am livid. I hear these defenders blatant disregard of evidence. I see their blindness towards their devaluing of black women, even while some are black women themselves. I hear them sacrifice the safety of black women at the altar of the black male ego. There isn’t an argument clear enough to cure this. There isn’t enough black girl magic in the world to undo that enchantment. That space is God’s work, to invite and soften hearts to listen. Even then we also have the God given right to say “No” and curl up with denial as long as we’d like. There are indeed no guarantees. Still while we fume at their stubbornness and grieve their painful impact, let’s remember the salve we have to offer victims and survivors. That’s effort that does not lead to dead ends. That’s effort that fuels healing and builds safety. This isn’t a formula for utopia. Predators will be here. Their defenders will too, but to even one person whose story you embrace with reverence, I promise you, it will mean the world and it may just change theirs.


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