Black women about the trial of R. Kelly reacts to his conviction
The woman was taking a nap when her phone started ringing, buzzing and buzzing: a verdict was reached in the trial of R. Kelly, one of the biggest names in R&B music.
Two weeks ago, the woman Witness Under a pseudonym – Angela – at Mr Kelly’s trial, he told jurors that the singer began sexually assaulting her when she was underage. Her accusations were not part of the charges against which Mr. Kelly was convicted. But 30 years after Mr. Kelly began abusing her, her testimony helped in his conviction.
“When I heard the guilt, I immediately burst into tears,” she said. “I cried for a long time.”
She said she had seen the stories of other women who looked like her had been neglected before. “Black women are often ignored because people say, ‘Well, you dress that way, look that way.'” “You acted this way, you put yourself in this situation,” she said.
But this time the response was unfamiliar: “They didn’t just see us, they heard us – they believed us,” said the woman, who agreed to be identified using her pseudonym at trial.
Mr Kelly’s case is widely seen as a defining moment for the #MeToo movement, as it marked the first high-profile trial since the national reckoning on sexual misconduct to feature a powerful man whose victims were primarily black women.
In the days and weeks leading up to the jury’s verdict, many observers said they feared dismissing the stories of a group of black defendants, no matter how shocking they were.
Instead, many took Mr Kelly’s conviction on Monday as a powerful confirmation of the accounts of both those who took the stand against him and others whose stories have not been made public.
“For years, I have been trolled for speaking out about the abuse I suffered at the hands of that predator. People called me a liar and said I had no proof,” Gironda PaceKelly, who became the first woman ever to testify against Mr. Kelly in a criminal trial, wrote on Instagram after the ruling. “I am happy to finally close this chapter of my life.”
But whether Mr. Kelly’s trial and conviction represented a broader shift toward better treatment of black victims of sexual assault is unknown.
“This moment will go one of two ways,” he said. Mickey Kendall, an author from Chicago who wrote about feminism and intersectionality. “Either we finally say that black women and girls deserve protection. Or we’ll say again, As we have it, this notion that black girls are “unbreakable” because of the color of their skin. “
She added, “We’re choosing here in the #MeToo movement.”
The issue of whose stories were prioritized has been central to recent activism efforts.
when Tarana Burke, a black woman, started the original iteration of “Me Too” around 2007, and she hoped to use the phrase to raise awareness of sexual assault and connect victims to resources. But observers note that this effort has not had the support of prominent white feminists. And when actress Alyssa Milano Tweet the same words A decade later, that sparked concern that black women were being excluded from the story.
Black women have also spoken out on some of the most high-profile cases involving influential men such as Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. But with white women and girls making up the majority of the accused, their stories began to define the dominant campaign for some.
“I didn’t even know the #MeToo movement was for us black women,” Singer Sparkle He said in an interview after Mr. Kelly’s conviction.
She testified in a Chicago courtroom 13 years ago that Mr. Kelly was the man seen in a video urinating and having sex with her teenage niece. But even after others shared similar stories during Mr. Kelly’s first criminal trial, in Chicago in 2008, jurors acquitted him of child pornography charges.
“At the time – and still today – black women were not really interested,” said Sparkle, whose real name is Stephanie Edwards. “If Robert did what he did to white women, we wouldn’t even be here.”
For legal experts and advocates for victims of sexual assault, who have long warned that black women and girls face profound challenges in bringing charges of sexual assault and rape, this perception was not surprising.
They point to data showing that black women are disproportionately more likely than most to experience sexual assault or violence, but less likely to report it in some situations. The simultaneous struggles of sexism and racism form a dynamic known as hate.
For some, these factors explain what was, as of Monday, a decades-long failure to bring Mr. Kelly to justice.
“We needed a first trial, a video, a marriage license, a documentary series, a social media campaign, city organizers — all just to get to this moment in the criminal legal system,” he said. Treva B LindseyProfessor at The Ohio State University. “I don’t think this bodes well for the overall treatment of sexually abused black girls and women.”
“If we need that level of sexual predation to get recognition that black women and girls suffer a disproportionate amount of sexual violence compared to the broader population, I think that’s actually a really sad sign,” she added.
But the cultural climate has also changed dramatically since the allegations against Mr. Kelly first began to surface.
Experts say there is a broader desire to hear and believe the stories of survivors, and awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault has grown in recent years. For some, there was value in the nature of the case against Mr. Kelly himself, which was created around a racketeering charge that put his enabling elements center stage.
Scheherazade Tillet, founder of long distance homeIt is a nonprofit organization based in Chicago that works to solve these problems. “It’s deep in our culture here as a black people – we all knew something was out there.”
She added, “Thinking of yourself as a participant in organized crime – by watching a video of R. Kelly, being the bodyguard who let something happen – I think is an important cultural shift. And I really think that’s the only way we can end sexual violence.” .
However, others say the trial has highlighted the need for continued progress in how issues of consent, autonomy, and sexual assault are discussed across society and in some black communities in particular.
Those who study the intersections of race and sexual abuse have long noted that black women You face unique challenges when accusing black men of abuse or assault, he attributes this to a variety of factors: a lack of trust in the criminal justice system; a history of false accusations against black men from white women; And the desire to protect black men.
Kimberly Williams Crenshaw, a professor at Columbia Law School and UCLA School of Law, who has studied the topic, said she hopes the current moment will change the narrative, equating black women’s accusations of “disloyalty to black men and opening up to abuse and injustice.”
In the case of Mr. Kelly, a large audience once viewed him as the victim of a deeper racist plot to prevent successful black men from thriving. Kennett Tisha Barnes, co-founder of #MuteRKelly Campaign to boycott the singer’s music.
“We have to be realistic about the culture of sexual violence in our society,” she said. “It’s an ugly story to come up with, but we have to cut the peel off and let it bleed through.”
And for Ms. Burke, the woman who created #MeToo, the current moment requires that more attention be paid to the realities of the issues at hand – so R. is not seen happening in our communities every day.”
Ms Burke said: “There has to be a shift in the way we talk about sexual violence within society so that when there are real-world cases, there is a reference going on in people’s minds.” And it becomes more than just ‘Maybe that’s wrong because that’s what history has shown,’ Because it was so confused. R. Kelly is by no means an Emmett Till.”
But even as the focus shifts to the future, some of Mr. Kelly’s accusers are clinging to the present moment.
Kitty Jones, who is from the Dallas area, said most of her life felt “heavy” in the years that followed The singer was accused of sexual coercion and physical assault Within two years of their meeting after she met him in 2011.
Ms Jones was not part of the trial, she said, but the verdict as a “acquittal” came after the backlash she and others received for speaking out.
“No amount of prison time can turn back the clock,” said Ms. Jones. “But we can definitely start getting our lives back now and feeling a little bit more normal. We’ve been through hell.”
Ms Jones said she hoped the conviction would send a simple message to other survivors: “Don’t allow your abusers to continue to silence you, speak your truth no matter what.”
Emily Palmer Contribute to the preparation of reports. Kitty Bennett And Susan C. Beachy Contribute to research.