Robert Kelly, former R&B legend known as R. Kelly, was found guilty Monday afternoon on charges that will likely send him away for a long time. On Monday in Brooklyn, New York, the federal jury found him guilty of racketeering in regards to the allegations of him partaking in sex trafficking. Many fans of Robert Kelly have denied these allegations, as have many stood by the allegations beside the women who’ve come forward and shared their horrific stories under the hands of Robert Kelly. Though, no matter what the truth, there is a side to this story missing.
Blackballing is a term used to describe the act of altering one’s reputation publicly.
Could the same people who’ve been protecting R. Kelly be blackballing him now?
Robert Kelly has been accused of these same allegations for decades. He also has blatantly shown the evidence of what he’s currently being punished for publicly without adequate consequence for years on-going. For example, he had an open relationship with, also former R&B legend, Aaliyah, who was significantly younger than him. Formal allegations about him began to surface in 1996, two years after he married 15 year old Aaliyah while Kelly was 27 at the time. He bribed a government employee to obtain a fake ID for Aaliyah to legally marry her. All without consequence. Which, when you’re as widely known as Robert Kelly was, comes with a million eyes and spectators.
Aaliyah was only 12 years old when introduced to Robert Kelly and signed to his record label. Aaliyah was only 13 when Kelly first mentioned Aaliyah in his song “She’s Got That Vibe,” in 1992. Hinting at the young singer as “little cute Aaliyah’s got it,” publicly on tour. That song specifically was an international success. Not to mention the album it’s home to, “Born Into The 90’s,” and how widely successful that was.
So why are Robert Kelly’s charges just now happening? The timeline of Robert Kelly’s conviction feels much longer than the reality lived by most Black men. Especially given the evidence in plain sight. Since when are Black men shown mercy in the criminal justice world?
RCA Records, his record label, didn’t drop Robert Kelly until February 2019. This is interesting for two reasons. One being, a record label is very well versed on the whereabouts and details of their artist’s lives due to contractual agreement. And two, being the timeline. Kelly was coincidentally dropped by his record label a month following the viral documentary on Robert Kelly in regards to these allegations and his tarnished self image, in January 2019. We saw the affects of the many who boycotted Netflix during the uprising of the murder of George Floyd led to the implementation of more BLM content amongst streaming platforms, such as Netflix and Hulu, etc. It wasn’t about the desire to properly represent inclusivity, it was about the loss of sales. If his record label would’ve kept Robert Kelly while he was under fire publicly, the record label would’ve lost sales.
It wasn’t until Kelly’s tarnished reputation circulated heavily in public conversations that actual accountability began to be enforced. Why? Why did it become a mainstream ordeal almost 23 years after his initial sexual allegations?
This story, ironically, is similar to Bill Cosby; who’s sexual allegations, despite recently overtuned, allegedly began back in 1965. Cosby wasn’t convicted until 2018, after pressure began to arise in the face of his self image–despite victims coming forward as early as 2005. Cosby’s lawyer successfully defended him, yet multiple allegations followed after for the next couple of years.
Are Celebrity Crimes Kept Underwraps?
The #MeToo movement has created space for people to come out publicly and talk about their sexual abuse. This viral hashtag has led to light being shed on thousands and thousands of abusers across the globe. One abuser being Robert Kelly. The #MeToo movement is what led to the outcome of his tarnished reputation and guilty charges, not the allegations themselves or the response (for lack thereof) from law enforcement. It was the support from the public in response to victims directly opening up about their trauma publicly. Here is a list of high-ranking celebrities facing sexual abuse allegations within the uprising of the #MeToo movement.
Why wasn’t it law enforcement that took it upon themselves to hold these celebrities accountable for their crime? The reality I know in regards to the criminal justice system is of Black men getting locked up whether they’re proven guilty yet or not. Whether they’ve spoken their piece or not. Whether they have a witness or not. Whether there’s a reason or not. One objection, and Black men are sent away without question. Any sort of information will be used against them. How did he, Robert Kelly, and even Bill Cosby, slip on by? How did they get so much time?
Though, it is a victory he is finally facing his consequences, it is not out of the ordinary to wonder who, after all these years, has enabled him? A Black man with so much status, is it no longer a threat? How could a Black man with that much power get away with breaking a system used to punish the very people that look like him everyday, for a crime with public evidence.. If no one else was partaking or in on it?
Hollywood is a business. A primarily public business. Hollywood runs off of putting celebrities’ business at the forefront of the media for consumerist interest. There are jobs in Hollywood just to create stories on celebrities. How did this get swept under the rug? Is Robert Kelly facing consequences now because he is no longer worth much to Hollywood and simply a liability, or because he is actually wrong?