Last December, I laid my love for Yeezy to the side and discussed why the Kardashian Klan shouldn’t have been held accountable for his 2016 mental breakdown. I also discussed how the black community should stop making excuses for grown celebrities and start calling them out on their bull. Well, it’s half a year later and here we are again. It’s time to talk about two men we hold a little too close to our hearts: R. Kelly and Bill Cosby.
Now I give credit where it’s due, so let’s review a few stats:
- Arguably the king of modern R&B
- Has sold 40 million albums and 100 million records
- A game-changing, award-winning writer and producer for the likes of Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, and Toni Braxton
- Hits like “I Believe I can Fly” are still getting performed by kindergarten choirs across the country 26 years later
- One of the most influential and awarded comedians & actors of all time
- Acted alongside Sir Sidney Poitier in movies like Let’s Do It Again and Uptown Saturday Night
- Starred in and produced successful television series like Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and The Cosby Show, the latter becoming the number one show in America for five years
- Holder of at least 57 honorary degrees
While these two men’s accomplishments have rightfully earned them spots in the Black Excellence Hall of Fame, there are incidents within their personal lives that should not be ignored. For years, R. Kelly has been notorious for his relationships with underage women. He illegally married 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994 when he was 27, allegedly engaged in sex with a 15-year-old girl on a leaked videotape from 2002, and has recently been accused of running a sex slave cult of young women. Yes, a sex slave cult. Bill Cosby holds a long history of sexual assault allegations, ranging from the mid-60s to 2008. While his 60+ (60+!) alleged victims have all been of age, the accusations are still heinous: drugging, raping, and engaging in sexual battery.
At this point I’m sure you’re saying, “But Jess, those are all allegations!” Yes, they are. Awful and disturbing allegations, but allegations nonetheless. I acknowledge and respect that. And I’m a supporter of separating the the art from the artist in certain circumstances. However, in these situations I cannot; not for a man who began calling himself the “Pied Piper” after that video leaked in 2002 and not for a man who’s spent the most recent years of his career spewing respectability politics. Heck, I’ll throw you out of my car if you try to play R. Kelly (at most, I’ll take the aux from you. I was just being dramatic for visual effect). But, hey — if you still want to “Step In the Name of Love” at your family reunions and watch The Cosby Show reruns on Saturday mornings, don’t let me stop you. Just please don’t use the, “They just trying to keep a black man down!” defense.
Allow me say that I love black men. My daddy was black. Barack Obama is black. I believe in my heart of hearts that Jesus was a darker complected man (that Middle Eastern sun is no joke. And hair like wool? You don’t have to go to Sunday school to know that!) Michael B. Jordan, Kofi Siriboe, and Lance Gross are all black. I love black men! However, I will not justify their trash behavior and the disturbing allegations against them by sweeping them under the rug with, “they just trying to keep a black man down!”
I’ll acknowledge that there are countless instances throughout history where “they just trying to keep a black man down” holds weight:
- Donald Trump launching the Birther Movement against President Obama (actually, Donald Trump against most Black men in America right now, excluding Ben Carson and Clarence Thomas)
- Colin Kaepernick being shunned by NFL fans and America alike for supporting Black Lives Matter
- Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers literally losing their lives in the fight for civil rights
Yes, our people have been at the bottom of the food chain in this country more often that not, making it easy for folks to rest on “they just trying to keep a black man down.” However, those who have “made it” should not get a pass simply because they’re public figures. Saying, “they just trying to keep a black man down” is dismissive and lazy. Instead, we should look at them and start having serious conversations about rape, abuse, and predatory behavior with our black men, both present and future, so that one day the rebuttal can die altogether. They wouldn’t just be trying to keep a black man down if it were your mother or sister, but I’m just saying.
X’s and O’s,