“Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.”- 48 Laws of Power
As Black America continues to argue over the alleged depravity of its favorite R&B Pied Piper of Debauchery as depicted in the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, an interesting irony has resulted. A not so small number of the community has risen to his defense with both pistol and sword close at hand (figuratively speaking). They rightly point out the hypocritical sense of urgency at persecuting a man for conduct that has been an open secret in both the entertainment world, and the black community for over 20 yrs. They cite the wicked machinations of parents prostituting their young girls under the auspices of blackmail to obtain 6 figure settlements complete with non-disclosure agreements.
They also decry the mannish nature of the women who admittedly consented to sex with Kelly at a young, but legal age, only to become apart of a de facto harem kept in check by an insidiously swift pimp hand. And who are his most vocal supporters? Black women of course! Legions of Black women have built a ring of fire around their urban Caligula. From golden showers to hoe wrangling to drunken cult sex orgies, no fetish is too bizarre, nor extreme for them to rationalize. Dissent is kept to a minimum as they continue to bump and grind to 12 play and step in the name of love. God is even drafted as a kind of silent peeping tom since only he is fit to judge anyone.
This response is especially bewildering in the aftermath of the Bill Cosby Saga. When he was marched to he gallows of American Justice, the black community was eerily silent. When confronted with the absence of any substantial evidence for a conviction, many black people joined the ranks of publications like the Huffington Post who at one point declared that, all of the accusers couldn’t be lying. What was the source of our ambivalence? Was it his dalliances with numerous white women? Was it his perceived condescending attitude towards black america writ large? Or was there something deeper? Darker? Uglier? Let us speculate for a moment shall we?
Cosby’s ground breaking family sitcom transformed the image of the black family. For the first time the sentiment of American patriarchy rested upon a black face. His depictions of a perfect family gave America a different view of black america that many had not been accustomed to seeing. America had long become accustomed to images of the morally righteous, but economically suffering depictions of the noble black family. This is no shade at the 70’s cult classic TV show Good Times. But its’ authenticity obscured its’ true message. James Evans wanted for his family what Cliff Huxtable got for his family: a piece of the american dream.
In the backdrop of a community imploding for the appalling effects of a burgeoning drug trade, massive unemployment and an ever-expanding income gap, the memoirs of James Evans Sr was more relevant than the life and times of some black father living the proverbial white picket fence existence at 10 Stickwood Avenue in Brooklyn. Because to us, the struggle was real. But we watched. Secretly hating. But we watched. We watched a father that seemed to have all the answers regardless of the question. We watched hating while loving but always watching. We saw all of life’s most pressing struggles worked out neatly in 30 mins with all the medicine that laughter could bestow on our conflicted souls.
But it was precisely this warring soul that engendered our envy. It was this conflicted consciousness that harnessed our silent hatred for Bill Cosby. In a predominantly matriarchial community, black women bristled with deep rancor at a man that appeared to be beyond fault. When contrasted against the men they really were dating, Cosby’s TV persona was as nauseating as ipecac. His only saving grace was his black opinionated wife who, at times, in their minds, provided a check against complete patriarchy.
Thus, when Cosby made the now infamous Poundcake Speech in 1995, as far as the black community in general, and black women in particular were concerned, he had effectively become persona non grata. Suddenly they had no patience for a man who chastised them about how they were rearing or mis-rearing their male children. They saw his carefully crafted image as hollow and discordant. An image which quiet as kept, provided a fun house distorted reflection of the dysfunction in their own households. It was as if every episode was a nagging reminder of our collective racial failures. So while we chuckled at his comedic genius, we quietly brooded with animosity at his persona.
Thus when he began his descent into public disfavor in 2006, many in black america feverishly cheered his rapid collision into the concrete ground of mainstream castigation. The fact that he was extremely wealthy only added to the sense of an ethereal schadenfraude we felt in seeing this “bougie” nigga get his comeuppance from the dominant society. This was not the case with R. Kelly.
For far too many in black america, Kelly’s home life epitomizes the saga of the decaying urban family: born into poverty, drugs, fatherless, an unhealthy affection for his mother, semi-literate, abused and sexually molested. Celebrities like Kelly enjoy a kind of “how I got over” status that embodies the Horatio Alger mythology of American society. As a result, he is covered in the blood over a perverse deification that forgives much but remembers little. His sickness, such as it is, actually humanizes him in an imperfect community.
Thus while Cosby is reviled for telling young black boys to pull their pants up, R. Kelly is loved for commanding that young girls pull their panties down. A decade old case with no physical evidence and formerly sealed testimony, results in a 3 to 10 year sentence for the 81 year old Cosby, while a video with a clearly identifiable, Kelly and his under-aged accomplice, results in an acquittal when both parents commit perjury by denying that the girl in said video is not their daughter. All the while black women are screaming and begging for Kelly to make them his next willing sexual conquest.
The contradictions are not only seen in the outcome. But they are also prevalent in the process. R. Kelly’s numerous settlements with women are viewed as a mere afterthought before they are summarily dismissed. Cosby’s settlements are seen as a tacit admission of guilt. Kelly’s victims are rightly disregarded as willing thots, while Cosby’s victims are accorded the status of Me Too sainthood. Kelly’s allegations were met with a solid bulwark of resistance while Cosby’s allegations were accepted as the natural proclivities of an old degenerate.
With that being said, it is just that R. Kelly is a free man. After all, he has not been convicted of anything at all. And he should not be. But when compared against Cosby’s contributions, there is no comparison. Therefore, all the love he gets seems woefully unfathomable. R. Kelly’s contribution to the black community is largely in song, therefore his imperfections are celebrated. Cosby’s contributions are measurable in cold hard cash to the tune of hundreds of millions. But his dalliances with grown women are unforgivable. Is it any wonder why no one would dare lead black america? Why become a martyr for those who make the good the enemy of the perfect, and the imperfect the ally of the immortal?
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power & Strategy.com. Like and Share the articles. Subscribe to the website. Support on paypal @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Patreon @ PowerofStrategies. Till NEXT TIME! I’LL HOLLA!.