To attribute the rehabilitation of R. Kelly as a musical hero to his music alone would be lazy. I believe who his victims have been — and, crucially, what they look like — plays a massive part in our collective willingness to embrace a predator. They were all little black girls.
Recently a trending topic on Twitter called #fasttailgirls was started by @karnythia and moderated by @hoodfeminism. It discussed the sexualization of young black girls and how, due to no fault of their own, young black girls are made responsible when their bodies are violated. In this context the victims are criminalized and chastised, and the perpetrators valorized.
As I read the trending topic and watched women boldly share their truth, it occurred to me why R. Kelly’s comeback disturbs me so much. If R. Kelly’s victims had looked different, had fit the archetype of what we believe victims typically look like (whiter, blonder and more in line with what we’re taught to associate with innocence), maybe there would be uproar.
The bodies that R. Kelly has violated belong to girls we do not believe are worthy of protection or uproar. In fact we’re taught to believe this type of girl “asked for it” or did something to warrant her abuse.