News Headlines

Why Did So Many Black Women Support R. Kelly?

R. Kelly

Singer R. Kelly leaves a Chicago courthouse. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images

That's the question News & Notes contributor and Newsweek national correspondent Allison Samuels is asking:

... The reaction to the case raises a host of familiar, difficult issues, starting with the role celebrity can play in a criminal trial. Fame has long affected—or perverted—the way justice is meted out by a jury. The celebrity effect is arguably more pronounced when the defendant is black, in part because African-Americans feel protective when one of their own achieves mainstream success.

"It's sick," says Aaron McGruder, creator of the comic strip "Boondocks," which featured a scathing episode focused on Kelly and his supporters. "The love we have for our celebrities in the black community no matter what they do is crazy, and there is no excuse for it. It's just blind and clueless."

As Samuels points out, blogs like What About Our Daughters fielded a huge response from women following a jury's acquittal of Kelly on child pornography charges.

For her part, What About Our Daughters blogger Gina McCauley says:

"You bet things are beginning to change. Black women are giving up sacrificial lamb duty and we no longer have to rely on mainstream media and the Black Elite Establishment to have a voice."

What do you think?



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

why indeed... perhaps because they might be thinking he could be their future baby[ies]'s papa until of course they realise his cash till is quieting sitting on "E" due to lawyer types dipping into what was left after r.k. had his fun in the sun...

but the real deal here is inherent in Ms. Samuels statement that :..."African-Americans feel protective when one of their own achieves mainstream success." Who is to say that a person who is the progeny of African parentage yet exhibits habits and demeanor of other ethnic groups is deemed worthy to be "communities" inclusive?

Also, what is meant by "mainstream success" and how is this paradigm of so-called success suppose to exempt or indemnify the communities from select parties deemed member's of the communities from their individual acts or actions? Let's be clear. Mr. Kelly's predicament is not so unique. In fact given the extended families tendencies within African families, a whole host of families across all economic and social spectra might just have a family member of either gender with similar tendencies. Perhaps, then this rush to protect "one of mama babies" from the white hand of the law is the collective shame and guilt of not setting one's own individual house in order in this regard for a similar offense. And that, of course, is bigger than the person[s] in the media since it involves one's personal domain. Then it becomes the matter of supporting the media one so as not to deal or bare witness to the true of one it one's own midst.

The problem with being around certain peoples for so long is that one tends to adapt and adopt certain characteristics, habits as well as traits of those others are not innate to one's historical heritage. The problematic is quite compounded when the heritage root is not cultivated and has been stripped for generations upon generations until a point where it is deemed no longer viable or necessary.

Given such a quagmire should we really devote time, energy and space dialoguing about the ones' exposed with means of legal recourse to address their dilemmas contra all those of similarly exact disposition who do not have such means of legal recourse to be media noteworthy.

Maybe it is time to realise that everybody that might be wearing the suit of physical features from the motherland might not be internally so dispositioned to maintain the acculturation of their roots; and hence, as such not quite "family". Given that maybe we should spend more time and energy on making sure the youth are cultured in the morals and ways of the "root" to slowly regain what has been lost along the way in the quest of "mainstream success." For what kind of success is there really in desecration of one similar to the mother that gave you life.

Sent by K MJUMBE | 2:35 AM | 6-24-2008

So far so bad in the African American community. We are not yet committed to practicing transformative actions that would bring us all to a healthier place. Instead, our first thought dealing with a pedophile is to cover up what the person did. We do not want white America to see us lacking. In the celebrity case that fall back position was never an option. No covering up. And yet it is my opinion that the rush to support and show love to the one who done wrong is still a covering up. If we cloak Kelly in loving support that he does not deserve then we cloak ourselves as a reaction to the shame we actually feel because of Kelly's despicable behavior.

Sent by Aisha Gabriel | 9:15 AM | 6-24-2008

Interesting and provocative insights from K Mjumbe that highlight the need for nigrscence (the acquisition of a healthy black identity). Unfortunately there are a myriad of factors that prevent this keen adoption of more discerning standards of attitude and behavior. Here's how the conversation would typically go: I would name some ill or malady and some reader would challenge that because the rationale I provided isn't completely solid and airtight. For example - if I say that much of our situation can be traced back to slavery - someone would bring up 'personal responsibility'. If I say that black people should take more personal responsibility - someone will bring up the social environment that stems from slavery and continues to limit even well-behaved black people with outstanding credentials (not withstanding Sen. Obama's recent ascension to be presumptive nominee). So what I will say is this - the situation that we find ourselves in has problems and solutions that are rooted in both internal and external factors. Internal factors include (among others) attitude, behavior, self discipline and restraint, etc. External factors include entrenched discriminatory race-based practices from inequitable educational, employment, and medical treatment opportunities to a focus and glorification of disparaging images and portrayals in entertainment that continue to negatively influence the perception of black people domestically and internationally (Grammy for 3-6 Mafia's "It's Hard Out here For A Pimp?"). Obviously - a 100% solution to either the internal or external factors will not repair the one that is unaddressed. It takes a comprehensive approach to both. That said...from a sociological perspective, it's hard not to argue that the powerful and longstanding environmental forces are more insiduous and dangerous than the internal issues. I say that because under most any social development, even if/when the mistreatement stops - there are often a host of unresolved mental and attitudinal issues that need to be addressed and healed. If you beat a man to within an inch of his life and stop...don't expect the man to be able to get up and resume with life as usual. there is medical attention that needs to be administered, healing time, and if the beating was exceptionally brutal as well as unprovoked, that individual may need both counseling and assurances of protection to even begin to be able to assume the semblance of a normal life, let alone raise a hmentally healthy family. When yu compare this scenario witgh what has and continues to occur within the black community, both here and abrood (as the world impassively watches Darfur's genocide)the black community gets the clear sense that a double standard exists when it comes to domestic and international values placed on life that is clearly based on ethnic lines. Until this world view changes - that is the environment - no amount of well meaning, well-thought, well-behaved African / African Americans will be able to reverse the general nature of the environment.

Sent by whole9 | 9:31 AM | 6-24-2008

I wrote a blog post about this very subject at Basically, my theory is that Black women, arguably the most vulnerable of America's citizens, in terms of economic, racial and political marginalization, are so used to getting the raw end of the deal instead of identifying with the victim and thus realizing that they are open to attack they hold on to this Superwoman image.

The Superwoman image allows Black women to feel powerful, as if they can handle anything, because they are inherantly stronger than other women, but that is damaging because when one of us is truly victimized we want to blame her for being weak. She has somehow brought this pain upon herself, even if she is a woman/child. If Black women can blame the victim they can pretend that they are not living in a racist,sexist and classist environment that has no regard for their safety or well-being. That is a hard pill to swallow.

Sent by Shanna Miles | 9:41 AM | 6-24-2008

It's NOT so much as support R. Kelly, but here's one black woman who thinks R is guilty, BUT because of the piss poor job done by the "prosecutor," R's a free man. Blame them as well! This man got off also because the jury was NOT totally convinced with the evidence presented. Go back, get your case solid, and get this creep. When charges are brought, it is up to the prosecution to PROVE BEYOND reasonable doubt, that someone is guilty of what they are being accused of. This just did not happen. Not to mention, BOTH major players were stating it was NOT them in the video, although family members admitted it was the girl at the time. This obviously was not the air-tight case that people thought it would be and I told folk that R. Kelly would walk. So hell no, I do not support R. Kelly and he will slip up and do this again, if he is guilty.

Sent by D. Gilchrist | 9:45 AM | 6-25-2008

What the hell? Why did so many black women support R.Kelly? Aren't black supposed to support "the poor black man" no matter what - even when it's wrong.

Get the hell out of here. You know the dynamics of "protecting the black man" in the black community. Why are you pretending that these women haven't been mislead and directed men???

Sent by M. Wilson | 12:46 PM | 6-26-2008