Upon the release of Lifetime's documentary series "Surviving R. Kelly," the singer's history of physical, mental and sexual abuse was aired out for the world to see.
The series inspired a public reaction equal to revelations during the #MeToo movement. Popular artists like Chance the Rapper, Ciara and Celine Dion all pulled past collaborations with the singer in attempts to distance themselves from his brand, and activists from across the board demanded a criminal investigation into his crimes.
It can be argued that this reaction is only possible because of the momentous impact that the #MeToo movement had on modern society. In its height in 2017, survivors of sexual violence and abuse, no matter the status of the abuser, were being believed and supported more than ever before. However, this was an extremely new sociological development, as historically, survivors were met with disbelief, slander and even harassment by the public and media if the accused was someone of power or notoriety.
This, perhaps, is why R. Kelly was able to abuse so many people over such a long span of time.
Although this uproar is a huge victory for humanitarians everywhere who fight for the rights of victims of sexual violence, there are still some who defend Kelly for the impact he had on the music industry.
Rapper French Montana in a statement to TMZ commented, "All the greats went down like that. Let somebody enjoy their legacy. Whatever happened, happened."
While the artist later backtracked after media complaints, this attitude is indicative of a cultural phenomenon that is much more dangerous than it might seem.
The truth is, people will often times choose their own superficial happiness in the form of music over any moral imperative they may feel in regards to sexual violence.
Evidence of this is riddled throughout the music industry. Artists like Chris Brown, XXXTentacion, 6ix9ine, and Kodak Black are all stubbornly supported by their earlier fans, even after victims come forward with stories of abuse, and sometimes even after they have been incarcerated for their actions.
Common excuses like, "We don't really know what happened," "She's probably just trying to get a settlement out of this" or "Separate the artist from the music" are employed to defend these artist's cheap rhymes, unoriginal style, and barely intelligible flow.
Each of these kinds of statements is proof that while the #MeToo movement has bought us leaps and bounds from when stories of Kelly's wrongdoings first came to light during the height of his career, society has a long way to go before it's free from a culture designed to silence survivors of sexual violence.
As hard as it may be to accept, people would rather go on living their lives in a delusional bubble that all of their favorite celebrities are also the holiest of saints than press "delete from playlist" on Spotify.
While this may seem a little extreme, simple actions like this are each a step towards creating a safer society. The longer we make excuses for abusers merely because we're not face-to-face with their victims, the longer it'll take for their voices to be heard.
More and more nowadays I wonder why it's so difficult for people to just do the right thing.
Music has always been one of the most direct ways for me to connect with myself spiritually. While not everyone may feel the same way, I still can't imagine how someone's perception of lyrics about getting ample amounts of pussy isn't displaced by knowing the performer sodomized their partner with a knife.
Regardless of whether or not someone's connection to a song is changed by allegations, we still need to do better as a society.
The reality is that these people threaten, directly or indirectly, the rights of women—especially women of color— and rape and sexual assault victims.
So before you pull out a weak-ass excuse for three minutes of cookie-cutter hype music, consider what those communities mean to you and how you can play a part in supporting them.