June 14, 2008: an article in the New York Times was published, R. Kelly Is Acquitted in Child Pornography Case. The starting paragraph is powerful, "It took more than six years for prosecutors to get the R&B star R. Kelly into court on charges of child pornography. It only took a few hours for a jury to declare him not guilty on all 14 counts." The evidence against him was almost insurmountable, with over 14 witnesses being able to identify the girl in the video and R. Kelly. However, all but one could not identify them together. Kelly's defense team called the woman a liar and an extortionist and compared her to "literally Satan"- saying that because she had stolen his watch she was clearly trying to pursue his money.
Although she is not entirely blameless, as theft is a crime, by dismissing the overwhelming evidence that this girl had been groomed by R. Kelly since she was 12, and the video evidence that their relationship was sexual in nature by the time she was 17, R. Kelly was given the O.J Simpson treatment: give him the benefit of the doubt because of who he is.
In the late 1990s and mid-2000s, during Kelly's peak in his career, multiple other allegations would surface with the most famous being his marriage to the then 15-year-old singer Aaliyah. Although we will never know if the marriage and relationship were consensual, and if he truly did not know about her age because "she had lied to him about being older", what we do know is that many industry professionals and former flings have talked about his interest in under-aged girls.
Fast forward 10 years, and we see R. Kelly struggling to maintain relevancy. His shield from the allegations and abuse was weakened by time, and finally, it is the right time to hear about his crimes.
2. R. Kelly scandal: A timeline (CNN)
"Is Chris Brown Single Again?", "Chris Brown Takes Daughter on Movie Date", "Chris Brown Wows in New Photoshoot Pictures". In the light of the R. Kelly allegations, Chris Brown has been cruising through the underbelly of the news. The singer who is no stranger to scandals, especially those regarding assault against women, has seemingly taken the decision to lay low, and when you search his name on the news, you'll get mainly fluff pieces about him and his recent activity.
We all have heard of the 2009 brutal assault against Rihanna, with the singer later recounting the incident on a CNN article, saying, "I was battered, I was bleeding, I was swollen in my face." A police report was later leaked [warning: graphic material] depicting the full account of Brown's assault on Rihanna, with descriptions from witnesses and the singer herself. It made news headlines, and he was eventually served 5 years on probation. 10 years have passed, and often times, if you were to bring up this incident, you may be faced with an angry Brown fan saying, "Oh, it was such a long time ago. He's changed," or even better yet, an attack on Rihanna with racism thrown in. If you're like me and haven't paid much attention to him, then you've probably only heard of how fans are so excited for his next album to drop.
However, what if I told you that Chris Brown hasn't stopped assaulting women since his altercation with Rihanna? An article posted by the Rolling Stones in 2016 provides a full timeline of Brown's past and recent history with assault and battery: Timeline of Chris Brown's History of Violence Towards Women. Incredibly, if you search his name with the key term 'assault' you'll see a plethora of disturbing articles that aren't reaching the front pages of the news. Why is this happening? How is it that people are on a warpath for one individual, but completely ignoring another, equally troubling figure?
The F*cking Problem
Fame comes in many different ways, whether you've inherited money from a rich family lineage and decide to make a sex tape, or reach this elusive platform through talent or luck, fame, especially celebrity fame, means money, decreased privacy, the envy, and attention of the people, and the shield from accusations by avid fans. Fame is what helped the court decision for the O.J. Simpson case to turn a blind eye, fame is what lets celebrities escape time and time again from DUIs, drug busts, and other despicable behavior that a regular person would be charged 10x over for. I realize I sound bitter, and it's honestly not the celebrity's fault either- what would you do if you essentially had the power of invincibility in the eye of the law?
It is us, the consumer's fault, in the end. For making these people famous and for continuing to support them blindly and stupidly through all of their different scandals and racy headlines. But, assault, you say, is vastly different than getting a slap on the wrist for doing coke in a public place. Not to avid fans, it isn't. Even now, decades after R. Kelly was relevant, and after his own daughter spoke out against him, it is still questionable if he will ever face the consequences for his actions. The twitter page, "R. Kelly Fans" still has over 11 thousand followers and averages from 100-1000 likes and retweets on posts. Just like when the scandals first started in the '90s, these are packs of women who still continue to support him and "believe him" despite the heaping mountains of evidence piled up against him.
So, imagine, Chris Brown. Young, attractive, and still in the prime of his career. Untouchable. After all, what's a little assault when his music is good?
It's especially sad when you hear someone who is an avid feminist and survivor of assault themselves, proclaim that their favorite song was from the latest Chris Brown discography.
I'm not saying I'm perfect, at all. We don't truly know (unless you're like really good friends with them or something) who the singers, rappers, and celebrities we look up to, are. It's possible that someone who is seemingly completely innocent could harbor murder in their past, but I believe that when there is evidence available, and there is a call for legal and lawful action, we have a commitment as consumers to keep those things in mind when we add our support for someone.
If anyone in your life starts spouting racist diatribes, or assaults you or someone close to you or actively engages in underaged sex, chances are you'd do your best to separate from them- for your own good, or the good of someone else around you. Why should it be any different if they happen to be famous?