A friend showed me this really disturbing article about R. Kelly, “Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full“. The article is a condensed interview with Jim DeRogatis, the journalist who dug up the story on R. Kelly’s predation on teenage girls. The following are some excerpts from the interview.
This past summer, leading up to Kelly’s headlining performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, DeRogatis posted a series of discussions about Kelly’s career, the charges made against him, and sexual assault. He published a live review of the singer’s festival set that was an indictment of Pitchfork and its audience for essentially endorsing a man he calls “a monster.”
I [Jessica Hopper] was one of those people who challenged DeRogatis and was even flip about his judgment — something I quickly came to regret. DeRogatis and I have tangled — even feuded on air — over the years; yet, amid the Twitter barbs, he approached me offline and told me about how one of Kelly’s victims called him in the middle of the night after his Pitchfork review came out, to thank him for caring when no one else did. He told me of mothers crying on his shoulder, seeing the scars of a suicide attempt on a girl’s wrists, the fear in their eyes. He detailed an aftermath that the public has never had to bear witness to.
And it turns out there had been lawsuits that had been filed that had never been reported.
When you cover the courts in Chicago or any city, you go twice a day and you go through the bin of cases that have been filed and every once in a while Michael Jordan’s been sued or someone went bankrupt and it’s this sexy story and you pull it out. These suits had been filed at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Ain’t no reporter working at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and they flew under the radar. So we had these lawsuits that were explosive and we didn’t understand why nobody had reported them.
“If you are enjoying R. Kelly, you are effectively cosigning what this man has done.”
To be clear, I think Pitchfork was cosigning it. I think each and every one of us, as individual listeners and consumers of culture, has to come up with our own answer. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. The thing that’s interesting to me is that Pitchfork is a journalistic and critical organ. They do journalism and they do criticism. And then when they are making money to present an act — that’s a cosign, that’s an endorsement. That’s not just writing about and covering it. They very much wanted R. Kelly as their cornerstone artist for the festival. I think it’s fair game to say: “Why, Pitchfork?”
I had purposely not listened to his music since the initial charges came out, and I saw these ninth- and 10th-grade girls interviewed on TV, talking about how he was in the parking lot of their school every day and everyone knew how come. That is what it took for me.
Some of our young critical peers, they’re 24 and all they know of Kelly’s past is some vague sense of scandal, because they were introduced to him as kids viaSpace Jam. A lot of your reporting on this is not online, it is not Google-able. Collective memory is that he “just” peed in a girl’s mouth.
…rare is the amount of evidence compiled against anyone apart from R. Kelly. Dozens of girls — not one, not two, dozens — with harrowing lawsuits. The videotapes — and not just one videotape, numerous videotapes. And not Tommy Lee/Pam Anderson, Kardashian fun video. You watch the video for which he was indicted and there is the disembodied look of the rape victim. He orders her to call him Daddy. He urinates in her mouth and instructs her at great length on how to position herself to receive his “gift.” It’s a rape that you’re watching. So we’re not talking about rock star misbehavior, which men or women can do. We’re talking about predatory behavior. Their lives were ruined. Read the lawsuits!
And there was a young woman who was pressured into an abortion?
That he paid for. There was a young woman that he picked up on the evening of her prom. The relationship lasted a year and a half or two years. Impregnated her, paid for her abortion, had his goons drive her. None of which she wanted. She sued him. The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: They are “bitches, hos, and gold-diggers,” plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of. Mark Anthony Neal, the African-American scholar, makes this point : one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different.
No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn’t have a chance.
You told me about the night after your critical review of R. Kelly’s performance at Pitchfork ran, one of these women called you at 2 a.m.
This happens a lot. If you are a good reporter, you are accessible to people and you cannot turn a story off. And that sucks! The number of times since I began this R. Kelly story that I was called in the middle of the night, was talking to someone on Christmas Eve or on New Year’s Day or Thanksgiving. … Yeah, I got a call from one of the women after the Pitchfork festival review. “I know we haven’t spoken in a long time,” and said thank you for still caring and thank you for writing this story, because nobody gives a shit.
It was a horrible day and a horrible couple of weeks when he was acquitted. The women I heard from who I’d interviewed, women I’d never interviewed who said, “I didn’t come forward, I never spoke to you before, I wish I had now that son of a bitch got off.” Jesus Christ. Rape-victim advocates — I don’t believe in God — they do God’s work. These young women who volunteer to be in the emergency room and sit with a woman throughout the horrible process, I don’t do that. I’m not saying I’m even in the same universe. But somebody calls you up and says I want to talk about this, or thank you about writing this, or, “I can’t sleep because I’m haunted, can you hear what I want to tell you?” We do that as a human being. I would like to forget about this story. I’m not saying I’m super reporter. I’m saying this was a huge story. Where was everybody else?
Rapes, plural. It is on record. Rapes in the dozen. So stop hedging your words, and when you tell me what a brilliant ode to pussy Black Panties is, then realize that the next sentence should say: “This, from a man who has committed numerous rapes.” The guy was a monster! Just say it! We do have a justice system and he was acquitted. OK, fine. And these other women took the civil lawsuit route. He was tried on very narrow grounds. He was tried on a 29-minute, 36-second videotape. He was tried on trading child pornography. He was not tried for rape. He was acquitted of making child pornography. He’s never been tried in court for rape, but look at the statistics. The numbers of rapes that happened, the numbers of rapes that were reported, the numbers of rapes that make it to court and then the conviction rate. I mean, it comes down to something minuscule. He’s never had his day in court as a rapist. It’s 15 years in the past now, but this record exists. You have to make a choice, as a listener, if music matters to you as more than mere entertainment. And you and I have spent our entire lives with that conviction. This is not just entertainment, this is our lifeblood. This matters.
I know this is a lot but I suggest you read the interview online. R. Kelly has never been held accountable for his actions. Because of his money and his fame he has been able to continually prey on young girls without any ramifications. They have sued and even in court, justice hasn’t been served. According to the journalist, most of the families settled. Why? Because there was no support. No one else cared about these young girls. People cared about R. Kelly because they idolized him. They felt like they had an attachment to him and knew him because of his music. And let’s face it, the families that R. Kelly preyed on we’re mainly working class. I agree with Jim DeRogatis in that no one matters less in society than young black women, especially those with lower socio-economic status.
This article points to the dangers of idolizing famous people. Through their “art” they amass die-hard followers who choose to ignore or erase these people’s reality. It is extremely dangerous because this gives famous people the power to take advantage of real people. To ruin real lives because they have the privilege of stepping out of reality and going back to their famous lives. This article really hurt me. I don’t really know what to say as in terms of moving towards the future. These girls did everything right. They broke the silence, filed suits, but no one was there to listen. And what hurts more is the reality that if R. Kelly messed with a white girl, just one white girl, the story would have been completely different. Well, I guess all I can say is, I do care. And in the future, I will be more critical of the real lives of celebrities rather than just blindly consuming their products.