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As the #MuteRKelly campaign gains steam, will black women finally get their #MeToo moment? Boston Globe columnist and associate editor Renee Graham explored that question in a recent column for the paper, and spoke with CBS News about black women’s struggle to get the justice they seek against sexual abusers. Graham cited the accusations against R. Kelly as a high-profile example; the singer has been battling allegations that he has sexually abused women for years, and yet fans still flock to his concerts.
Graham suggested that race plays a larger role in harassment cases than people may realize. In sobering comments at the Cannes Film Festival this week, actress Salma Hayek said Harvey Weinstein specifically pushed back against her and Lupita Nyong’o’s accusations because “We are the easiest to get discredited. It is a well-known fact. So he went back, attacking the two women of color, in hopes that if he could discredit us.”
“I think it was obviously a provocative statement, but I think she was correct,” Graham said in an interview on CBSN. “If you look at what has happened for the last two decades with the women who’ve accused R. Kelly, all of whom are women of color, you know, their claims have gotten no traction compared to what’s been happening in the last eight months or so now. So there is something to that. I think [Hayek] was right when she says that women of color generally aren’t believed and if people listen to them, they’re easier to discredit.”
In her column, “Black women are waiting for their #MeToo moment,” Graham theorized about why the accusations against R. Kelly have not gained momentum while other powerful men have been taken down. She said that Weinstein’s accusers were celebrities, whereas R. Kelly’s accusers were “not well-known — they’re anonymous. … It’s easier for people to turn away.”
She continued, “For years and years, people have been talking about R. Kelly, but not just talking about R. Kelly, but making jokes about R. Kelly. Dave Chappelle has made jokes about it. Chris Rock has made jokes about it. In a way, they’re sort of treated it as a joke, but it’s not a joke to these women who are making these accusations.”
Graham also said that in the black community, there is the added sense of responsibility to uphold R. Kelly’s reputation.
“There is a sense that he’s a successful man and that you really can’t drag down a successful black man and what does it say about you as a woman, if you’re going after a black man,” Graham explained. “We saw that with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. We saw that in recent weeks with the singerand the fact that they had an abusive relationship. There was a lot of blowback because the sense was, ‘Why do you have to talk about that? Why do you have to drag him down when he’s successful?'”
Graham pointed out that even though there is the #MuteRKelly social media campaign, “R. Kelly is still doing his concerts. He’s still got his fans. And there’s a little bit of movement, but we have to really wait and see what will come of this.”
Graham said she is hoping the movement against R. Kelly will gain momentum, and in particular, that the legal system will work on behalf of his accusers.
“I don’t see the point of a woman getting up here and lying about this, because they know there’s going to be a backlash for speaking out,” she said. “I’d like to see some legal recourse for what they’re doing.”
Recently, Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora announced that. The Time’s Up organization recently took aim at Kelly is pushing for further investigation in to his behavior. Time’s Up also called for action from RCA Records, Kelly’s label; Spotify and Apple Music, which stream Kelly’s catalog; and Ticketmaster, which has sold tickets to his concerts.
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