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R. Kelly case reveals flaws in attitudes, a need to build girls' self-esteem

Allegations of sexual misconduct involving teen girls have followed R. Kelly but not affected his career.

Getty Images (2012)

Allegations of sexual misconduct involving teen girls have followed R. Kelly but not affected his career.

Columbia University professor Jim DeRogatis has issued a challenge to the parents of black girls in America, including me.

Through a Village Voice interview and the power of social networking, DeRogatis, a former Chicago Sun-Times pop music critic, has ignited a new fire over sexual assault allegations against singer R. Kelly that date back to at least 2000. DeRogatis was one of the few journalists who reported extensively on the allegations.

His reports detailed how Kelly allegedly took advantage of young teen girls, luring them in with kindness and then forcing them to engage in degrading behavior that Kelly found pleasurable.

Yet the impact on Kelly's career has been negligible.

Lately, industry officials and music critics have continued to give Kelly a pass, offering praise to his latest sexually suggestive CD, Black Panties. It's true that Kelly has never been convicted, but the allegations involve dozens of girls, some as young as 14, and it has been reported that the court cases and civil suits have never gone to trial because Kelly settled out of court.

DeRogatis argues that the girls, all black, settled because they didn't believe they could find justice.

"The saddest fact I've learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women," he said in the interview. "Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: They are 'b------, hos, and gold diggers,' plain and simple."

And there's the challenge. As we question Kelly's behavior, and the unwillingness of many to hold him accountable, we also must explore the mind-set of young black women, and really all young women.

The plague of human sex trafficking reflects that young women of all races are vulnerable to predators who take advantage of low self-esteem and fragile personalities. The key, as one of my Facebook friends noted, is to empower them and their self-esteem so they're less likely to partake in behaviors that are degrading or demeaning.

We also need women to be more caring and less judgmental when a teen reveals he or she has made a mistake. The blame game does a disservice to the victim and makes others reluctant to come forward, yet I know many women who will question the girl's actions before they question the behavior of the man.

It's, "She should have known better," instead of, "There's no excuse for a man violating a woman's will."

Finally, we need to raise the bar when it comes to pop culture. We have to challenge our young women (and young men) to separate the sometimes horrific lyrics of the rap world and how you should be treated in the real world.

And we can't continue to overlook Kelly's indiscretions.

Understand, he's a talented songwriter. They taught one of his songs to my daughter in preschool and I often refer to it when motivating her.

I'm that star up in the sky

I'm that mountain peak up high

Hey, I made it

I'm the world's greatest

And I'm that little bit of hope

When my back's against the ropes

I'm saddened by all of this, but we'll have to find another song. And if she asks why, I'll have to find a way to tell her.

From truth comes power.

That's all I'm saying.

R. Kelly case reveals flaws in attitudes, a need to build girls' self-esteem 12/31/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 1:53pm]

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