But I truly believed that because he was famous and his accusers were primarily poor and working-class Black girls and women, he would escape accountability forever. I was wrong.
I do not wish to minimize the significance of this moment. And yet, the fact that it took this much effort and dozens of allegations — many of which eerily mirrored each other — gives me little hope that this trial and conviction will significantly change how we as a society treat Black girls and women who are sexually violated.
This verdict finally confirmed what some of us railed against for years, what many enabled and what others suspected but chose to ignore. While I will never discount what resonates as “justice” to those who survived R. Kelly, it incenses me that it took nearly three decades’ worth of allegations for the criminal legal system to offer some semblance of accountability for the harm this man caused. The reality is that for Black female victims of sexual violence, the criminal legal system will often fail them, as may their communities. If anything, this trial confirmed the steepness of the climb.
So, while this verdict is not a turning point, it can be a galvanizing moment for those who want to join the fight to end sexual violence against Black women and girls. The first step for many of those new to this fight is coming to grips with the ways we collectively enabled sexual predation. We must commit to doing better by being honest about all the ways we fail Black girls and women.