The Case of the Whatabouts

Lady Gaga issued a beautiful apology Wednesday night for her previous collaboration with Robert Kelly. What is missing from her statement is a walk-back of her defending him in 2013. I’ll get there in a minute. What troubles me most is that in the Twitterverse there are the hoards of Gaga fans saying that she didn’t need to apologize at all; because Gaga is a victim herself of sexual assault, and there are other artists that have worked with Kelly and no one is coming for them. Many believe that she shouldn’t have to apologize for something she did years ago. Well, I call bullshit on that. She absolutely needed to speak out and clear the air.

First, she is an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. Young girls, particularly young black girls for over two decades have been victims of Kelly’s predatory behavior and no one in his circle lifted a finger to stop it or bring him to justice. His career continued to flourish despite being a known child molesting rapist. It is a bit odd to be an advocate for survivors yet defend your work with a known rapist. And yes, Robert Kelly is a child molesting rapist—let’s not get it twisted and call him anything else but that. I have two receipts in case you need them: first, he married a teenager in 1994—a 15-year-old R&B singer, Aaliyah. If you don’t know the story or who she is or her music, you can google it. Second, there was the infamous sex tape with him peeing on a minor. He was acquitted of those charges surrounding the tape, however, if you’ve seen any shots of him on that tape, it is CLEARLY his big ass rock head in that video, so I could care less about him being acquitted (see duck logic: look, waddle, quack=duck). These two instances are well documented and known to everyone in the industry, his fan base, his critics and his detractors. Certainly, at the time of doing that collaboration in 2012-2013, it had to be known to Lady Gaga, right?

In 2013 when asked about working with Kelly, she’s quoted as saying, “R. Kelly and I have sometimes very untrue things written about us, so in a way, this was a bond between us. That we were able to say, the public, they can have our bodies, but they cannot have our mind or our heart. It was a really natural collaboration.” Say what now? It is this problematic quote when juxtaposed with Gaga’s advocacy, that is likely the cause of folks coming for her and wanting an apology or statement in the first place. To be honest, I wish this quote was addressed in her statement issued last night, in addition to the collaboration on the song.

The most troubling thing about many of the folks defending Lady Gaga is the “whatabouts”. “What about all the other artists that worked with R. Kelly? No one is coming for them. Why are folks coming for Lady Gaga?” Look, I am also a fan of Lady Gaga, but we cannot let our fandom interfere with our judgment and need to hold people accountable. I’ve been muting Robert Kelly since 1995. Lack of accountability is what allowed Robert Kelly to flourish and continue to have a career even after marrying a 15-year-old girl and then peeing on a minor on tape. When you get into the “whatabouts” you have missed the point and are attempting to erase the issue in question. It was never about vilifying Lady Gaga but asking her to explain herself in 1. the context of the champion she is now; and 2. that collaboration and the 2013 quote in his defense—because can you be a champion for victims of sexual assault and cape for a rapist?

What about that, indeed.  

afro bo peep

Afro Bo Peep is a teacher and occasional activist/poet. Once in a while, she has opinions she will share with her cat, but the really strong ones, you can find here.

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