Earlier this week, news broke that R. Kelly has been holding women hostage in one of his rental properties near Atlanta, Georgia. While the embattled R&B star has denied the allegations, it’s hard to forget that he was also accused and acquitted in 2008 of charges of having sex with an underage girl on videotape.
But with the most recent news, questions arise about whether music lovers can support a person’s talent and still deplore their personal acts. It has also returned to the fore criticism of how Black male celebrities are vilified while White men are allowed to go on making money even after being accused of being sexual predators.
Let’s be clear, no one is arguing–at least not in this space– that sexual predators should go unpunished. The point is that Blacks and Whites should be treated equally under the law and in the court of public opinion.
Indeed, some in the Black community believe that even if Black men are more harshly criticized and demonized than White men for being sexual predators, that comparison is irrelevant because they should still be held accountable for allegations against them regardless of whether their business is more impacted than White men who face similar accusations.
Another side believes that because White men have traditionally been forgiven for their predatory acts, Black men should receive the same benefit of the doubt. Additionally, this side also submits that while mounting accusations have been made against Kelly, Bill Cosby, and Nate Parker, none of them have been convicted of a crime.
But let’s unpack the aftermath of the allegations against them. Parker, director of Birth of a Nation who was accused and acquitted of rape in 2001, saw his film plummet at the box office. Parker, whose net worth is about $3 million, enjoyed critical acclaim for the film before the allegations resurfaced, with Fox Searchlight paying a record-breaking $17.5 million for it last year at Sundance Film Festival.
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Cosby, whose trial for sex assault recently ended in a mistrial, saw his brand as a America’s favorite TV dad go up in flames. To be sure, Cosby’s net worth is about $400 million, but he has not seen the same post-scandal success as, say, Woody Allen who was accused of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. At the time, Dylan was not yet a teenager. Allen is currently worth about $80 million and has continued to see success by writing over 20 films since the accusation.
Casey Affleck, who won the 2017 Oscar winner for Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Manchester by the Sea despite an outcry over accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances towards producer Amanda White while filming 2010’s I’m Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix. He also went on to win a Golden Globe Award. The actor and director has a net worth of about $10 million.
So, the question is, are Black men held to a higher standard than their White counterparts when accused of sexual assault? Should we even consider the bias or hold on to wrong is wrong, even if at the detriment of these Black men’s business and the art they provide the culture? Let us know your thoughts in comments.