Just days ago, mainstream media was actively rooting for Black women with a steady stream of think pieces noting how the sex abuse conviction of R. Kelly showed the jury that found him guilty believed the Black women who the disgraced singer violated in unthinkable ways.
The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, NBC News, USA Today, the Guardian and, of course, the Chicago Sun-Times — thr latter of which broke allegations of Kelly’s pedophilia decades ago — had a fine blend of news reports, analysis and opinion pieces prioritizing Black women in the days following the widely expected guilty verdict.
But now, news outlets have decidedly switched that tune — literally and figuratively — after it was announced Thursday that Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Mary J. Blige will be joined by Dr. Dre to perform in the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show, one of the biggest and most anticipated sporting events on the planet.
In a twist, the same media organizations that devoted so much content just days earlier to honoring Black women following Kelly’s verdict were now celebrating the good Dr. Dre despite — as many of his fans know well — his very real and brutal history of domestic violence and abuse against Black women, in particular. Absent in the lion’s share of the coverage of the Super Bowl halftime show was any mention of Dre’s abusive past and the tone-deaf irony of announcing his selection days after the criminal conviction of Kelly.
There is also the question of why mogul Jay Z — whose partnership with the NFL puts him in charge of the Super Bowl halftime show and who has frequently collaborated with Kelly and Dre well after their abusive ways were established — would choose Dre for the show knowing that the abuse of Black women was fresh on the collective consciousness of Black people following Kelly’s conviction.
It was all a bit too much to reconcile for critics on social media, the only place the debate seemed to be taking place as people sounded off on the mixed messages being sent to a society that looks down on one man for abusing Black women while looking up to another who has admittedly been guilty of similarly reprehensible behavior.
It begs the question: Is one form of abuse more tolerable or acceptable than the other?
The obvious answer, of course, should be no. But sometimes actions speak way louder than words ever can.
Without factoring Dre’s contentious relationship with his apparently still homeless daughter, let’s take a look at the facts surrounding his relationships with Black women as we know them, in chronological order.
Dee Barnes, a media personality and former rapper, was in 1991 the victim of a violent assault by Dr. Dre, who beat and kicked her while attempting to throw her down a set of stairs because of her association with then-rival rapper Ice Cube. According to Barnes’ own statement at the time, Dre punched her in the head multiple times and began “slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall.” Barnes brought a $22.75 million lawsuit against Dr. Dre, which was settled out of court with the famous producer paying just over $2,000 in fines and serving community service.
Around that same time, Dr. Dre fathered a child with singer Michel’le, who told the New York Times that he once left her with “black eyes, a cracked rib and scars” from what the news outlet described as one of many violent encounters between the married couple. Michel’le’s biopic on the Lifetime network, “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le,” spotlighted that abuse that Dre has acknowledged.
Michel’le also claimed that Dre once pulled a gun on her after the two got into a very heated argument, and missed shooting her by just a few inches while she was running to the bathroom. She said she believes Dre didn’t pull a gun out just to scare her and had the intent of hitting her with a bullet.
In 2015 — nearly a quarter of a century after first being publicly accused of brutally beating Barnes — Dre issued a brief statement offering a mea culpa for his abuse without explicitly acknowledging any brutality.
“Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life,” Dre told the New York Times. “However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.”
Dre later said he was sorry.
“I apologize to the women I’ve hurt,” he said. “I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”
Notably — and ominously — Barnes responded to Dre’s apology by saying, “I hope he means it.”
Barnes got her answer more than five years later when Nicole Young, while initiating a divorce from Dre, said in court filings that her then-husband “held a gun to her head on two occasions, once in 2000 and again in 2001,” ET reported at the time. “She also claims that he punched her in the head/face twice, as well as kicked down the door to her bedroom when she was allegedly ‘hiding from his rage in 2016.'”
Young called Dre’s denials of the abuse “lies” and described in court documents how Dre “verbally and emotionally decimated my personhood to the extent that I currently suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
Young specifically addressed the abuse she said she suffered at Dre’s hands.
Asking the court to consider Dre’s “long-term abuse,” Young referenced what she called Dre’s “relentless campaign of abuse and control over me for more than half of my life.”
Young added later: “It is misleading, revolting and insulting for Andre to suggest that I have not been abused because, as a victim of relentless abuse and isolation, I did not create and maintain a contemporaneous record of abuse inflicted on me.”
Honestly? Nothing, probably.
Other than 1) the Super Bowl halftime show going on as promised with Jay Z being hailed as a hero; 2) Dr. Dre, who tweeted that the performance would “introduce the next saga” in his career, remaining a celebrated figure in pop culture; and, sadly, 3) Black women being relegated to the background by the media until it is advantageous for them to cover them, like after the R. Kelly verdict.
In that order.