Shunning R. Kelly As Betsy DeVos Legitimizes Rape | Blog#42
Days ago, the newspapers were awash in stories about Betsy DeVos and her Civil Rights unit head, Candace Jackson, meeting with victims of campus rape as well as a group of accused, and DeVos publicizing her intent to review Obama-era campus assault policy.
Had we not spent the past few years debating not only campus assaults but also assaults in the military and who should prosecute those – both universities and the military prosecute those internally, rather than law enforcement – then it might not be so alarming to hear that a brand new Secretary of Education is looking into things. But the debates on the military and higher education and rape were bitter ones and the compromises that resulted were unsatisfying, to say the least.
We are a nation whose legal system, as enlightened as we wish it to be, remains largely patriarchal. It is no surprise that Judge Aaron Persky became a news item for his leniency with a Stanford student who raped a passed out fellow student he happened upon. Persky is hardly the only judge of that forgiving mindset. The MidWest has seen quite a few cases in which rape victims had the tables turned on them. Over the last few years, our nation was roiled by the comments of many a politician and rich political donor. Who among us doesn’t readily remember Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” flap? What about the “aspirin between the knees” comment by Foster Friess? These comments and the behaviors that stem from them don’t spring from nothing. We have a storied past that we are collectively and largely ignorant of.
What are we to make of Betsy DeVos and Candace Johnson’s statements to the New York Times?
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos signaled on Thursday that she intends to take a hard look at whether the Obama administration’s campus rape policies deprived accused students of their rights, saying that “a system without due process ultimately serves no one in the end.”
The comments, Ms. DeVos’s first on the issue of how the Education Department will handle sexual assault on college and university campuses, came at a news conference after what she called a “really emotionally draining day” of meeting with victims, students who had been accused and higher education officials.
“It was clear that their stories have not often been told, and that there are lives that have been ruined and lives that are lost in the process,”
No matter how “careful to say she intends to protect the victims as well,” these two women are consciously acting to preserve patriarchy and rape culture. There are no two ways about it.
“In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Jackson said that “90 percent” of sexual assault accusations on campus “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”
Ms. Jackson later apologized, called her remarks “flippant” and said they were based on feedback from accused students.”
When we examine the issue of how to end this nation’s rape culture, education, at the foundation, is what will ultimately make the biggest impact. Here, in “librul” California, the ACLU recently successfully put an end to a community’s fight against a backward school district whose idea of sex education was to teach high-schoolers that a woman who isn’t a virgin is like a dirty shoe. This was actually in the kids’ textbook. The textbook also provided no information on sexually-transmitted diseases, prophylactic measures of any kind, or even just the biological processes of sex and reproduction. The ACLU won and the school was forced to return to our century.
As the nation’s top education authority, DeVos is supposed to improve on existing policy. She is rolling improvements back. As the top education authority, DeVos is supposed to protect the vulnerable. She is actively putting them back at risk.
But sex education in this nation is perfunctory in the best of states, and downright harmful in the worst. Nothing about what the best school districts offer goes toward changing young mindsets about sexuality, sexual mores, healthy and unhealthy relationships and eventual parenthood. Why? What do we gain by withholding this knowledge? Who benefits?
R. Kelly and monsters like him benefit. They benefit even more when prosecutors put on huge shows of prosecutions that end in a deadlocked jury but so much press that one can be assured that prosecution will likely never be attempted again. We know Kelly has raped for decades. We now hear that he has several women under his control in a harem? The accusation came from these young women’s parents and the brutal public commentary on their plight demonstrates, quite clearly, that we have a very long way to go in the fight against misogyny and rape culture in America. Like just about every single issue under the current government’s direction, the enemy of those cultures is in charge.
R. Kelly, for those who don’t know, is a talented veteran R&B singer whose reputation has been marred by his sexual predation of very young girls. I do not have the stomach to reproduce or even just summarize his history with pedophilia and child pornography. Others, far more insightful and talented than I have.
Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal re-posted a piece he published about Kelly in 2003, and it is as forward-looking and relevant today, as it was forward-looking and relevant then.
Writing About R. Kelly
“When bootlegged videos of R Kelly Exposed began to appear on the streets of major cities and various links to the “R. Kelly sex video” began to circulate throughout the internet, it was clear that folks were more interested in the R. Kelly angle, than the well-being of the young girl(s) in the video. Lost in the exchange of dollars among websites was the fact that those folks who sold and bought R. Kelly Exposed or who forwarded and opened internet links, were also trafficking in child pornography, and in some ways were no different than Kelly. Such oversights are likely to occur within a culture that valued Kelly’s celebrity over the lives of the young black girls who accused him of having sexual contact with them.
The issue of race was easily glossed over in much of the coverage of Kelly’s sexcapades. Mary Mitchell was one of the few commentators who addressed the significance of the racial identity of the girls as she posits that “as long as [Kelly] is being accused of having sex with underage black girls, the allegations will draw a collective yawn”.”
Going beyond the issues of child molestation, rape, and child pornography, all of which our federal Department of Education and Congress could do much to redress at the foundation level, there are the particular issues of race and the systematic neglect that is applied by American society as a whole, when Black girls and women suffer at the hand of anyone. Non-Black women, while they may be inculcated in a modicum of gender studies, seldom have a measurable awareness of the experience of Black women in America today, and throughout the ages. What of that part of our culture that dismisses prison rape as not only a part of being in jail, but the butt of easy jokes?
If not our education system, whose mission should it be to redress this gap in our collective education? Fill the empathy deficit this nation continues to suffer from? Begin to repair the racial divide? Come anywhere near the point where we can finally have “Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations?”
We already had miles and miles to go before January 2017. Betsy DeVos and Candace Johnson are prepping to catapult us back to the Dark Ages. At the end of this assault of America’s oligarchs on 340 million Americans, the silver lining must be the opportunity to remake our society the way it never was and our founders told us it would be.
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The Village Voice’s account of R. Kelly’s sex crimes against Black female children was a harrowing one for me to read. Yet, if one is to read any one news account, it is the one I recommend: