"For Kenyette Barnes, last week was, in a word, strange. After years of rumors and allegations, police in Chicago arrested the singer and producer R. Kelly on charges that he sexually abused four women, three of whom were teenagers at the time.
Barnes is a co-founder of the #MuteRKelly campaign that pushed the music industry, law enforcement and Kelly’s own fans to hold Kelly accountable for what they say is decades of crime against black women and girls, which Kelly denies. The questions started pouring in from news outlets across the country: Wasn’t Kelly’s arrest a victory? How was she celebrating?
But celebrating was the last thing on Barnes’ mind. As details of the allegations against Kelly continue to emerge, and with the ultimate outcome unclear, Barnes wondered: What would it take for America to confront its ugliest and most complicated attitudes toward race, gender and sex, so that the #MeToo movement could finally extend more fully to black women and girls?
'People assume these micro victories — R. Kelly in court, R. Kelly in cuffs — are the endgame,' Barnes told NBC BLK after the media frenzy around Kelly’s recent court appearances abated. 'But for us, this is not a time of celebration.'
Those who want to celebrate, Barnes said, 'don’t understand how much work there is to do, how widespread these problems are, how deep the justifications for them run. Sure, something has shifted, but only some of us are fully awake.'
In the midst of a national reckoning about the treatment of women and girls, some patterns remain undisturbed. Black rape victims remain less likely to see their rapists prosecuted, whether the assailant is a stranger or a member of the family. Black girls are twice as likely to be sexually abused as their white peers. Black children make up 57 percent of those arrested for prostitution and they are a disproportionate share of domestic sex trafficking victims. Activists and experts say those children are more likely to be blamed or silenced when they tell their stories."