WASHINGTON — It's been more than a week since Lifetime's release of "Surviving R. Kelly," a six-part docuseries that essentially explains how the cult of celebrity enabled an alleged pedophile to stay out of jail and continue grooming children for his harem.
For a quarter century -- dating back to 1994, when at 27, Kelly forged documents to marry his protege Aaliyah, then just 15 -- he has stole the souls of more than three dozen women and girls, many of whom lost their virginity to a grown man twice their age.
They ranged in age from 14 to 35 at the time of their alleged abuse -- fourteen.
We use "alleged" because that's the responsible legal thing to say. But there is video, audio, details of sex acts that obliterate the lines of deviant behavior. And a flat-out pattern of degradation and dehumanization, in which many of these women were starved and said they used urination buckets placed in their locked bedrooms because no one would let them out to go to the bathroom.
Anyone who watched nearly six hours of these courageous women come forward, none of whom were paid for their interviews, and many of whom say they turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars offered for their silence by the singer, can't come away with anything but a hard truth.
R. Kelly is the black Jerry Sandusky. Or, hell, Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach now serving a life sentence for sexually abusing 10 boys, is the white R. Kelly.
Today, one of the great R&B crooners of our time -- a man whose music plays out in the soundtrack of our minds, much like Marvin Gaye did for a previous generation -- has more in common with Kevin Spacey and incarcerated pedophile Larry Nassar, the former U.S. gymnastics chiropractor.
That he psychologically manipulated and molested girls instead of boys should not matter in this society. But it does. That all of the girls were African-American and not Caucasian shouldn't matter, either. But it does.
And that's wherein the rub lies.
See, much of the the black community has participated in authentic conversation about its own culpability in the injustice of these still-young women.
My former colleague, Kelley Carter, an entertainment reporter at ESPN, says she felt guilty for not believing many of them over the years who accused R. Kelly of sexual and emotional abuse -- because she and so many of their black colleagues have seen the pattern of the mainstream, mostly white media, itching to tear down a famous, successful black man at the first site of controversy.
It's almost as if a cellophane wrap covered R. Kelly's crimes in black churches and communities, because the warped thinking was he needed protection from his "people," even though his accusers were also their "people."
But when are we, the white community, going to own up to our own culpability? If you ask around your workplace, gym or school today, you'll find two kinds of conversation about "Surviving R. Kelly." Those who have seen it and those who haven't. Sadly, they often break down along racial lines. Why?
Because for many white people in America, this is a "black story" that happened to "black people." Many of these girls and women were from Chicago's poor south and west sides, from Atlanta's black neighborhoods. They didn't look like anyone's face that Nancy Grace puts on TV, the apple-cheeked kid who disappeared in Aruba, whose death is mourned by society almost as much as her family.
R. Kelly's alleged victims? Let's face it -- "Poor, Black Girls Seeking Fame, Get Mixed Up with R. Kelly, Accused Serial Sexual Predator" doesn't move the needle like all those accomplished, older white women who courageously took down Bill Cosby, a man for decades who also benefited from the cult of celebrity.
Sadly, if it takes a village to raise a child it also takes a village of complicit enablers to steal a child's soul. No telling how many girls and women were scarred because of R. Kelly's "employees" -- his crew responsible for keeping these girls locked up and away from each other so they couldn't share stories and put the evil puzzle together.
But we are all enablers in our own way, by not even understanding how disturbing this story is, how it affects all of us, that's it's not just an entertainment story or something for black Twitter to unpack -- that it's a story about wronged human beings and our inability to hold the "alleged" perpetrator responsible, all of whom happen to be black.
And it depressingly continues.
Nielsen Music reported that streaming numbers for R. Kelly nearly doubled during and after the series. By Thursday of this week, a man whose career should be dead had 1.73 million streams after the sixth episode aired on Sunday. He averaged 1.5 million streams from Jan. 3-6.
Infamy now makes you rich and popular.
If we do nothing else to show our solidarity with all these young women whose dignity R. Kelly tried to take -- whose spirit he tried to break -- we need to stop putting money into an alleged pedophile's pocket. We need to boycott everything about the man" his streaming music, his concerts, his sorry Facebook posts pathetically explaining things to his "real Kells' fans."
When a transcendent singer shows us he is now tone deaf by releasing a song last summer entitled, "I Admit" -- "I admit I did, did, did it" goes the hook -- let's take him at face value and pay him no mind.
It's the least we can do for the girls and women who survived R. Kelly.