Activist Tarana Burke believes that R. Kelly has been able to survive legal and public prosecution for decades, despite public knowledge of his sexual abuse of young Black women, because his victims were not White girls or Black boys.
The #MeToo founder shared her thoughts during a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah.
“I think if R. Kelly’s victims were White girls, I think that if they were Black boys that there would have been a movement against him that would have started and ended 10, 15, 20 years ago,” she said.
Last month, the Times Up movement publicly backed the #MuteRKelly campaign with support from several influential women like Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes. As part of the campaign, Burke was also able to convince radio personality Tom Joyner to stop playing R. Kelly’s music during his popular nationally-syndicated morning show.
“Okay, you got it. I’ll do that right now,” Joyner said. “I won’t play anymore R. Kelly music.”
In response, R. Kelly’s management called the Time’s Up backing an “attempted public lynching” and noted, “Since America was born, Black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it.”
“He symbolizes a greater thing,” Burke told Noah. “There are R. Kelly’s in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our schools, in our churches…he represents a thing that we can’t touch…we can’t stop. We cannot get people to pay attention to the plight of sexual violence against Black and brown girls. And R. Kelly is a perfect example of it. “