Cancel long overdue: Fame, fortune behind hesitation to imprison R. Kelly


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R. Kelly was arrested on Feb. 22 on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Not many have achieved the overwhelming success of R&B singer-songwriter, R. Kelly. With over 40 million albums sold worldwide, Kelly has become one of the biggest stars, with memorable hits including “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Ignition (Remix).”

Since the beginning of his career, Kelly has been surrounded with controversy. With the recent docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” attention has been called to the singer’s past history with sexual abuse against minors, and ultimately resulted in his arrest in Chicago. But this arrest begs the question: why was he not persecuted sooner? Why did it take so long to name him guilty, despite all of the proof that followed him?

It is of popular opinion that Kelly’s amount of fame and fortune has awarded him with privileges which allowed him to bypass the law. Nobody wants to admit that their favorite musical artist is a predator. Kelly’s music inspired many and garnered him comparisons to artists such as Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. When put on a pedestal as a celebrity, it becomes easier to escape the law.

Controversies began when Kelly, then 27 years old, married 15 year old Aaliyah illegally. However, Aaliyah lying about being 18 on their marriage certificate resulted in an annulment soon after. Next came Kelly being sued by ex-girlfriend Tiffany Hawkins in 1996 for emotional distress.

Dating for three years, starting in 1991 when she was just 14 years old, Hawkins filed a lawsuit against the singer for $10 million. Kelly would go on to settle out of court for a mere $250,000, which he would repeat when sued by two more women shortly after. The allegations against Kelly became undeniable in 2002 after footage leaked of him urinating into in underage girl’s mouth and telling her to call him “daddy.”

Despite the video proof, Kelly was still able to escape capture, with the court claiming there was not enough evidence to charge him on. Now, with the recent release of “Surviving R. Kelly,” years later, the court can no longer protect the singer. No amount of money can protect him. It has taken decades to finally defeat Kelly, and his arrest was long past-due.

The refusal to charge Kelly has proven just how much privilege comes with money. Had he not been a celebrity, it can be assumed that the “I’m Your Angel” singer would have been found guilty of these crimes ages ago.

We as a society need to acknowledge the fact that these superstars we cherish are not perfect. When a predator is in plain sight, we must do everything in our power to ensure they aren’t given a pass because of their fame. There is no reason why Kelly shouldn’t have been arrested upon his first accusation. The evidence has been apparent, but we are so slow to cancel somebody that it took a documentary going viral to capture Kelly.