CeeLo Green and the cycle of celebrity rape apology

rs_1024x759-131120115316-1024.cee-lo-green-courthouse-112013So. CeeLo.

We’ve been here with famous men so many times that anything that can/will be said won’t be new. He (allegedly) drugged and raped a woman, and having not been charged with the rape but found guilty on charges stemming from the drugs, took to Twitter for a reprehensible series of tweets that cast serious doubt over his innocence. His actions? Disgusting. His words? Indefensible. His apology? Not worth a damn. His future? In all likelihood, this moment will pass, he’ll continue making music, and fans will remember this as a “regrettable” blip in an otherwise stellar career. Future generations will wonder how we reconciled our love of his artistry with his destructive actions, as they do the same with their own icons.

Rinse. Repeat.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can actually take a stand. But we’re cowards.

CeeLo is accused of drugging a woman an raping her. He pleaded guilty to the drug charges, but wasn’t charged with rape due to insufficient evidence. But if you read through his tweets, it’s hard to believe he didn’t commit rape. He (very likely) lived those lyrics that landed Rick Ross in so much trouble last year. That anyone would have to wrestle with whether or not to continue supporting him in light of all this is laughable. But we find it “difficult,” as if it’s the fans who are the victims, not the woman he (allegedly, but very likely) raped. As if the crisis lies in whether we can still enjoy his music, not in the drugging a woman and then espousing bizarre views on what constitutes rape that seek to absolve him of any wrongdoing. We, the listening public, are not the ones suffering. But we do have a responsibility.

Stacia L. Brown (who everyone should read all the time because she’s one of the most amazing writers out there) lays it out over at Medium:

It’s when when we are made aware that we grapple with the question of complicity. Our ticket and album sales and word of mouth helped the artist’s star rise and now he is using that celebrity to abuse the people he attracts with it. When we vow to delete an artist’s music or boycott all his future endeavors, we are renouncing our role in his success. We are saying his actions have given us no choice.

CeeLo’s verses on “Live at the O.M.N.i,” “Fly Away,” “Distant Wilderness,” or “I Refuse Limitation” don’t have to suddenly become less meaningful to us, but if our relationship to him doesn’t drastically change going forward after these latest revelations, we’re continuing this cycle of publicly coddling rapists/rape apologists that helps no one, least of all the actual victims.

I get it. We don’t want to believe that the people responsible for bringing us joy, defining our emotions, helping us through trauma, and/or inspiring us through their art are capable of such harmful actions. But haven’t we been here enough times to dispose of that mythology? When do quit feigning naïveté?

Sure, things are shifting some. We’ve (kinda sorta) decided to stop supporting Woody Allen and R. Kelly. It took decades, but we finally got there. We can’t afford decades this time around, though. We have to show CeeLo just how harmful his actions and words were. We can’t make excuses because of his musical genius. We have to let his (alleged, but more than likely actual) victim know that she matters. We must demand a public reckoning for CeeLo around his actions and follow-up that shows he has learned a real lesson and will use his platform to engage the work of ending violence against women (make donations to women-led anti-violence organizations, commit to learning more about sexual assault and speaking to/education boys and men on the issue). 

And until those demands are met, we can’t support any of his endeavors. We have to make sacrifices if things are going to change. We all have to carry the weight.

MychalMychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon. As a freelance writer, social commentator, and mental health advocate his work has been seen online in outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Al Jazeera English, Gawker, The Guardian, Ebony.com, Huffington Post, The Root, and The Grio.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon.

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