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Politics Mondays: R. Kelly And The NAACP by Armstrong Williams

So, how does the NAACP chose to celebrate Black History Month? Among other things, they've nominated alleged rapist, child pornographer and drug addict R. Kelly for their annual image award.

An acclaimed R & B singer, Kelly was charged in 2002 with 21 counts of child pornography after a video that allegedly depicted him having sex with a thirteen year old girl made the rounds. Shortly thereafter a Florida sheriff's detective discovered a digital camera that authorities say depicts Kelly engaging in sexual activity with a minor. The camera was wrapped in a towel and stuffed in a duffel bag in Kelly's residence. That was good for 12 more counts of child pornography, though Kelly's lawyers are trying to get the charges dismissed on a count that the authorities were searching specifically for drugs, not child porn (quite a defense, eh).

He also released an album last year titled Chocolate factory. Apparently it's for his musical work-and not his alleged tendency to poke and prod pre pubescent girls-- that Kelly is being honored. "It is not [R. Kelly] that is being nominated, it is the album," explained NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume. "It's a soulful album. I think it's going to be accepted by people in different ways."

And indeed, the album has generated widespread acclaim and two Grammy nominations.

Unlike the Grammy's, however, which dole out awards purely on the basis of artistic merit, the Image awards celebrate positive role models in the black community. According to the official awards statement, "the annual NAACP Image Awards are given to those who strive for the portrayal of positive images and meaningful opportunities for African-Americans in motion pictures, television and recording." Does R Kelly really fit the bill? Has he presented a positive image of a person of color? Has his behavior shed a positive light on black American culture? Are these the qualities best embodied by our brothers and sisters?

Absolutely not! In case you don't understand why, let me break it down: if you're not allowed to travel without court approval, you don't deserve an image award. If a judge orders you to avoid Michael Jackson (presumably for fear of sharing child porn) you don't deserve an award. If you can't keep from continually being charged with child pornography, you don't deserve an image award. See a pattern? There is absolutely no valid reason that R Kelly deserves an image award. Not unless you want to try to make the argument that behavior that repeatedly leads to charges of child pornography and investigations for drug use present a model of striving to be emulated and praised.

Sadly, the NAACP doesn't see it that way. Instead of tossing out the R Kelly nomination, they have decided to let it stand. After some prodding, they admitted to flaws in the nomination process. But that's it. Meaning that 2004 could be the year that a man repeatedly charged with raping children preens around with an NAACP image award tucked under his arm.

How disgusting. Who are they going to nominate for next year's image awards? OJ Simpson?

The NAACP is about protecting civil rights. It's about arousing the country's conscience. Usually they're out doing good. But its disgusting when they become so busy moralizing about brotherhood that they not only fail to find fault in a brother who allegedly rapes children, but they actually give him an image award.

Aren't there enough images of gun toting, drug snorting, black thugs on TV and in the movies? Do we really need to highlight more negative images of black Americans and push them into the mainstream?

These awards are supposed to reward models of excellence. Instead they've become just one more stage to trot out a thugged out gangsta stereotype. How pathetic.

Armstrong Williams can be contacted via e-mail at:

Monday, February 9, 2004

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