R. Kelly's accusers say time is finally up. Will he be the next Bill Cosby?

Here we go again. Infamous R&B star R. Kelly is back in the news again following a civil lawsuit and a new criminal complaint with the Dallas DA's office. The civil lawsuit alleges Kelly "knowingly infected" a 19-year-old woman with an incurable sexually transmitted disease and was "grooming" her to become part of his "sex-cult" harem.

The latest accusations follow years of reporting and allegations against Kelly. But this time, the charges seem to be causing some blowback in Kelly's own camp; several of his long-time supporters and even his attorney have deserted him in the past few weeks. In another big sign of real backlash, influential morning radio host Tom Joyner announced he will no longer play Kelly's music. (Through a spokesman, Kelly "categorically" denied the latest allegations in a statement sent to The Washington Post).

Hopefully, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end for the 51-year-old artist. The timing certainly feels right. On April 26, Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, bringing an emotional end to a case that helped spark a renewed effort to bring abusers to justice.

But the question I have as a black woman is why has it taken us so long to bring these types of men down? Although Cosby has now officially been found guilty of assaulting one woman, there are dozens more who say he also tried to assault them. R. Kelly another egregious example of how long it can take for accusations to make a dent in public opinion, given that his pattern of behavior also stretches back decades.

R. Kelly through the years
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R. Kelly through the years
CHICAGO - DECEMBER 20: Embattled R and B singer R. Kelly (C) heads to court December 20, 2002 in Chicago, Illinois. Kelly faces 21 counts of child pornography stemming from a videotape that surfaced, allegedly depicting the singer having sex with a minor. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
R. Kelly performs at The United Center in his hometown, Chicago. 05/15/99 (Photo by James Crump/WireImage)
R. Kelly (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
NEW YORK - JUNE 10: American recording artist, songwriter, record producer and former professional basketball player R. Kelly doing a signing on June 10, 1992 at the BMG Distribution Conference Room in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)
Singer, R. Kelly on stage during a concert at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. (Photo by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
NETHERLANDS - APRIL 01: Photo of R KELLY (Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns)
NETHERLANDS - APRIL 01: Photo of R KELLY (Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns)
8 Feb 2002: Singer R. Kelly performs at the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
BARTOW, FL - JUNE 6: Florida attorney Diane Buerger (R) argues for bail for R&B singer R. Kelly (L) at the Polk County Courthouse on June 6, 2002 in Bartow, Florida. Judge Karla Wright decided on $750,000 bail and Kelly waived extradition and will be sent back to Illinois. (Photo by George McGinn/Getty Images)
ROSEMOUNT, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: (FILE PHOTO) Singer R. Kelly performs at the Rosemont Horizon on September 25, 1994 in Rosemont, IL. R. Kelly, was arrested on a warrant alleging 12 counts of possession of child pornography on January 22, 2003 in Miami, FL. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
DADE COUNTY, FL - JANUARY 22: Singer R. Kelly is shown in this police handout photo January 22, 2003 at the Dade County Jail, Florida. Kelly was arrested on charges of child pornography after police found pictures of Kelly engaging in a sex act with an underage girl. Kelly is currently facing child pornography charges in Illinois for a separate incident. (Photo by Dade County Jail/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 15: R. Kelly performs as part of his 2003 Summer tour at the Oakland Arena August 15, 2003 in Oakland, California. R. Kelly is currently touring the U.S. promoting his 'Chocolate Factory' release. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Singer R. Kelly performs on stage at the Vibe Awards: Beats, Style, Flavor at the Santa Monica Civic Center, November 20, 2003 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images) The VIBE Awards air November 21, 2003, on UPN.
LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 21: Singer R. Kelly (R) and guest attend the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls on November 21, 2003 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 10: Singer R. Kelly performs onstage during the 2003 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena December 10, 2003 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 14th annual ceremony airs live tonight on FOX 8:00-10:00 PM ET Live/PT. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Singer R. Kelly arrives at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 8: Singer R. Kelly and guest attend the BMG Post-Grammy Party following the 46th Annual Grammy Awards at the Avalon on February 8, 2004 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 20: Singer R. Kelly performs at the '18th Annual Soul Train Music Awards' at the Scottish Rite Auditorium on March 20, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 29: Singer R. Kelly performs during the 'Best of Both Worlds' tour with Jay-Z on September 29, 2004 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29: Singer R. Kelly performs on the 'Best of Both Worlds' tour with Jay-Z October 29, 2004 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
MIAMI - AUGUST 28: Singer R. Kelly arrives at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards at the American Airlines Arena on August 28, 2005 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - MARCH 04: Singer R. Kelly accepts the Stevie Wonder Award with Stevie Wonder (R) presenting onstage at the 20th Annual Soul Train Music Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on March 4, 2006 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 15: Singer R. Kelly attends the premiere of Chapters 13-22 of 'Trapped In The Closet' at the IFC Center, August 15, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 11: Soul singer R. Kelly and rapper Beanie Sigel pose during the making of Sigel's music video for his single, 'All Of The Above' at the Sofitel Hotel in Chicago, Illinois on October 11, 2007. (Photo by Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Singer/songwriter R. Kelly performs at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 5, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dr. Billy Ingram/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 355 -- Pictured: Musical guest R. Kelly performs on December 6, 2010 (Photo by Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Kelly was indicted in 2002 and subsequently found not guilty six years later on charges of child pornography after he was filmed urinating on an allegedly underage girl. He has also been accused of grooming teenage singer Aliyah in 1994 for marriage and of most recently of meeting his dark sexual needs by creating his own version of a "sex-cult."

Nevertheless, for over 20 years has Kelly been able to thrive as a musician. I believe this is a result of too many of us in the black community turning a blind eye to Kelly's misdeeds. Obviously, white fans have been ignoring his crimes for years too, but the black community should know better.

Image: R. Kelly Appears in Court

To be clear, there's a lot of blame to go around. Activists like #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and the founders of #MuteRKelly have been speaking out about him for years, but have been largely ignored by concert bookers, black radio hosts, black musical collaborator and the black fans who attended and continue to attend his concerts. In total, Kelly has sold over 50 million albums, collaborated with such greats as Jay Z, Ja Rule, Quincy Jones and Snoop Lion and been nominated for 26 Grammy awards.

Although social movements geared toward protecting women from sexual harassment, sexual violence and toxic masculinity have taken down the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Steve Wynn and now Cosby, Kelly has maintained his innocence, remaining free and relatively unscathed. This is troubling because the superstar is accused of continuing to commit these heinous acts toward women, right now in 2018. But it is also sadly predictable when viewed through a historical lens. In this context, R. Kelly represents a very old phenomenon in the black community. There has long been an expectation that black women will be silent when black men abuse, rape, violate or disrespect us.

This unspoken rule dates to back to slavery. Alice Walker has been writing about this reality for black women for decades. We are never to put black men in danger of being arrested because we all know that law enforcement poses a real threat to their lives. As several black women have noted, we close ranks, we protect our own. Meanwhile, this attitude is being reinforced by the media and politicians who tell black women that our lives really don't matter the way that male lives or white lives do. This gap in coverage is particularly glaring when it comes to the coverage of missing young people.

As S. Lee Merritt, the attorney for R. Kelly's latest victim, told me recently: "I took this case because after reflecting on the 'Me Too' movement, I realized that there is a silent, permissive culture in the black community that facilitates a culture of rape, a culture of misogyny and a culture silence around the abuse of black women."

Merritt is right: It's time for the black community to reflect its complicity, without defensiveness or excuses. And we as black women in particular need to examine why we have not worked harder to push back against the psychological impact of denigrating rap lyrics, sleazy videos and TV reality shows that inaccurately depict black women as violent, foul-mouthed, gold digging, sexual vixens on the prowl.

Image: R. Kelly

I applaud the efforts of black male allies like Merritt and Shaun King and others, but it's not enough. And this is where it gets tricky. Movements like #MeToo are undeniably positive collectively, but black women must not rely on them to achieve justice. Those movements remain focused largely on the protection of white, socioeconomically powerful women — the kind of women who have the power to fight back. In light of this sad but inescapable truth, we, as black women need to police our community ourselves, and not sit back and allow our causes to be co-opted by well-meaning white women — as they are time and again. Remember the suffragist and abolitionist movements of the 1800s? Sojourner Truth was clear, in 1851 when she exclaimed over and over, "ain't I a woman[SN9] ?"

Here is the point: R. Kelly has been a pedophile for years now, and yet his record and concert sales are robustly supported by the black community. Tom Joyner's recent boycott and similar actions from a handful of others in the entertainment industry is a good start commercially. But Kelly will be singing in Honolulu on Friday, and has at least two other shows booked for May.

Ultimately, I am not optimistic that Kelly will join Cosby in the defendant's chair. But that doesn't mean black women can't use our power — and we do have economic, political and social power — to stop men like R. Kelly. The next generation of black women and girls are depending on us.

Sophia A. Nelson is an NBC BLK contributor and author of "E Pluribus One: Reclaiming Our Founder's Vision for a United America" (January 2017).

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