Sexual violence and abuse is a difficult but crucial topic to discuss with children and teenagers — whether that kid is a celeb kid or a mere normal like us. But singer-actor Jada Pinkett Smith decided to watch Surviving R. Kelly alongside her daughter Willow because she knew it would spark an important conversation between her and her daughter — and she hopes other parents will consider doing the same.
Pinkett Smith first addressed the documentary in an Instagram post on Friday. “I just watched [Surviving R. Kelly] with my daughter Willow. It was tough to watch but deeply important. It brought up A LOT for us both,” she wrote. “Mothers and fathers … it’s tough content, but it’s important we have conversations with both our daughters and sons around the many issues in this docuseries. It’s well done and makes it clear that we gotta do better … in so many ways.”
Although most parents can hopefully agree it’s important to talk about sexual abuse and the issues raised in the documentary, a number of commenters expressed doubt the women interviewed were being honest. (People reports that Kelly plans to “sue everybody” involved in the documentary.) This, along with the news that Spotify’s streams of Kelly songs increased by 16 percent after the documentary’s release, prompted Pinkett Smith to post a follow-up message to Instagram on Sunday.
“I’m having a really difficult time understanding why. But I think it’s important that I understand why. I really would like for you guys to help me understand what I’m missing,” Jada said in the video clip. “Even if I’m missing something that I don’t necessarily agree with. I just want to understand what I’m missing.”
After a brief pause, she addressed a heartbreaking reason that has been discussed by many in the wake of the documentary: Black victims of sexual abuse are taken even less seriously than white girls and women. “I really don’t want to believe that it’s because Black girls don’t matter enough,” Pinkett Smith said. Then, after a pause, she asked: “Or is that the reason?”
As reported by Vice, sex crimes against Black women receive less media coverage than those committed against white women and these women’s stories are frequently ignored. As an example, the #MeToo movement actually began over a decade ago, and it was spearheaded by survivor Tarana Burke — but it didn’t become a national phenomenon until Alyssa Milano tweeted about it in 2017.
Surviving R. Kelly is an important documentary for all parents to watch with their teenagers — and white mothers and fathers should also use it as an opportunity to talk to their kids about the additional barriers Black victims face when they are the victims of sexual violence. The sooner teens learn the importance of allyship, the better.