The organization is intended to give secular fellowship, provide nurturance and support for nonbelievers, encourage a sense of pride in irreligion, and promote charity in the non-religious community.
I reached out to begin an educational series with one of the, and again if not the, most prominent African-American woman nonbeliever grassroots activists in the United States. Here, we talk about the appropriate placement of blame.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: There are some things coming to light in the general news cycle. What are those things? What are your thoughts on them?
Mandisa Thomas: Most recently, it was the airing of the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which was the documentary of the R&B singer/monster who was preying on women for sexual subjugation and abuse.
Those women were telling their stories. There are still some young ladies who are still living with, who he is holding hostage emotionally and abusing. What is significant, these allegations, and actions, go back well over 30 years.
I remember as a teenager in the 1990s. I remember when R. Kelly first came out. I remember when he debuted the singer Aaliyah. He married her. It was shown that the marriage documents were falsified. He was 27. She was 15.
The marriage documents were falsified to show she was 18. This had been a red flag for years. Unfortunately, these allegations and actions have been denied and ignored. Because he had been investigated for quite some time.
He was hanging around in an entourage. He would get girls. The entourage would cover his actions. There was a succession of lawsuits that were filed against him for emotional and physical harm.
There is a long history of investigations surrounding R. Kelly that would largely be ignored or obscured in the black community because he was so prominent and talented. There is a pathology in the African-American community of blaming young women.
Somehow, it was their fault that they were abused. Also, one of the most astounding parts of this was that when R. Kelly went child for child pornography charges. Many of the pastors in the community were protecting and holding him up as this positive image, which was absolving him of his “wrongdoings” or “sins” that were utterly disgusting.
Jacobsen: How does the playing out of that saga relate to one ongoing with the Covington Catholic High School?
Thomas: I am not sure they’re related per se. But it is very interesting to see how there’s definitely a correlation with patriarchy. Apparently, the young men who were going to the Covington Catholic High School.
They were going to protest a women’s rights event and then ended up accosting some Black Hebrew Israelites, who were just as patriarchal. It is interesting to see the amount of male privilege that we see in society here.
This Administration and President, the people who still have the privilege and seem to be fighting back against that, because they are ‘taking their country back.’ It doesn’t need to be that different.
It is interesting the reaction to the Gillette ad, which encourages critical thought about toxic masculinity. It is interesting to see the pushback from males who already have the privilege. When the idea of reconsidering that privilege and trying to consider others, and reconsider the damage that has been foisted on others’ children at the hands of these guys and men, it is just such an offense taken to it.
We are seeing the level of pushback. People tell their stories.
Jacobsen: In terms of two levels of analysis, individual and collective, around policy, what can individuals do if relatively safe for them? What would you recommend for others at a larger scale in dealing with some of these issues?
Thomas: Firstly, there does need to be the reminder of what has been going on and listening to people tell their stories and, hopefully, in the near future there will be some form of restorative justice; that will be taken against the people who commit these heinous acts and then excuses not being for them.
Certainly, listening is the first step. It is trying to figure out what the root of the problem is; there needs to be some form of retribution on behalf of people who, certainly, should know better.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa.
Thomas: Thank you very much.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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Image Credit: Mandisa Thomas.