This week, pop megastar Nicki Minaj’s brother Jelani Maraj, 37, was back in court to answer to charges that he sexually assaulted his stepdaughter multiple times a week. If convicted, he faces a possible life prison sentence. The allegations, first reported by the preteen’s brother, who said he witnessed the abuse firsthand, testified that he knew it wasn’t right.
Following Maraj’s initial arrest in December 2015, it was reported that Nicki Minaj posted $100,ooo bail for her brother as well as a cryptic, yet clear, message on Instagram to him: “I love you more than you’ll ever comprehend.”
Since then, it has been rumored, but not confirmed, that Minaj has quietly bankrolled her brother’s defense and is allowing his team to use her name and fame to discredit the young girl accusing him of assault in a bid to cast reasonable doubt on the allegations and get him set free.
They say blood is thicker than water, but damn.
I know there are many out there thinking and typing into someone’s comment section: “It’s her brother; what is she supposed to do?” or “We don’t know what she, the preteen, did,” or “We don’t have all of the facts.” And, my friends, that is the problem.
For far too long, we have looked the other way, made excuses for, rationalized or ignored the sexual abuse of girls by family members, mothers’ boyfriends, boys in the hood and our “molester uncles.”
It’s not OK.
The coldest part about it for me, though, is that it is often other women who rush to the defense of abusers or silence the women and girls who have the courage to speak out. And in Nicki Minaj’s case, her seemingly calculated silence and alleged willingness to finance her brother’s defense speak volumes. The young girl in the case, whom she also knows, gets crushed under the weight of Minaj’s fame and her ability to muster public sympathy for her creepy-looking brother.
The famous “Monster” rapper is now seemingly defending an alleged real-life monster.
For the record, I believe the young girl and her brother. They have no reason to lie or to fabricate a story against a man whom, authorities say, they believed to be a father figure and whose sister is one of the most recognizable faces in hip-hop.
The idea being promoted by the defense is that the girl’s mother is out to extort $25 million from Nicki Minaj in exchange for her silence. Who are we to say whether this is true? However, that is a separate court case for another day and not the issue at hand. I believe the mother may have been well aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it (a phenomenon also not uncommon) and may now be trying to use it for her own gain.
I know many survivors of sexual assault, harassment and abuse; I, too, am one. When the #MeToo hashtag took hold of my Facebook page, I was not surprised by the number of women on my timeline, mostly black, who used the tag not only to stand in solidarity with other survivors but also to jump-start a conversation about sexual abuse and harassment in the black community.
The conversation, which I believed was long overdue and I was hoping for, never happened.
And I know why. Those of us who are survivors know that we will be called liars or silenced by the very people we are hoping will come to our defense and fight for us. Regardless of our age, or the age we were when the abuse occurred, we will be called hos, thots, gold diggers or fast, or be told to shut up.
When we silence, blame or look the other way when brown girls are abused or violated, it sends the message that they don’t matter, and that anyone can harm or violate them without accountability or consequence. For sure, we cannot sacrifice the girls and young women in our communities in order to protect the men and boys who are causing them harm.
C. Nicole Mason is the author of Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey From Nothing to Something in America (St. Martin’s Press). Her writing has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Politico, The Nation, Marie Claire magazine, USA Today, Essence magazine and the New York Times, among other outlets. Most recently she delivered a well-received TED Talk at TEDWomen on “The Courage to Disrupt” and “The Gift of Being Difficult.”