R Kelly and Gayle King photo sparks an important conversation about black women

R Kelly and Gayle King photo sparks an important conversation about black women

Gayle King’s explosive CBS interview with R Kelly after he was charged with ten counts of aggravated sexual abuse was a study in emotion, and one particular part of the almost-two hour interview is getting a lot of traction online.

People have been sharing a CBS snapshot of a moment in which Kelly, overcome with emotion, stands up from his chair and dramatically proclaims his innocence.

In the photo, King remains seated with her legs crossed and a neutral expression on her face. Kelly stands in front of her with his hands in the air, crying and shouting: “You’re killing me. This is not about music. I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids. And I can’t do it. Y’all just don’t want to believe the truth.”

His outburst, and in particular the image of him standing over a composed King, has become an important takeaway from the interview, and launched conversations online about race, black women and abuse.

People are praising King for her control and poise in the face of Kelly’s emotional outburst.

Others are calling the photo 'iconic'.

'A Renaissance painting.'

People used the opportunity to celebrate strong black women.

Others scrutinised the narrative of the 'strong black woman.'

The ‘strong black woman’ stereotype, which assumes they are naturally strong, resilient, self-contained and self-sacrificing, is actually detrimental to a woman’s mental health.

According to the NHS, black British women are more vulnerable to experiencing mental disorders like anxiety, depression, panic and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Marverine Cole’s BBC Radio 4 documentary Black Girls Don’t Cry takes the cliche and dismantles it by talking to black women about what it means to them, and how it impacts their day to day lives.

Washington Post reporter Caitlin Gibson talked about the double standard of the way female expression of emotion is perceived (hysterical) and male emotion (as legitimate).

And Kelly's demeanour is for many, a reminder of the dynamics of power and control.

Gayle’s interview aired on CBS News on Wednesday morning, and she told colleagues that she did not feel in danger at any time during the interview. She added: “I felt he had a lot of emotion and he wanted to release it.”

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