David McNew/Stringer/Getty Images

Sex & Gender

will we be muting chris brown in 20 years?

January 23, 2019

I hope Chris Brown is in therapy. I say that about everyone because no one comes into this world knowing exactly how to maneuver it, which is why it seems like a lot of people are playing fast and loose with their own lives and well as the lives of others. When it comes to Brown, I’m left with little benefit and all doubt but it may surprise many to know that I used to be one of the droves of fans that defended his abusive ways.

When the news broke of assault on Rihanna in 2009, the first words out of my mouth were “I wonder what she did?” Even after seeing the picture of the battered songstress, all I could think was “must have been bad.” Fifteen-year-old me was a long way from the Womanist I am today. I was a patriarchy princess masquerading as a feminist. My feminism was rigid and pompous, rooted in morality play instead of healing praxis and world re-building. My feminism had terms and conditions and Rihanna had defied those terms for some arbitrary and unimportant reason, so instead of receiving my compassion, all I had to offer was unfounded scorn.

What I’ve learned in the tumultuous decade since November 2009, is to be kinder to my younger self, who was more vulnerable to the deliberate and intricate conditioning that taught me and girls around me that love sometimes was a taste of iron and hollow apologies that are supposed to heal bruises. A lesson I’m struggling to hold onto is to be more patient with Chris Brown fans, but then again, we aren’t children anymore. Have we not outgrown the old ass adage that “boys hurt you because they like you.” No, we haven’t. Not when we have grown ass Black women defending R. Kelly and Brown.

Brown was imprisoned with two associates on charges of aggravated rape and drug violations, according to The Grio. The alleged rape reportedly took place at The Mandarin Hotel on January 15th. Brown has since been released with all charges dropped and he now free to come back to the United States When the report hit mainstream media, there was no double-take. No shock. For someone who had divested from anything Chris Brown years ago, my response was dangerously close to “well, duh!” Brown maintains that the claims are false and is even going as far as wanting to sue his accuser. I won’t speak to his guilt or innocence because I simply was not there, but for the minutes and even hours after the news broke, the gavel had been hit and my verdict was set. This confidence was built on the mountain of abuse claims Brown has racked up but it also stems from a fear of having to deal with yet another Black male abuser that the Black community is primed in defending.

Chris Brown is not R. Kelly. These distinctions matter, especially in the high stakes arena of public opinion and cancel culture. But what is stopping him from that particular path of destruction? Chris Brown endured abuse in his youth just like Kelly did – fact that fans of both musicians like to drag into discussions every time we try to hold these men accountable. In 2016, Brown was sued by his own former manager Mike Guirguis (Mike G) – the one he hired to rehabilitate his reputation post-Rihanna – for a list of infractions including false imprisonment, battery, defamation and breach of contract. Mike G is still trying to get Brown to submit toxicity reports that would prove he was on drugs while employing the manager and thus capable of the violent claims.

I don’t doubt Brown is a haunted human being – any picture of him from the last 5 years is proof enough. That being said, I don’t buy the notion that we should show compassion to abusers because they have experienced abuse. The penchant to not hold people like Brown and Kelly accountable only perpetuates a cycle of abuse that leaves an endless stream of victims and trauma. Women – Black women specifically – experience unspeakable levels of trauma because the world is fine with us being collateral damage for abusive and powerful men. The constant defense only enables them and the Black community has made it an art form because we have had to defend and protect our own from the nefarious forces of white supremacy. Our Black protectionism has locked us in with the predators as we navigate between wanting to protect them from the anti-Black world and wanting to protect ourselves from their predatory ways.

I hope Chris Brown finds therapy. I hope he finds a reason good enough to want to find therapy because as far gone as he is, there is still ample room for him to make his way back. In the meantime, I am unrepentant about my defense of Black women who are immediately met with doubt the way I had regarding Chris Brown’s innocence. The reality is that Black women don’t have the luxury of granting abusive men unlimited ‘get out of jail free’ cards when we’re being abused while the world scrambles to justify our suffering. If anything, it’s Black women that deserve the forgiveness of the Black community, even though it’s unclear what we did to deserve its disdain.