Rihanna and Chris Brown are working together creatively, and also rumored to be back together. Click here for more on this.
For those already familiar with the current situation:
First, Let me say this: she is a grown woman. She can make her own choices. Perhaps before we step up to condemn her choice, we might pause to consider the undertones of this discourse that denies Rihanna her right to forgive or engage Chris after his transgressions. It seems to have a strikingly similar undertone to the idea that as a woman, she is not intelligent enough to make up her own mind. And we all know where that logic has led us to, don’t we?
Second, if there is one thing that I learned in my time teaching batterer’s intervention courses, it is that many women do not not always want their male partner to leave, so much as they want the abuse to stop. That is in of itself a tough pill to swallow, especially to those who purport to believe that an act of physical violence in a partnership commands departure and is irredeemable.
However in the real world, a lot of heterosexual women in this country are abused by their male partners and not leaving for a variety of nuanced and complicated reasons, perhaps most obvious among them a legal system and community that will not protect or support them.
So while it’s easy for many to say, “If he hits me I’ll leave” the conditions that intimate partner violence creates are often a lot more complicated. It would seem our overly simplistic and condemning attitudes towards this phenomena may truly reflect how little we understand about the psychological and emotional nature of physical violence and the complexities of how humans conceptualize love.
We may also want to step back and consider how our judgmental attitudes of victim’s choices (“Why you didn’t leave? It’s your fault!” “You went back? How could you be so stupid?!” ) contributes to increased feelings of shame for many women and men who don’t feel they are able to leave, or are afraid to do so, a shame that isolates them further from the community at large.
Third: Should America forgive Chris brown? That question seems to have popped up everywhere. My response to that is:
A. “Will that create safety for Rihanna?“ Yeah probably not, so why is that seemingly every one’s top priority?
B. Forgiveness is for the person who is doing the forgiving. It’s to help them release that pain from their heart. Not for the person who is being forgiven to be able to trollop along unhampered by his past choices.
That being said, I don’t believe that we should be rushing to ask a culture where violence against women is so endemic to quickly forgive what Chris brown did. When you hurt someone, you don’t get to dictate the timeline upon which their healing happens.
However, I do believe owning what we have often projected onto Chris (our collective frustration with violence against women) could become a useful channel for us to direct our energies, even as I am clear that Chris made his choices and people being upset with him is just a burden he is going to have to bear.
Fourth: Dear Racism, please recognize the ways in which you subconsciously influence the vast majority to dramatically over enforce and penalize men of color for their transgressions. And when you do that, could you avoid using the “Black hetero men are an endangered species who can do no wrong because Racism is so bad and hetero black men don’t oppress nobody because they are the holy kings of “dick land” theory”?
And could you also, while you are it, maybe come up with some transformative justice models? Models that potentially facilitate community understanding, education, instead of pointless punitive justice?
I know that’s like, all antithetical to who you are an stuff, but If you could do that before lunch that would be so wonderful and you would totally suck a whole lot less. Thanks so much.
Fifth: One of themes that seem to run rampant in the twitter and media discourse is the feeling that Chris has not been accountable to his violence.
Despite serving his sentence, there is a deep sense of rage at what many perceived as his half-witted apology and subsequent reckless behavior. This, in my opinion reflects a broader issue of our culture and our understanding of what constitutes “accountability”.
It also invokes the age old patriarchal question, “Can men change?”
For the former, one has to wonder, if he gave a more “heartfelt” apology would he be excused? Was a more convincing performance all that was necessary? Would that have soothed the rage? What does accountability for Chris really look like? And who should be sufficed here? The general public, or the woman who was a victim of his violence?
For the latter, it is clear to me that men can make different choices. But I do believe we need to ask; will this culture support him in making different choices? Is the culture invested in looking at the psychological roots of what leads men like Chris to make violent choices everyday… and change it? Perhaps not.
And as long as that is the case, using Chris as a projection board for our collective rage at the continued horrific rates of violence against women is not serving us any purpose. Sure it may be ego gratifying, but I feel like a more pressing endeavor could be to look to the many young women and men who have so easily “forgiven” him.
Could this easy “breezy” apologetic attitude be reflective of the reality that we now have a culture where dating violence is normalized? How else do we explain a twitter hash tag #HeCANBeatMe? Not to mention penetrative sex being called every violent word possible (which the remix with Rihanna & Chris portrays perfectly) from “cut”, “hit” “beat it up” “Kill it” and “smash.” Pop songs about love sound more and more like war every day. And that should be frightening to us all.
I feel within this there is an opportunity to engage each other and find out just what exactly is happening in our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and cousins relationships (and our own). I feel there is an opportunity in this mess, to continue to have conversations with our families and communities about violence in relationships, and to query with even more depth how we can create accountability. It has also given us a chance to recognize a phenomena that, in actuality is much more common than we would like to believe.
Follow Yolo on twitter: @YoloAkili
*Shout out to my bestie Moya Bailey, for one of many conversations that led to this post!
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