Se-lah: “We Are All Chris Brown: The Difference Between Accountability & Casting Stones”

I have really, really been troubled by the hoopla surrounding Chris Brown, much of which has been reignited by him crying on the BET awards this past week. I also have been really upset and hurt by both his violence against Rihanna and the reactions to his violence.

I have been most disturbed by the medium through which the collective has condemned Chris.

Not because I don’t believe he should be held accountable and called out for his violence against Rihanna, I believe that.The choices he made were horrible and unacceptable.

But what i have been shocked at, and continue to be shocked with, is our increasing compassion-less desire to demonize Chris for his violence coupled with the attempt to distance ourselves from being his reflection. I am concerned with the attempts to absolve ourselves collectively for creating and or contributing to the creation of the cultural climate where the situation with Chris Brown and Rihanna could occur. I am concerned about us elevating his violence to a status that somehow seems to be able to erase the myriad forms of violence we all have enacted and continue to enact, embody and perpetuate every day by virtue of various racial and gendered privileges, citizenship status as Americans, privileged economic realities and psychological, emotional and physical violence against ourselves and others .Just because your fist did not hit a face does not mean somewhere someone, because of your privilege, is not bleeding.

In other words: There are no clean hands here. And it seems we have chosen to forget that Chris and Rihanna are just fruits from the tree; While we must make clear that his violence is unacceptable, denying that we have the same propensity for violence within us and projecting onto him our collective aggression and fear of violence does not strike me as a fruitful endeavor.

Let me make this clear. Chris and his PR camps response to this situation have been painstakingly predictable. From that horrible interview with Larry King, to the troubling “Crawl” video, there definitely is a lack of personal accountability and manipulation that could make anyone raise an eyebrow or loose their lunch.

Yet is it surprising? And considering the dominant narratives for black masculinity in this country, where is he likely to receive an alternative narrative? And how much of this is about Racism? How many white male actors and sport celebrities have done horrible acts of violence to women only to be forgotten by morning?

Perhaps one reason this really upsets me is because in my work, I work with men who have abused women (arguably, all men have abused women in some way, but i digress).

And the one thing I have come to realize is that the men I work with are not monsters. They do not have horns. They are men who have made horrible choices. They are men who have done terrible, sometimes unimaginable things. Yet They are men who love their families in the best way they know how, they are men trying to make the best from what they have. They are men who grew up in a system that gave them a limited outlet for human expression as men and then blamed them for the embodying the varied logical conclusions of that sexist masculinist ideology. They are often wounded children who grew up to be wounded men. They are almost always, like each of us, carrying heavy wounds and beaten hearts. Hurt people hurt people, it could be possible no other way.

And this is not to absolve men of our responsibility.

It is instead an attempt to balance the scales.

Now to forgiveness. Because that has been a topic of alot of discussion. Forgiveness, is first and foremost for the forgiver. If we hold and carry the anger against white people, or men, or able bodied people, it is that anger which festers and grows within us and becomes a siphon on our own spirits. It creates dis “ease” in our own bodies and in our own emotional lives.

I believe It is in our best interest to learn how to forgive and not forget if we are to embrace our full capacity to love and not be hindered by past experiences and disappointments. The collectives choice to “forgive Chris” ( while still not forgetting and making him accountable hopefully) will only happen to the extent the collective can acknowledge our own deep seated violence and forgive ourselves. Am I suggesting the public forgive Chris? Or That Rihanna Forgive Chris? No. I am suggesting that we each make our own choice concerning that.

We also must recognize that unlearning violent behavior is a lifetime’s work. Any one who has ever went through behavorial counseling or any form of intervention knows that change is possible, but it is not easy.

On Compassion: for me, while compassion can be connected to forgiveness, is not always synonymous. Compassion for me means understanding. It means looking within, through and beyond a situation to see/feel the other person as whole. Compassion to me for Chris means recognizing what you don’t know and what you do. You do know That he grew up in our culture, with a rigid masculine concept, and also was a victim of domestic violence. You do know That he is an African American male, which adds another layer of cultural pain and a narrower allotted route for his expression.

Compassion means that even when we are sharp with our words, we use them for the sake of shifting hearts and not inflating our egos, which are often all too ready to help us “other” individuals and self righteously separate ourselves from those who express the most troubling qualities of the human psyche we all possess.

And let me name also, that a large part of our collective response to Chris is undoubtedly connected to the the pain and frustration we collectively share with male violence and our feelings of powerlessness or fatigue with being able to end it. Far to many of us have been victims, present company included, and for most women, this situation is only a marker of the daily lived reality of male “terrorism”.

Yet accountability without compassion is violence. I am not, and nor are you, better than Chris. Chris made a horrible choice. And all of us have the potential to or have already made choices that impacted and hurt others. We are all each others reflection & We are all Chris. And the more we resist our own potential to do what Chris did, (which is not ALL of him, just a behavior he enacted) we are destined to continue the pointless finger pointing that will lead us to more pointless ego centric conclusions.

I dont know why he cried. It could have been a number of reasons. But unlike the seemingly immediate conclusion most have reached that he had to have staged it; I would like to think he may have realized what he has done. I would like to think it was a cry for help that he, like so many black men send out that is unanswered by anything less than condemnation, homophobia and without actual support to be accountable. Whatever it is, I hope we can collectively help Chris do what he must do for the sake of restorative justice to Rihanna, the world, and to himself.

As your mirror,


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