Se-lah: Provocation is A Powerless Concept: On Raz B & Chris Brown

(Photo source: TMZ)

Hours ago, twitter was abuzz with the heated exchange between Chris Brown and former B2k singer Raz B. The tirade began when Raz B tweeted:

“Im just sittin here Thinking how can n**gas like [Eric Benet] and [Chris Brown] disrespect women as Intelligent as Halle Berry, Rihanna.”

In Seconds, Chris brown retorted with: “Nigga you want attention! Grow up nigga!!! Dick in da booty ass lil boy.”

The exchange continued with Raz B questioning Chris Brown’s sexuality, suggesting Chris was on the “Down low” and Chris calling Raz B a “Homothug” and with….well the typical predictable banter that one could expect from an exchange between two black men around sexuality and masculinity. (We see it everyday).

This in of itself is not surprising, or new.

What is equally not too surprising, though perpetually troubling; is the collective twitter response to the exchange. Many Tweeters lashed out at Raz B, accusing him of starting the argument and provoking Chris. Childhood banter of “He started it” and the typical homophobic banter of “Dick in the booty boi” filled the twitter time line.

Others went for Chris; calling him out on his choice of rebuttals to Raz B, using words like “Buttplugged” to describe Raz’s molestation, and mocking him with “aww your butt hurt”.

As with all things, I believe that pop culture offers us an opportunity to see ourselves reflected in those who we enshrine as “celebrities”. And so it is my intention to take this moment, via this exchange between Raz B and Chris Brown, to share and illuminate some of my thoughts about the place where violence, sexual trauma, homophobia and fame intersect.

So. Let’s begin with Raz B.

Ever since Raz B announced that he was allegedly molested by Chris Stokes and forced to engage in sexual acts with members of B2K, his presence in urban music has been one faced with ridicule and homophobia. Raz has created several You Tube videos speaking with fans and recording conversations with various individuals involved in the alleged molestation.

The videos are complex; on one hand we can see Raz B truly struggling with his (alleged) sexual trauma; as well as some (possible) mental health challenges that such a situation could incur. On the other hand the recording of the videos and antics within them suggest that in some way, Raz B may also be, from his place of pain, using this video medium and his fame as a platform for attention. This dynamic is arguably what Chris is referring to in his initial response to Raz B. However if Raz’s reflection on the abuse of Halle Berry and Rihanna was really an attempt to create drama is left open to the interpreter.

Let me be clear; I think Raz B is a young brotha who is having a hard time with alot going on his life. Unfortunately, as opposed to the community seeing this and offering support and accountability; the black media has instead barraged him with homophobic jokes, called him “crazy” ( instead of being compassionate about any real mental health concerns that may be at hand) and focused expressly often, if not solely on his dynamics that seem to be attention seeking.

Sadly, when the black community sees black men in pain and acting out, we still have not learned how to help them. And Raz B is a perfect example. Like, Chris, he too saw his mother abused, and is grappling with a myriad of other challenges. He is not unique in his attention seeking behaviors though; black men in hip hop and R & b often use their music as a platform to communicate to the world their isolation, loneliness, suicidal thoughts and desperation in what i perceive to be a somewhat “subconscious””desire to receive help. But the black community, like the larger American culture; has become so accustomed to “Black Male Self Destruct Porn” that these trials are just business as usual, and perhaps most sadly to some; entertaining.

Chris Brown, who pleaded guilty to assaulting his former girlfriend and media superstar Rihanna, has had his career met with an equally complex mix of challenges. Chris is also a victim of domestic violence, having watched his own mother being beaten as a child. After pleading guilty to assaulting Rihanna, Chris and his PR camp came out with a video and several statements that attempted to “clean up” Chris’s increasingly demonized image; but many felt those videos often fell short of Chris claiming full responsibility.

The media predictably went in two directions; Demonizing Chris as a “monster” or in celebrating Chris’s abuse of Rihanna by using playground politics of “She started it” and the typical sexist banter that “women are bitches” and are deserving reciprocals of violence.

Having worked with Men Stopping Violence, a social change organization dedicated to ending male violence against women for years now, I know that Chris Brown is not a monster; Even though he has done horrible things. I’ve worked with thousands of men who have done what Chris has done and worse; and been able to see first hand that the men who act out violently against women are “everyday” men. They are my brothers,uncles and cousins. They are our bankers, officers, teachers and often ourselves.

(See my full article “We are All Chris Brown; The Difference Between Accountability & Casting Stones for more on this.)

In response to Chris’s angry tirade at Raz B many on twitter said: “I thought Chris went to counseling!” “Isn’t he “fixed?”,exposing the immature American understanding of both behavior change and trauma. With an “anger” issue no-one is ever “fixed”. In “anger management counseling” men can be given tools with which to help them learn better self control and a how to relate in a healthy way to their emotional body, but it is always their choice as to whether to use those tools or not. And like any behavior change, it is not easy. Whether it’s changing your diet or quitting smoking we all should know that.

Holding all the above; when Raz B said what he said to Chris, Chris made a choice to react with anger and homophobia. The reality is that no-one can “make you feel anything” they can only awaken feelings that already exist within you. This does not mean individuals are not accountable to their actions. But what it does mean I believe is that When Raz B said what he said, it’s apparent that anger and frustration were awakened within Chris. In response to that feeling, he made a CHOICE to tweet back angry comments that mock and “comedify” gay sex as something to be ashamed of; a common tactic of homophobia.

The twitter world says he was “provoked”. But provocation is a concept held and celebrated by powerless people who have not learned self control. It is a blaming tactic, designed to absolve the person who enacts violence of responsibility for thier choices. It is commonly seen in how Americans justify many of our actions:

“If you just wouldn’t do THIS, I wouldn’t do THAT.” or ” If you would just act right I wouldn’t HIT you.” It sets us up to be reactionary puppets as opposed to responsible human beings. It makes it so we can take the mirror away from ourselves and blame the “other”. It makes the “other” responsible for our behavior.

Only a person who has no or little self control and does not understand inner power can say that someone can “provoke” them to speak, move or act in a way that they themselves do NOT want too. The reality is we make a CHOICE in how we respond. People can do things that awaken feelings within us, but what we do in response to that feeling is OUR CHOICE. That choice may be ill informed; it may be immature; or it may even come “at lightning speed” when we “snap” but we still make that CHOICE. I can tell you that even men who say they just “snapped” can often recant their choices clear as day as they were making them.

Chris tweets at one point “I am not Homophobic, he’s just disrespectful”.Perhaps Raz’s actions were disrespectful ( or more so, hurtful to Chris and awaken a wound that he is still struggling with) but Raz’s actions are not a justification for Chris’s response nor his comments. And Chris saying things like “Butt plugged” help fuel a culture where gay people, young and old, are picked on for their sexual choices around anal sex(even though judging from the heterosexual porn market; heterosexual men are in love with and fascinated with anal sex much more then they dare publicly proclaim.).

Chris and Raz B are both young men who are struggling with fame, trauma, and embodying black masculinity. While each has arguably used their fame to either avoid accountability or exploit it; our culture and we ourselves have often helped them. We have also helped perpetuate a world where black men who are evidently in need of emotional support and a healthier masculinity are left empty handed, forced to fight out a palate of projections and recycle the destructive black male narrative while many of us look on in amusement and almost always without accountability to ourselves.

Instead of sitting back and snacking on pop-corn; perhaps it would be useful for us to find ways to support Chris and Raz B in their own various challenges and growth. They are not monsters. They are our brothers. And like our brothers and just like me and YOU, they have made poor choices from their pain. Chris will never understand how his statement impacts LGBTQ people, or be able to deal with his anger and heal, or understand the impact his actions had on Rihanna and the world community until we help him do so. Raz B will never be able to heal from his alleged molestation and wounds, drama attention seeking and pain unless we help him do so. We are each other and We need each other. And until we realize that, It is unlikely that much of anything will ever change.

As your Mirror,


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