Chris Brown--not forgiven

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Grammy night 2009, I was disgusted like everyone else when news broke of Chris Brown’s assault and Rihanna’s injured face was plastered all over the internet. I was so angry I immediately deleted his songs, changed the radio stations, edited my playlists, and even wrote my final paper on domestic abuse about the incident.I was shockingly fascinated by those who condemned him and others (especially young girls) so enthralled by his stardom they not only welcomed the abuse but attacked Rihanna instead, rationalizing that she must’ve “done something” to deserve it. He has largely been unapologetic about it yet, Rihanna forgave him. There’s even gossip of them hooking up again. He forgave himself through portrayals of media victimization, and so did the Grammys. This is a definite asterisk but I wonder, will his accomplishments ever again be at the forefront? Should they be? Does he even deserve forgiveness? Is there ever a point when it will be enough? What exactly does he need to do?

It’s 2012, and the reactions are still the same. The Grammy folks didn’t use “forgive” but Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich said Brown has become “eligible” – for a second chance. Some disagreed, Miranda Lambert tweeted, “Chris Brown twice? I don’t get it. He beat on a girl. Not cool that we act like it didn’t happen,” while “team breezy” cheered and online one girl commented, “I don’t know what Rihanna is complaining about. He can beat me anytime!”

Here lies the real problem: we live in such an antagonistic world, where women’s bodies are constantly commodified, fetishized, and exoticized for corporate branding. We’re persistently denied our feelings, intimacy, and ownership of our bodies to the point where young girls can accept and even rationalize abuse. The problem is not whether he needs forgiveness but that we as a society have not done enough to address this epidemic. It is so scary that many young impressionable girls and women have internalized this oppression.

I can’t speak for the public, but I certainly haven’t forgiven him. He got off easy, no jail time, 5 years of probation, 1,400 hours of “labor-oriented service,” and a 2012 Grammy for best R&B album. He did nothing to address the epidemic at its core. He simply did damage-control apologies playing the role of a different kind of victim – a product of his own abusive childhood to justify his actions. He hasn’t argued against young teenagers’ easy acceptance of domestic abuse, nor critiqued the dominant patriarchal structure that dictates and allows it to happen in the first place. He hasn’t challenged the public’s perceptions of victims/survivors “doing something” to “deserve it.” He hasn’t discussed how rampant it is, and how easily perpetrators go unpunished or get off with light sentences. He hasn’t done anything at all except try to stay relevant for all the wrong reasons. For me, that is unacceptable.

Instead of using his influence to raise awareness about domestic abuse and violence against women, he allowed his relationship with Rihanna to become another statistic. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, 1 in 4 women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. He needs to publicly acknowledges his role and talk straight facts to young men and women about the way society and the criminal justice system tolerate domestic violence. Until then, I’m flipping the radio stations, changing the channels, and marking an asterisk where it needs to be. I’m making a face of revulsion as I write this blog and am willing to argue with anyone about why he doesn’t deserve any forgiveness because the public may have forgotten but I haven’t. Frankly, when it comes to domestic abuse forgetting should not happen, and forgiving is going to take a lot more work.

For more information on domestic abuse and how to stop and report it, please visit the following links:

By Nicole Nguyen, ACRJ Volunteer