Chris Brown was on Good Morning America promoting his new albume F.A.M.E. When asked about his assault on singer Rihanna and if they are talking, he replied, “I mean not really, it’s not really a big deal in my life, I think I’m past that situation” and how we should all buy his album. After the interview Brown stormed off stage, smashed a window in his dressing room and then ran out of the building (shirtless). I am sure talking about his brutal assault of Rihanna is emotional for him, but his post-interview reaction states that he is all but “passed” that situation, but instead does not understand the gravity of his crime or sought rehabilitation. Because, frankly, if he understood the gravity of his crime, he would stay out of the spotlight for a little while and get the help he so desperately needs.
What he didn’t seem to understand was that it was way too early for an album. Not only had we not moved on, but Rihanna had barely healed from the emotional trauma (when she attempted an even march forward on her ABC special it only further belied her fragility). Just as important, and I don’t always consider attackers just as important in domestic abuse cases, Chris Brown had clearly not even begun to heal. Early in his career, teenage Chris Brown gave a heart-wrenching interview where he said watching his stepfather beat his mother had made him both so enraged he wanted to fight the man and so afraid of him that he’d wet his pants. When 16-year-old Chris Brown said in a magazine interview that he’d wet his pants at 13 he was a mere three years away from his abuse. Children who witness abuse are abused. When Brown abused Rihanna he was five years away from his own abuse.
Holding Chris Brown accountable publicly has nothing to do with if he is a good musician. He can’t expect the public to forgive him for his act of aggression by putting out new music, collaborating with some great people (shame on all of you, you should be advising this young man) and some good dance moves. There is no denying how talented he is as a performer.
But that doesn’t change the brutality of his attack, the respect Rihanna deserves and the reality that he clearly needs counseling, more counseling, than say violating probation may bring. It is not only upsetting to watch him self-destruct in front of us, it also sends a bad message that being good at one thing should make you exempt at being accountable from another. “I said sorry..” in this case is not enough in the face of devastating statistics for intimate partner violence and the reality that so many young men and women look up to him. As Hampton asks, what kind of profound impact would it have on young black men if he were to actually deal with and overcome the cycles of violence he has been subject to and participated in? It would certainly be a turning point for how the public responds to famous male aggressors of violent crimes against women.
In that same vein, Brown went on twitter to express his frustrations and made mention of the different way he is being treated by the mainstream media as opposed to say Charlie Sheen who also has a serious history of violence against women. The tweet was removed, but as unfortunate as his outburst may have been, I wonder if he has a point.*
*To update: As Jay Smooth just pointed out to me, while Charlie Sheen might get off way too easy, in many ways Chris Brown has as well. The fact that he is getting media appearances and has a new album out tell us that many people will continue to work with and promote someone that has history of violence against women. A history that is clearly very much his present.