Rihanna isn’t stupid for going back to Chris Brown

Rumor has it that Rihanna and Chris Brown have reconciled. If this is indeed the case, then Brown will not face any charges because Rihanna won’t place them. There are many people who are happy to hear this news. First are Chris Brown’s fans who can say that it’s none of their business because she forgave him and thus it’s a private matter. There are those who are fans of Brown or who just hate Rihanna who will say that she realized it was her fault for “giving him an STD.” Lastly is the music industry in general because now they won’t have to pull Brown’s music. Just check out www.bet.com. As of the time of this writing, they’re still playing T-Pain & Brown’s video “Freeze” as if nothing happened. People will call Rihanna many things for her actions, but please don’t call her stupid.

The fact of the matter is that 2/3 of women who are domestically abused go back to their partners. Rihanna is among that number of women who do not realize that they risk death by staying with their partners. Are all of these women stupid as I heard some women saying this weekend? No. They are misunderstood by a society that likes to play armchair relationship expert when we don’t even have our own lives in check. It’s as if people feel they can condemn Rihanna because she has money, as if that should make her immune from abuse or at least, indecision on what to do if abused in the first place.

***Newsflash: domestic violence knows no class, race, or religion***

If you haven’t learned this by now, money is not a replacement for self esteem. You do not transcend responsibility because you are rich. Rihanna with all of her millions needs support, not condemnation. She can’t just pray her way out of this, if she’s even doing that. I believe in the Michael Baisden philosophy: pray… and pack. The truth of the matter is that something in her upbringing made her believe this is acceptable. I don’t mean her West Indian culture. I mean her specific upbringing. My prayer is that those who are eating off of her are working with her best interests at heart but I hear we’re in a recession so how likely is that? No one wants to mess with their cash flow right now so they’ll find a way to deal with a couple of slaps and window head cracks.

Rather than condemning the victim, we should take a hard look at ourselves and ask why it is that Chris Brown is still being played on the radio and television. Why is it that he won’t lose his record deal? Why is it that most of us will just leave it up to Reverend Al Sharpton or N.O.W. to have a couple of protests? Why is it that Chris Brown can come as close to killing someone as possible and pretty much get off with a slap on the wrist? We are all to blame for the current place we are in society where women are not valued unless they’re sexy and stay in their place. How do you think Rihanna feels seeing Brown still treated in society as if he did nothing seriously wrong? If there are no heavy societal repercussions, we shouldn’t expect any from her. The only difference is when she gets killed, many of us will still be sitting around saying she was stupid. And then we’ll turn on BET.


2 Responses to “Rihanna isn’t stupid for going back to Chris Brown”

  1. Angie Says:

    Greetings Professor (which is a title most befitting given your passion for enlightening and informing our understanding on so many critical issues):

    While the title of your article is deceptively provocative (I had the initial impression that it was written in support of Rihanna’s decision to reconcile with Chris Brown), I am relieved to hear what I consider to be one of the more progressive responses from a brother in our community. I appreciate you so much for viewing this issue critically, unlike so many others who have relayed thoughtless and even cruel remarks characterized by misogyny or, more specifically, hatred of Black women. As of late, I have been frustrated, disappointed and appalled—but not surprised—by the types of comments I have heard. Some weighing in on the debate have taken a contemptuous posture, i.e., “b****es need to know their position—and change their disposition”…or, “if a woman is in my face talkin’ trash, verbally abusing me, I got a right to shut her up…” Others have opted for the ostensibly more passive patriarchal bent, i.e., “we don’t really know what happened…she could have provoked him.” These kinds of reactions (although not representative of our entire community) have one common thread: the alleged victim must have done something to “invite” the behavior that was visited upon her. Since I don’t listen to pop/commercial music, I didn’t really know who Rihanna or Chris Brown were before the details of their private life became fodder for public consumption…so I don’t know their character. What is abundantly clear, however, is that we are extremely uninformed and misinformed about domestic violence in our community—in terms of its legal definition, the dichotomy of power involved and its psychological implications on both the victim and the victimizer.

    We don’t have to look long or hard to recognize the constant and celebrated image of “the pimp and the backhand;” the misogynistic and dehumanizing images that are lifted in our lyrics, videos and films; or those African Americans in the entertainment industry (the shameless shall remain nameless) who have promulgated violence against women and subsequently had such egregious acts unabashedly swept under rug, as the rest of us continue bobbing our heads to the beat or stand in line to purchase tickets to view their latest film or concert. What does this communicate about our values? What does this reflect about our sense of self/group respect?

    There should be an outcry of support from African Americans—not just for Rihanna, the so said victim, but also for Chris Brown, the confirmed perpetrator of the violence. Like any other menacing ideology, doctrine or practice (take white supremacy, for example), there is an impact on the recipients as well as those who advance the insidious cycle. Professional counseling should be encouraged and sought by both artists (which, oh by the way, is yet another taboo topic ripe for discussion in our community) along with the soul-searching and spiritual anchoring that can be critical to the healing process. We must eschew and reshape this destructive pathology that causes us to view dysfunctional behavior—that should be otherwise declared as shameful and egregious—as “normal” behavior. Any form of violence/abuse in a relationship is unacceptable and should be challenged in whatever manifestation, whether perpetrated by a man or woman. As a footnote, it is important to make the distinction that domestic violence does disproportionately affect women—and this is no coincidence. Abusive relationships are also about power and control. The physical abuse is often accompanied by psychological and emotional abuse, coercion and intimidation. The record reflects that many women are (1) dependant on their partners for financial resources (to take care of children, negotiate unmet needs, etc.); (2) alienated from their friends and family; (3) left with shattered self-esteem and broken spirits. Domestic violence also impacts women of color in a unique way since the abuse is often compounded by other oppressive structures/sources of discrimination such as race, gender and socio-economic status. As you aptly point out, domestic violence transcends race, class, religion and, I would even add, education and income levels. So while Rihanna may not be the proverbial “poster-child” for domestic violence (note: financial wealth is not synonymous with abundance), she does represent millions of women who are victimized by behavior that we seem to increasingly accept as “normal.”

    And let me be clear: I am in no way demonizing Black males or suggesting that violent behavior is unique to our community, because it is not. African Americans do not operate in a vacuum, but are only reflecting the prevailing values of the dominant white mainstream sub-culture in which we are forced to navigate. And yes, these mainstream (American) values include paradigms of power (e.g., racism, domination and subjugation, patriarchy, etc.) along with a culture of violence. Much of the behavior that we find so problematic and troublesome is the result of our own perverse adaptation process which has left us vulnerable to unfair scapegoating tactics. Notwithstanding this fact, we as a community need to take ownership for some of our dysfunctional behaviors—and trust and believe, domestic violence stems and flows from dysfunction.

    And yet, our focus seems to be misplaced. Another instance of domestic violence should not be eclipsed by our obsession with the celebrity factor, i.e. our concern with Chris Brown’s contract, endorsements or the circulation of his music on the local radio station.

    What, then, shall we say to these things? Perhaps we need to critically re-evaluate our position on the matter. One brother suggested that we work to get ahead of domestic violence by developing better coping strategies to deal with our anger in more constructive ways. And while this is true, the fact remains that the rate of recidivism or relapse into this dysfunctional behavior pattern is a reality. Are we really coming from a place of love when we say, “That’s their business…that’s between them”? Let us hold one another to a higher standard—and as members of the “village,” we have the legitimacy and authority to do so. Even if we don’t have our own personal experience to draw from, it is likely that many of us know someone who has either been a victim of domestic violence or an abuser. Let us be proactive when we suspect a loved one (male or female; victim or victimizer) may be involved in an abusive relationship. Let us call one another to account and intervene before it is too late. It’s time to break the silence so we can move toward a path of healing and, ultimately, learn to love one another in ways that celebrate and affirm our humanity. I only hope that we get the learning point from the unfortunate Rihanna/Chris Brown incident. Such instances should no longer be seen merely as a “private” family affair but, rather, as part of a larger power structure that shapes the world we live in…and, therefore, affects us all.

  2. Stella Safari Says:

    Thank you for what you have just said about this because it seems like no one wants to speak out about it. It’s very sad that our society has stooped to this level…honestly, as a young woman I am afraid for my future. Not only do I have to work twice as hard to protect myself, but now I can’t even trust the country[law] to protect me. I was a big fan of Rihanna and Chris Brown as a couple. I was proud to see young African Americans together in a positive way, but I guess situations can’t always be picture perfect. What Chris has done is not right and he should be punished for it…hopefully Rihanna takes this as a way to reach out to all the young women who are in abusive relationships…I wish them the best of luck and God bless them both.

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