I just haven’ t been able to bring myself to write about Rihanna/Chris Brown before now. I just couldn’t. I should have spoken up. After all, I have a teenager in my house who
idolizes idolized Chris Brown in the past. There was a time last year when Brown’s boyish smile was plastered on every available surface in my house: computer desktops, bedroom walls, magazine covers strewn around my house, television music channels. “Who is that?” I kept asking because I kept forgetting (they all look alike to me). “Chris Brown!” the teenager in my house would scoff with that sound in her voice that made it clear she thought her mother a loser for not recognizing a god when I saw one. Whatevah.
But I just haven’t been able to bring myself to write about yet another story of black celebrity relationship violence. Even though writing about violence against women both in modern culture and in biblical culture, and writing about the church’s complicity in domestic violence, is something I care and I write about a lot.
As sad and exasperating it is to read about yet another abused woman getting back together with a man who bashed in her head, those of us involved in grassroot work on behalf of victims can not let our disgust keep us from picking up our bullhorns. We’ve got to stay on the wall sounding the alarm. Abuse is not love. He will hit you again. He’s crazy, and so are you if you go back.
What the Rihanna/Brown case proves yet again is that relationship abuse can happen to anyone — even to a woman who embodies success and confidence with numerous singles on the top of the Billboard charts.
I think I’ve finally figured out today why I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about the Rihanna/Brown story. Something else is bothering me.
What is it with the media’s fascination with provocative, unflattering images of black celebrity life? Are black women celebrities the only ones who get slapped around by their men? Are black male celebrities the only men who do dumb, sick things like smack around their women? Are photos of bruised, battered black female bodies the only ones the media pay money for? White women fall in love with jerks too. How do white women public figures manage to keep the degenerate aspect of those affairs out of the media?
Why do the stories about blacks that get breaking, headline news are ones where blacks are at the epicenter of some violence, scandal or impropriety?
If the media is the primary means in which Americans who know nothing about blackness encounter the “truth” about blackness, then who is surprised when dumb butt folks from hicktowns in America get in front of microphones and say during presidentials campaign, “He scares me” when explaining why they can’t bring themselves to vote for a black candidate. I know. I know. I know it’s more complicated than that. But you get my rant.
Media has made black public figures (with the help of these knucklehead black public figures, to be sure) provocative symbols of the nation’s worst depravities and moral lapses. In the last 20 years, issues such as domestic & family violence (O. J. Simpson, Jennifer Hudson’s family, Juanita Bynum, Rihanna/Chris Brown), gratuitous violence (Michael Vick), gratuitous sexuality ( Janet Jackson, Halle Berry), child molestation (Michael Jackson or R. Kelly), sexual assault (Kobe Bryant), steroid use (Barry Bonds), obesity and beauty standards (Oprah Winfrey, 2007 Rutgers Women’s basketball team), drugs, drunkenness, and debauchery (Charles Barkley, Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown, any hip hop artist will do), journalistic plagiarism (Jayson Blair), adultery (Jesse Jackson, Sr.) and political corruption (Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, State Senator Diane Wilkerson, Mayor Sheila Dixon) have served as talismans that stir debate and arguments in popular culture about all that’s pathological in the culture.
Blackness has become the cultural piñata everyone gets to smack around and vent their anger and frustration up. Blackness is the piñata everyone pummels and points to to show how socially crazy and morally degenerate the world has devolved into. By gawking at photos of Rihanna’s bruises audiences get to play the role of CSI agents (I know I’m switching metaphors here) where we get to gaze at, investigate, poke around, examine the evidence, point fingers, and whip ourselves up into a frenzy over. While other cases go unexamined, unsolved, and fall through the cracks. Like what’s happening in this economy. Now there is a crime worth investigating. Like who are those responsible for bankrupting the economy? Talk about depravity and degenerate behavior. Like why poor and middle class people are losing jobs and homes while others who steal billions in fraud schemes get to live in their penthouses and walk the streets scott free? Talk about pathology.