By: Johnathan Fields
In an effort to clear some of the air regarding a piece I did earlier this year on Kanye, wherein I argued his use of misogynistic images should not blind us to the other things operating in his "Monster" video, hopefully my commentary on the Chris Brown debauchery will further articulate my stance.
One of the comments I received on the Kanye piece was about the history of Black communities and how Black women have continually been silenced at the expense of Black men. While I don't whole-heartedly agree with these claims, as Black heterosexual women have often been given more voice than some Black gay men, it is interesting to watch patriarchy unfold yet again with all of the commentary on Chris Brown. Why are Black women being held accountable in an attempt to excuse a Black man's actions?
Frankly, I don't give a damn about Chris Brown or his anger management issues. My personal opinion on artists dates back to Michael Jackson when people wanted to throw child molestation claims around. When it comes to the musician or artist, all we need to measure them upon is their art. We can argue that art reflects life, which of course is a personal decision each of us can make. But, at the end of the day, the artist hopefully has a career because we appreciate their art. If we decide not to support that art because of their personal life politics, so be it. But don't expect others to follow suit. The cultural climate in which we live does not allow artists to separate their personal and professional lives. Instead, the media has conditioned us to expect both.
It is imperative that we unpack the nuances of a scenario where a music artist busts his hands through a window on the set of Good Morning America. In 2009, Chris Brown was charged with assaulting his then girlfriend, Rihanna. Clearly, ol' boy has been working through some anger issues if he can't seem to control his rage--which is further illustrated by his behavior at GMA. The media speculation ensued and Brown was dubbed the face of domestic violence. Sure enough, partners and sponsors began to distance themself from Brown. Rihanna's career continued to gain public momentum. However, resentment seemed to be built by some. Why were people saying Chris' career was over? What about Rihanna? Some asked where her accountability was. Hmm...Some people allowed their own personal dislike for Rihanna to cloud the fact that no one deserves to be beaten.
Of course, the Ike and Tina Turner comparisons started to flood in with some calling Chris and Ri-Ri the new Ike & Tina. While I'm not a fan of calling anything the new ________, I can't help but wonder when the Chris Brown and Rihanna story will make its way to the big screen, claiming yet again to have another version of the truth.
If Tina was given "What's Love Got To Do With It?", I'm thinking Rihanna will get "I Love The Way You Lie." Afterall, Brown's reactions clearly indicate his "anger management" stint was short-lived. In his interview with Robin Roberts, he states it's been two years. Yes, it has. So where's the progress on your behavior? Intimate partner violence is not something to be taken lightly. While Brown can't be blamed for any account that's ever taken place, he does need to take personal responsibility for his actions--outside of media speculation.
Folks have gathered around to share their opinions on Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs. While some have started to blame Robin Roberts for pressing the issue, my question is: why is it another Black woman is to blame for Brown's childish behavior? Afterall, it should come as no surprise that the intimate conversations people were having after Rihanna got her face bashed in challenged whose fault it really was.
Let's be real: Robin Roberts is a journalist. Journalists ask the questions everyone (read: the ratings) want to know. So, if I knew she was going to ask about Rihanna, how did Chris Brown not? Hasn't he been in the game a while? If the last time Robin Roberts met with Chris Brown was at his house right after the incident, isn't this merely journalistic continuity? You pick up with your guest where you left off. Diane Dawyer would do it. Oprah would do it. If Brown were truly working through his issues, he'd have no problem being asked about them. That's not to say he'd answer them, but he wouldn't get tight on a news set after being asked the question everyone asks him.
Chris Brown shouldn't be the scapegoat for conversations on intimate partner violence; but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for his actions. In the generation of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and many other mindless zombies who escape being held accountable, I can't help but wonder how much time Chris Brown actually spent in anger management...Robin Roberts shouldn't be the sole scapegoat for conversations on the role the media plays and how it promotes the racialization of stories.
My girl Charlotte Phillips brought up an interesting point today. She said, "Chris Brown is like the Joker in The Dark Knight." Her point struck a nerve. How do we begin to have conversations holding both camps accountable when people reserve themselves to making one-sided arguments? Chris Brown needs the media to promote his album and career. The media needs Chris Brown for ratings and to perpetuate the same racialized images of Black folk in America. So, do we just call it a scratch and ignore the underlying issues?
So long as folks allow the media to do what it has always done, nothing will change. The same holds true for politics. If you don't like the game, don't be mad at the players--change the game.
Johnathan Fields is a DePaul University alum with a B.A. in African & Black Diaspora Studies and Philosophy. His areas of interest include: media representations of race, gender, and sexuality in popular culture, Black feminist theory, Diasporic literature and critical race theory. He is also the latest addition to this site's family of contributors. For more information, visit www.adventuresofaboxcutter.com.