I am the 1%. The 1 percent of individuals who just doesn’t feel right jumping on the Chris Brown and Rihanna controversy bandwagon *gasp*. I get this metallic taste in my mouth every time I read articles or see twitter rants about the horrors of Chris Brown.
It’s not because I don’t think his actions, or intimate partner violence at large, aren’t wrong. It’s just that something about it all feels…hypocritical.
That familiar taste worked it’s way into my mouth as I read countless articles about Chris Brown and Rihanna’s most recent collaboration(s). One in particular, "Cake Remix,” has caused controversy because the public largely perceives Rihanna as weak for “goingback to her abuser.” And with lyrics like:
"Sweeter than a rice cake, cake worth sippin
Kill it, tip it
Cake, fill it
If you sexy and you know it And you ain’t afraid to show it
Put a candle on my motherf**ng back baby blow it”
There’s definitely cause for concern. But the concern shouldn’t (just) be about Rihanna. What’s cause for concern is that we as a society are outraged by these violently sexual lyrics, but will scream out “that’s my jam!” to Trey Songz music (“Beat It Up”, anyone?) or Kelly Rowland’s “Lay It On Me” (umm, let’s talk about Big Sean’s verse: Put your skirt on, turn you to my school girl. Smack you with my ruler girl”). We are a generation that increasingly ties our sexuality to violence. As Yolo Akili says in his article for the Crunk Feminist Collective
"from "cut", "hit", "beat it up" "kill it" and "smash," pop songs about love [and intimacy] sound more like war every day. And that should be frightening to us all."
It was in reading this article that I discovered the root of that feeling of hypocrisy. We are the ultimate example of “clubbing on Saturday and going to church on Sunday.” We cry out against sinners and wrong-doers, while we secretly glorify and do those same things in our everyday lives 6 days out of the week. We are what I call the “fad diet generation”. We’ll all jump up and boycott the latest high-profile controversy that we can scrutinize, villify, and “fix”- short-sighted in both our attention span and approach. Countless numbers of my friends and colleagues have proudly proclaimed that they “don’t support Chris Brown’s music” as a sign of solidarity in the fight against domestic violence.
They are the same people who tweeted #toomuchdoubt for Troy Davis and jumped on the 99 percent fad on Tumblr and the #OWS movement. Yet few of these people will be seen tweeting everyday cases of injustice. What about the millions of voiceless women (and men) who suffer from intimate partner violence? The millions of black men inside and outside of prison who face a system that paves a pathway from cradle to prison? Where are our discussions about poverty now that the Occupy movements have been largely ousted?
Our advocacy work as young people will be doomed to fail if we do not perform an honest re-assessment of ourselves. We are willing to jump on the latest national craze, but are largely stuck in neutral (or even reverse) when it comes to sustained organizing. We want results and we want them now. We are fad dieters and closet “cake” eaters. We’ll latch on to the latest craze, until the media (and we alongside it) find something more interesting and sensational.
We have internalized our own oppression by failing to investigate the myriad ways we prop up systems of injustice. We need a Weight Watchers plan- a sustainable road map for organizing and advocacy that focuses on the day-to-day struggles that come with weening ourselves off of things that are bad for us. A plan that tallies our everyday intake of poison and requires that we do a daily, weekly, and monthly assessment of how closely our actions are fitting into our larger goals.
We want the easy route. The route that circumvents the nuances that come with social justice. I believe we’re so tied to Chris Brown and Rihanna because we want so badly to believe that intimate partner violence is a simple “get hit and quit” equation. But as Akili points out:
"many women do not not always want their male partner to leave, so much as they want the abuse to stop. That is in of itself a tough pill to swallow, especially to those who purport to believe that an act of physical violence in a partnership commands departure and is irredeemable.
However in the real world, a lot of heterosexual women in this country are abused by their male partners and not leaving for a variety of nuanced and complicated reasons, perhaps most obvious among them a legal system and community that will not protect or support them.
So while it’s easy for many to say, ’If he hits me I’ll leave’ the conditions that intimate partner violence creates are often a lot more complicated. It would seem our overly simplistic and condemning attitudes towards this phenomena may truly reflect how little we understand about the psychological and emotional nature of physical violence and the complexities of how humans conceptualize love.”
Instead of focusing merely on how horrible Chris Brown’s actions were and how important it is that Rihanna stay away from him at all costs, we as a society should be thinking of ways that we can provide a support system for her safety, even if she decides to continue to affiliate with Brown. Instead of (solely) vilifying Brown, we should be investigating the root of his anger and violence and the ways in which we can support his growth. We could even take a page out of Rihanna’s book and work on collective forgiveness, not only for Brown, but in all aspects of our lives. Most importantly, we should be thinking of the ways we can help ALL victims of domestic violence achieve safety and a sense of security.
I hope that we all can move beyond the 90 second news cycle, the flashy, and the sensational, so the real work can be done. Let’s move beyond the “Cake” and clear out the cupboards.