There was a time, before he assaulted his girlfriend, when Chris Brown was candid about the terror he felt at 7 and 8 years old when he’d overhear his stepfather beating his mother. Brown described a terror so profound that he’d wet his bed rather than risk being caught up in the adult violence. So along with being scared, he was humiliated. I weep for that little boy.
But now he’s a 21-year-old man—with choices.
Brown, unlike many men in his community, can afford quality, effective, consistent mental health care without crazy-making bureaucratic nonsense. He’s also in a unique position to circumvent the cultural stigma. He may have heard some variety of “black men don’t go to therapy, they go to the barbershop,” but his healing (in theory, at least) is literally court-ordered. His friends, family, community, fans, stans and future romantic partners already know about his anger management and mental health needs.
Unfortunately, Brown is a celebrity. And he seems to believe that celebrity will disappear the trauma he suffered as a child and the blackout-level violence he committed himself.
Brown has said he uses the arts to escape. But singing those runs, dancing the hell out of a Michael Jackson tribute then breaking down on the 2010 BET Awards, dyeing his kinky hair blond, making Spring Break-ready techno pop hits, tweeting about Jesus, and using urban radio and TV to say “Dueces” to his ex won’t change the fact that he pummeled Rihanna so severely. Because his victim happened to be more famous than him, he couldn’t count on the silence that kills so many women of color.
During yesterday’s hostile interview with a clearly sympathetic Robin Roberts, Brown kept insisting that he had come to “Good Morning America” to discuss his album, “F.A.M.E.,” which alternately stands for “Forgiving All My Enemies” and “Fans Are My Everything.” (After that interview, he allegedly tossed a chair through his dressing room window and ripped off his shirt in disgust.) I’m not clear how Brown could give his album—which hit Number One on iTunes when it dropped yesterday—such provocative subtext then place a gag order on journalists whom he’s using to sell his work.
Besides, when Brown gets his way, which I believe he did in this recent MTV interview, here’s what he gives:
“Being able to collab with [Justin Bieber] was great. He’s a young, energetic cat, so being able to work with him, with the fanbase he has, was incredible. I know a lot of little girls are going to love this record. …
I actually stood [Bieber] up on accident. He was kind of mad … I was all the way on the other side of town handling some business, ‘girl business,’ and I was rushing back, and by that time, he’s like, ‘Man, I’m leaving, bro.”
For me, two things pop out of this blather:
I know a lot of little girls are going to love this record.
I was all the way on the other side of town handling some business, ‘girl business.’
I’m not Chris Brown’s target audience; I’m a grown woman. I’m not enough of a fan to be his everything, and I don’t detest him enough to be one of his so-called enemies. I’m just an observer who believes he should be a better example for the little girls who scream for him and protect the girls with whom he’s ‘doing his business.’ Without some serious mental health work, I don’t think he’ll succeed. And really, I’m afraid of what he will do to himself and to the next woman who gently reminds him that he can’t escape the inescapable.