Monday, June 22, 2009

Can they Hit Us And Still Be Our Heroes?

Can they hit us and still be our heroes?

Pearl Cleage asked the question in her brilliant book "Mad at Miles: A Black Woman's Guide to Truth" more than 15 years ago and the answer, of course, is no.

This means you, Chris Brown.

In a last-minute plea deal orchestrated by the singer and the Los Angeles District Attorney, Brown dodged jail by pleading guilty to Monday to felony assault for the March 2009 beatdown of singer Rihanna (see above) and was sentenced to 180 days of community service in the relative comfort of his home state of Virginia. He also got five years of supervised probation, a yearlong domestic violence counseling program and in a bit of plea deal weirdness, must stay 50-yards away from Rihanna at all times, unless the two are performing at the same event. Then he only has to stand 10-yards away. Not nearly far enough as far as I'm concerned.

Entertainment Weekly quoted Rihanna's attorney saying "Rihanna feels it’s a fair and just resolution to the case."

Hm. Well...there's comfort in the fact that she's around to say that much.

Too many sisters aren't.

Domestic violence is most prevalent among women between the ages of 16-24 (Ri-Ri's age range) and Black women remain disproportionately affected by domestic violence -- 35 percent higher than white women and at 22 times the rate of women of other races. As recently as 2005, Black women accounted for 1/3 of all domestic violence homicides.

All this, and still, we're ambivalent about how we address domestic violence.

We still want to blame Rihanna. We still want to know "what she did" that set him off. Chris Brown still wants us to know he's not a "monster." And we see the same scenario played out over and over again, all over the world, by couples whose names we don't know -- as well as those we do.

I want this sick history of shrugging and looking the other way when women in our community are being abused to stop. I want a clear, unambiguous womanist response: zero tolerance.

I don't want us to forgive and forget it. I want us to always remember when we're listening to "Kind of Blue" Miles Davis describing in his autobiography Cicely Tyson hiding in the basement from him after he slapped her around. I want us to remember Dr. Dre's brutal beatdown of music host Dee Barnes when we're watching his Dr. Pepper commercials and bumping our heads to The Chronic. I don't want to be alone in feeling like running my foot clear through the crack of Chris Brown's ass when I hear "Run It."

I need anti-sexist brothers everywhere who are commiteed to non-violence and healthy relationships to raise up and challenge other men who they know are abusing women in disproportionate numbers.

I need for Black women to be just as committed to healthy, non-violent relationships and for them to receive the resources they need, for as many times as it takes (7 on average) to LEAVE abusive relationships. I said this after the incident and I mean it today -- I want to personally give Rihanna copies of Cleage's "Mad at Miles" and also the revolutionary "Black Women's Health Book." I want her to read Evelyn C. White's essay "Love Don't Always Make it Right" so that she has the agency to understand what has happened to her and to maintain a support system so strong that it doesn't happen again.

Because if the question is whether they can hit us and still be our heroes? our leaders? our lovers? our friends? as Cleage wrote, the answer was, is and will always be no.

Waiting for the hit back,

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