I’m Not Okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys and I’m Not Sure Why You AreSasha Pasulka

Editor’s note: Today (May 5th) is Chris Brown’s birthday. This piece was one of the most popular in our history and we want to memorialize his birthday by reinforcing a message we believe in.

I’m sick and tired of people acting like it’s no big deal that Chris Brown will be performing at the Grammys.

I’m frustrated that the mainstream media is covering this story like it’s any comeback story, like an exiled prince’s return to a former glory, like this is another political timeline — as though some rich and powerful old white men in the music business have not just issued an enormous ‘f**k you’ to every woman who has been, is or will be on the receiving end of domestic violence.

We should be furious.

Why aren’t we?

A Long, Long Time Ago, or Three Years Ago, But Who’s Counting?

For those of you who are currently listening to ‘Look at Me Now’ and wondering what the big deal is, a quick recap: The night before the Grammys in 2009, Chris Brown got angry at his girlfriend, Rihanna, and he took it out on her face. She went to the hospital and then to the LAPD, where this photo was taken and promptly leaked to TMZ. (The LAPD issued a stern statement on the leak, threatening penalties “up to and including termination”. TMZ reportedly paid $62,500 for the photo.)

Both Rihanna and Brown had been scheduled to perform at the Grammys the following evening. Neither did.

Instead, Chris Brown turned himself into the LAPD at 7 pm, was booked on suspicion of criminal threats and was released on $50,000 bail.

Then the Internet exploded.

I was a full-time entertainment writer at the time, so I had a front-row seat to the action. This is what I expected: I expected a string of celebrities to comment on how horrific this situation was, how sad and angry they were for Rihanna, how domestic violence is unacceptable in any context, how as a nation we need to condemn this and condemn it loudly.

Instead, Hollywood went silent and, when they did speak, they teetered on the brink of defending Chris Brown.

Carrie Underwood: “I don’t think anybody actually knows what happened. I have no advice.”

Lindsay Lohan: “I have no comment on that. That’s not my relationship. I think they’re both great people.”

Nia Long: “I know both of them well. They’re young, and all we can do is pray for them at this point.”

Mary J. Blige: “They’re both young and beautiful people, and that’s it.”

Jay-Z, one of Rihanna’s mentors, spoke up: “You have to have compassion for others. Just imagine it being your sister or mom and then think about how we should talk about that. I just think we should all support her.”

In a sane world, Jay-Z’s statement would sound insane. Why would he have to remind his fans to support Rihanna after what happened is that she got hit in the face?

Jay-Z issued that statement because the Internet was, in early February 2009, engaged in a very serious conversation about whether or not all of this was Rihanna’s fault. In fact, large segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.

It horrified me. It still does.

Later in February, a photo of Brown riding a jet ski in Miami hit the Internet, and singer Usher was caught on video commenting on it: “I’m a little disappointed in this photo,” Usher says in the video. “After the other photo [of Rihanna’s bruised face]? C’mon, Chris. Have a little bit of remorse, man. The man’s on jet skis? Like, just relaxing in Miami?”

The backlash was so severe that Usher was later forced to publicly apologize.

“I apologize on behalf of myself and my friends if anyone was offended,” he said. “The intentions were not to pass judgment and we meant no harm. I respect and wish the best for all parties involved.”

The message we sent to young women was unmistakable: You are powerless. You are worthless. You will be a victim, and that will be okay with us.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonpaulradford Jason Radford
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1137555009 Thando Mahlangu

    A victim is legally defined as one who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition. Chris Brown is guilty and has been dealt with by the courts. Rihanna the victim of the crime has forgiven Chris. His attendance, performances and award won at the Grammy demonstrates that those obliged to forgive have done so. Those of you who have not moved on from this incident need to review your own motives for this man’s persecution. The people who’s opinion matter to this incident have spoken you need to respect them and do as they wish and MOVE ON. By continuing with this you are making him a victim and you are his attacker. You will be causing him harm by ruining his career and affecting those around him who are in his employ or are dependant on his support.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357831613 Richard Smith

      Poor little CB. You’re right, I don’t want to make HIM a victim. Are you fn kidding me with this bullsh*t? Clearly, public opinion has not ruined his career but, if I can somehow play a part in the demise of CB career as a spoiled, unapologetic, untalented, brat, I will gladly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=602340676 Laura-Lee Smith

    I am appalled by some of these responses in defense of Chris Brown, downplaying what he did. I’m even more appalled that they are made mostly by black women and men. We should be okay with men hitting women because there are “worse things in the world,” because Chris Brown didn’t hit US?
    Black women are playing into the misogynistic culture of r&b and rap.

    I was also thrown by the mention of Taylor Swift in the article. My room mate the other day said Chris Brown would not have a career anymore if it was Taylor Swift he had beaten.
    This whole controversy should be a platform for a lot of unspoken issues in this country. For those who think we should just leave it alone, you are a roadblock to a better less ignorant world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emily.dalt Emily Dalton

    Yeah, and I’m not okay with Miles Davis, Ike Turner, Pablo Picasso, etc. ever being allowed to practice their art either!!! And Michael Angelo, I hear rummers that he was gay, I hate that too. We should never separate the Art from the artist, they are one, and everything they do in their personal lives should have consequences for their art and how its perceived. I also hear that Frida Kahlo was a commie, and Richard Wagner was a Nazi. Outrageous! Drive them from the streets! (Yes physical abuse is wrong, he has been charged by police, he is being held to the consequences of his actions by the propor authorities that hold us all to the same standards. We however are holding him to some other kind of dumb self-important standard. He did something terrible, he is paying a personal price for that, but his music (and I’m not even really a fan) HAS to be separated! or else we fall into a argument that a person who makes bad choices should also have their art taken from them… this is just a little to narrow minded for me..)

    • http://www.facebook.com/stepharchie Stephanie Archibald

      I respect your view and understand what your argument is but homosexuality and Communism are not actual crimes though. You do know that right? Domestic violence is and always will be. You know that too right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasmine.wahi Jasmine Wahi
  • http://www.facebook.com/ChiliPalmer1 Rob Palmer

    kobe bryant is still allowed to play basketball, ben roethlisberger is still allowed to play football so why can’t C-Brown sing/perform?

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryjasmine Mary Jasmine French

    I completely agree. Thank you for stating this conversation Sasha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurieannZ Laurie Zerumsky
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1202111753 Stef Williams
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000588057741 Jessica Diana

    I agree that Chris Brown shouldn’t have hit her, but all you guys are talking about is how “a man hit a woman.”if Chris Brown had hit another man this article would have never been written and nobody would be as mad at Chris. You are all saying that a man should never hit a woman and that if they do “they’re sexist pigs.” How is saying that a man should never hit a woman but a man can hit another man not sexist??? Why is it okay for someone to hit another person as long as they’re the same sex??? I agree that a person should never hit another person no matter what sex they are. I hate it when people say that they will never hit a woman but they never say anything about how a man should never hit another man, a woman should never hit another woman, or a woman should never hit another man. What is the difference between a man getting hit and a woman getting hit???

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=516020836 Natalie Oliver

    i understand why the rage but really….. this is why there is so much hate in the world, people cant let things go that are past and history…. im against violence full stop, man to woman, woman to man woman to woman man to man….

    rihanna has forgiven chris and thats all that should concern anyone- its their business….

    chris seems to (i hope) sorted himself out and he has talent!

    smile people :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bethkemnitz Beth Kemnitz

    I think it’s become less about what happened between Chris Brown and Rihanna (and what still seems to be going on, sadly), but what happened after, and continues to happen. He lost control on GMA, he’s lost control several times on Twitter, and those are just the documented occasions. What happens behind closed doors? Whether it’s Chris Brown or anyone else, are we really okay with someone being lauded in the public eye who seems so very unable to control themselves when angry, frustrated and/or confronted? Those aren’t traits to be respected; they’re ones to run away from. And it has nothing to do with forgiveness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stepharchie Stephanie Archibald

    Chris Brown? Who’s Chris Brown? His music is as boring as his name. You really just want to see these douche bags fail. And for the record if he had done it to a man I would of been just as disdgusted. There was a male Olympic swimmer over here Nick D’Arcy. He assaulted another Australian swimmer. Savagely beat him. He fractured this other swimmers entire face. He got done for grievous bodily harm and received a suspended sentence on the condition of good behaviour. That sucks a bit but he was dropped from the Olympic team straight away, no one tried to make excuses for him, no one blamed the other swimmer or said he must of asked for it. There was a lot riding on D’Arcy. He was one of our best swimmers. He meant $$ but that didn’t matter in the end all that mattered was he was a disgrace to the country and that shouldn’t be ignored. Actions should have consequences. His time in swimming was taken away and now he must find another way to support himself. The End

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2310352 Heather Elizabeth Read

    Not only were people supportive of Chris Brown at the Grammy’s, they were supportive of the abuse he committed. This makes me sick to my stomach. http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/horrible-reactions-to-chris-brown-at-the-grammys

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharissa.dove Sharissa Dove

    I think Rhianna should stand up for herself as well. It’s hard for the people at large to care when she doesn’t seem to. When I can listen to a new song by Chris Brown and Rhianna, it seems as if it’s officially under the rug. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=i5K7U8YMb3c

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexandra.crossett Alexandra Crossett

    She isn’t making a big deal of it, and you’re missing the point that all domestic violence is somewhat subjective. You can’t put him in the class of people who abuse their significant other frequently, with no cause, or with substance abuse that end up killing sometimes. He made a mistake, and he did apologize, and he did enter counseling, so to say that he is not repentent enough just proves that you are pushing the other end of the spectrum in terms of stereotype – shaming the perp to hell and back just on principle. The principle of domestic violence is DEFINITELY wrong, but Rihanna and Chris Brown are by no means the poster children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1810940176 Paris Monee Fields

    NOT ONE PERSON IN THIS WORLD WOULD WANT TO BE JUDGED FOR THE WORSE THING THAT THEY HAVE EVER DONE. INCLUDING THE PERSON THAT WROTE THIS. IF YOU ARE SICK TO YOUR STOMACH ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED 3 YEARS AGO, WHY DONT U GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING TO HELP YOUNG WOMAN NOW , TO PREVENT IT FROM HAPPENING. INSTEAD OF WORRYING SO MUCH ABOUT CHRIS BROWN AND HIM PERFORMING AT THE GRAMMYS HE IS AN ARTIST AND WAS ASKED TO PERFORM BECAUSE OF HIS TALENTS. I DON’T THINK ANYONE SHOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR A MISTAKE THAT THEY MADE FOR THE THE REST OF THEIR LIVES BECAUSE NONE OF YOU WOULD. MOST PEOPLE WOULD HAVE CLIMBED INTO A HOLE IF THE THING THAT YOU ARE MOST ASHAMED OF WAS BROADCAST TO PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE WORLD……JUST TAKE A SEC AND THINK ABOUT THAT ONE(U DONT HAVE TO AGREE WITH ME BUT YOU KNOW IT IS THE TRUTH… EITHER HELP OUT OR GET A LIFE. P.S. IF IT DOESN’T CONCERN U IN ONE WAY OR THE OTHER CAUSE I’M SURE MOST OF YOU SLEPT FINE SINCE 09, Y DO YOU CARE.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=548223691 Natalie Clark

      I understand what your saying but I think you are missing the point, how can we help young women in this type of situation when they see a very high-profile couple go through a very public example of domestic violence and he just gets away with it? Its not the type of encouragement that these people need in a situation that is already very lonely. It is not easy for those that are mistreated by their partners to speak out about it and seek help and seeing something like this will make them see seeking help as pointless. Chris Brown is a very successful artist and being in the public eye, as young as he is, make him an idol. He is, unfortunately, a role model. The point of this discussion is how Chris Brown’s action and the aftermath can impact society. Is he teaching the younger generation that its ok to hit your partner? A slap on the wrist and you’ll go back to normal? And, more importantly, is it telling victims that they are alone now and always will be?

  • http://www.facebook.com/setbro72 Seth Brown

    I think my problem is his lack of remorse. Oh sure he was sorry-after realizing it could ruin his career and cried during the MJ tribute at the BET awards (a fantastic performance if I’m giving credit where it’s due) but again, why was he invited there? It’s because of the collective battered woman syndrome that the public as adopted on this issue, and it only seems to be this issue. Isaiah Washington basically ruined his career for anti-gay STATEMENTS. Eddie Murphy was blackballed form the Oscars for over a decade because he said he didn’t care about ever winning an Academy Award. But Chris Brown beats a woman to a pulp-eh, so what? No. I’m not buying it! I’m not buying the supposed Rihanna collaboration, even if it is genuine THAT’S THE EXACT PROBLEM! Too many view this as normal or just accidental bad behavior when in reality what makes a man hit a defenseless woman is a deep sickness, like pedophilia. There is something wrong with him and saying sorry doesn’t even begin to fix it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=666314016 Olga Patricia Granados

      This exactly

  • http://www.facebook.com/hackthinmf666 Mariah Lynn Nichols

    His backers have a lot of money invested in him and they want it back.We all know money comes before whats right in America now.So he well go on as if he’s never done anything wrong.What’s worse is he’ll have all kinds of important women hanging all over him like he is somebody and,not the animal he’s shown himself to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/candicemacneale Candice MacNeale Lazecky

    “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Maya Angelou

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