I used to kind-of like you. Circa 1996, before you were having those embarrassing “stupid hoe” beefs with other female rappers and had surgically altered your face to look like a Muppet Baby. But nowadays I’m mostly thinking you should just make yourself scarce. (There aren’t any VH1 reality shows you could go on and “look for love”?)
In a post-Drake vs. Chris Brown bar fight interview, Lil’ Kim was (allegedly) reported as saying:
“I mean, people are so hard on Chris [Brown]. He made a mistake, he owned up to it, and he and Rihanna have moved on with their lives. But since that incident it’s so easy to blame Chris.”
Shocker? Not really. In the time since the Chris Brown/Rihanna Incident, there’s been continuous insistence that we’re all “being too hard” on poor lil’ Chris. (Is that why he won a Grammy this year?) I mean, as far as America’s concerned, he has two very redeeming qualities: Being light-skinned, and being able to cry on command during a Michael Jackson tribute. Besides, it’s been like, three years since it happened, so we should stop whining and just get over it already, right?
And while i’m a firm believer that people can grow and change; that their mistakes shouldn’t continue to be held against them if they’ve paid their societal debt, I think when it came to Chris Brown, there was a very teachable moment that we failed to learn from.
Sure, on the media front, Brown was held somewhat accountable; he was charged with five years probation, six months of community service, and was banned from the 2009 BET awards.
But within the black community, skepticism and victim-blaming ran amok. All around me, black men and women alike had wondered what Rihanna had “done” to “spark” Chris Brown’s anger, while others thought his punishment was entirely too harsh.
And by 2011, his approval rating seemed to have snapped back into place; his album Fame ranking #2 on the charts, he’d won four BET awards, and young women were now gushing about how they wished their boyfriends were more like Chris Brown.
How had sympathy and concern for Rihanna leap- frogged right over the black community and landed cleanly into the hands of the mainstream media? Two things were simultaneously at play:
1.) The issue evoked black peoples’ tendency to take sides on controversies concerning other black people even if the issue at hand isn’t about race at all. Flashback to October 1995, virtually every black American was ecstatic that O.J had “got off”, because they believed he had somehow won in a Race War that was imaginary to begin with. The real issue, of course, was domestic violence; but the media portrayal had led many to mistake the trial as a White vs. Black battle. As bell hooks put it: “when the issue is male violence against women, let’s bring on some other kind of issue that makes us not pay real attention to male violence. And that’s why race offered the perfect sort of screen…”
2.) The always reoccurring image of the black woman as the conniving, manipulative Bitch who’s always out to cause trouble, get money, or otherwise make the black man look bad. The constant subjection to portrayals of the hyper-masculine, loud-mouthed Sapphire, makes the mere idea of black women being victims of any sort of violence seem almost comical, practically impossible.
Mike Tyson and R. Kelly both managed to escape an excessive amount of black scrutiny when it came to their acts of violence against black women. Tyson’s victim, Denise Washington, was seen as a desperate golddigger who’d do or say anything for attention, while Kelly’s victim, a minor, was chalked up to being a “fast ass” who wanted it anyway.This is not to say that black people should’ve jumped to the womens’ defense without evidence, but that their minds seemed to have been made before the victims got the chance to tell their stories.
As a people, we can sometimes be so blinded by racial allegiance that we miss the ways in which sexism, homophobia, and classicism can hurt us just as much. We’re so eager to always cheer for the Black Guy, that we don’t realize when it comes at the expense of everyone else.
So maybe Lil’ Kim’s right; perhaps it’s not Chris Brown we need to be so hard on. Maybe it’s ourselves.