"I thought about the wild circumstance we born out/Remember myself at your age, when I was just like you/If that was now, I don't know what I would do."
- Yasiin Bey, "Little Brother."
The return to polite society probably doesn't start with HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That's the ultimate F-K OFF!
As such, now is probably the worst time to mount a defense for Chris Brown. Especially following a moment that was as terrible as it was triumphant.
So let's not think of it as a defense of Brown. Let's consider it a plea for worthier troubled souls.
I should open with this caveat: Brown is a horrendous person. Or seems headed that way.
I have a problem with making a then-teenage product of abuse the face of domestic violence in the U.S.
First, because we know that children who grow up with abuse tend to be more likely to grow into abusers. Second, because he was 19 at the time of his crimes. Third, because there's so many better examples. And finally, because I believe that he's redeemable.
That last point is based on nothing more than the fact that there's lots of time for him to mature into something resembling an honorable person. It's just a guess and probably more of a wish. I'm open to being wrong.
Much like with other felons who lose the right to vote or sex offenders who are consigned to living under bridges, I believe there's a better way to reintegrate Brown into society. I don't see how ostracizing him further does much help to him, his future partners or the broader campaign to take abuse more seriously.
By no means do I think he's got a raw deal out of this, by the way. Not many ex-felons return to a successful music career, movie roles (albeit a Steve Harvey production but whatever), Team Breezy and Grammy performances.
Brown has gotten off relatively easy, and he still hasn't been sufficiently repentant and humbled. He is not owed a career or a public platform, though he appears to feel that way.
But I think the public scorn and resentment would be better spent educating him and others on what he did wrong, encouraging the boy-man to get some professional help and holding him accountable for his progress.
As it is now, I can't see that happening. He makes for a cartoonish villain and he seems to be receding further into the shadows, more convinced of his martyrdom.
Here I should note that it would be easy, if not understandable, to disregard the words of a man when it comes to a discussion about domestic violence. I can't deny the privilege I bring to the debate - as if there's really a debate to be had here. Looking at this in the context of a rape and abuse culture, Zerlina Maxwell mostly has it right: We don't actually think there is much wrong with domestic violence.
I would hate if someone pointed to this post as an example of that. It could happen, and you would only have to trust my intentions and the contents of my bleeding heart: I truly believe there's still a chance for him.
Why? Because 22 ain't nothing, man.
I think back to when I was that age, not long into my first serious relationship, subtly slipping into some of the bad habits I picked up along the way: yelling, punching walls, kicking my then-girlfriend out of my apartment on a snowy and icy night, slamming the bathroom door and throwing things. I was a mess, and very likely, a menace.
Thank God I had the time - and anonymity - to turn it around and let people counsel me on what was and wasn't acceptable. I couldn't have gotten married without it.
For the sake of Chris Brown, his future partners, and the salvageable brothers among us, I hope he gets that chance too. He once said it himself: Boys run from "mistakes." Men learn from them.
He doesn't have to be James Brown.