Chris Brown And Rihanna

Begin the groaning. I haven't said much about this for a reason--these are two people I've never met. I don't think it's a particularly smart idea to use individuals, who you don't know and whose image is mostly shaped by people trying to sell you something, to discuss whole masses of people.

But then yesterday someone sent me this article in which the author looks at the way kids are talking about the case. There is a lot of alarm over the fact that some study found 40 percent of kids "blame" Rihanna. This strikes me as the age-old tactic of marrying the latest controversy to the ever-present sense that our kids are more amoral than we were.

It's a bad idea to assess your society through lens of people whose business is fame. It's a bad idea to use a few kid-on-the-street anecdotes to assess how kids feel about domestic violence. It's a bad idea to present a single opinion poll as evidence of anything. It may be true, as the article implies, that kids don't take domestic violence seriously enough. But it'll take more than a few anecdotes and a single study to convince me of that. The uncomfortable fact is that Rihanna and Chris Brown are human beings--not tropes to be deconstructed in your local ethnic studies class, not symbols for our wayward young, not evidence of the pained relationship between black men and women.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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