Threatening Chris Brown Is Not Helpful

Alyssa Rosenberg on C.M. Punk's challenge to Chris Brown:


One sure way not to move the conversation in anything like a productive direction, though, is to challenge Chris Brown to a fight. Which is what C.M. Punk, a professional wrestler, decided it would be a productive thing to do. There's really no circumstance in which a white man talking about curb stomping a black man is an elevating threat. And whatever Chris Brown needs, it's emphatically not a beating. Punk could take a note from retired pro wrestler Mick Foley, who's become an amazing advocate for victims of sexual assault. This isn't about completing a cycle of retribution. And it's not about teaching people about who it is or isn't honorable to fight.

I think, at this point, it's a good idea to revisit this 2007 profile of Chris Brown. Here is Brown discussing a promise he made to his mother as an 11-year old boy:

He vowed that he would go to jail by age 15 for killing his abusive stepfather. "I just want you to know that I love you," he told her in GIANT. "But I'm gonna take a baseball bat one day while you at work, and I'm gonna kill him." Brown's parents had separated when he was seven. When his mother remarried, she moved her son and his new stepfather to a trailer park. Then his stepfather shot himself in the head. The shot went straight through the eyes. He survived the suicide attempt but was permanently blinded. 

 "When you're blind, your senses are heightened, like your smell, hearing, your sense of touch," Brown explains to GIANT. "You can move and maneuver around your sight. But he used to hit my mom.... He made me terrified all the time, terrified like I had to pee on myself. I remember one night he made her nose bleed. I was crying and thinking, 'I'm just gonna go crazy on him one day...' I hate him to this day."

This information isn't offered to make anyone more lenient on Chris Brown, or to excuse his actions. It's offered to point out that Brown's capacity for abusive violence didn't materialize out of thin air. And when threatening him with more abuse, it's worth thinking about how this all began. When you threaten Chris Brown you aren't fighting abusive violence. You are speaking his language.

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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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