On Sunday Feb. 12, both Chris Brown and Rihanna took the stage (separately) to perform at the Grammy Awards Ceremony. Brown even accepted the award for Best R&B Album. Much the same thing was set to happen three years ago, when Brown, then Rihanna’s boyfriend, beat her so violently that she had to go to the hospital before reporting the assault to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Despite pictures of Rihanna’s bruised face leaked by TMZ.com, her contemporaries hardly had anything at all to say. “I don’t think anybody actually knows what happened,” was Carrie Underwood’s comment and others were remarkably similar. It took Jay-Z to point out that perhaps “we,” the public, “should all support her.” That it even needed to be pointed out that a victim of assault should be supported as if she were our “sister or mom” is horrifying enough as is.
After Usher commented on a picture of Brown riding a jet ski during the same month as the assault, telling him to “have a bit of remorse,” the response was so negative that Usher was forced to apologize for demanding that an assault victim deserved, at the very least, remorse from her attacker.
In December 2009, hardly two years ago, Brown was convicted of felony assault and sentenced to five years probation and 180 hours of community service. In the time since, he’s become even more successful than before. His fourth album, released last March, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and three hit singles were spun off it. He performed two of these hits at the Grammys this year.
One could make the argument that Brown should not be unfairly judged by his past. After all, he pleaded guilty and even turned himself into the police the same night as the assault. In the time since conviction he has apologized publicly. But he is not remorseful. After the show, Reuters reports that he tweeted, “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF,” which was taken down shortly thereafter. Does that sound like someone who is sorry? It sounds to me like someone who believes his fame (and the validation of an out-of-touch organization) somehow nullifies the horrible things for which he was convicted.
While this is plenty revealing of Brown, it shows plenty more about the beliefs of said out-of-touch organization. Executive producer Ken Ehrlich said the week before the show that, “It may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victims of what happened.”
Something to consider before interpreting that quote: This man is part of an organization that is relentlessly image-centric. Nothing gets out without being considered by mountains of publicists. And even then they have the gall to say that they, not Rihanna, were the “victims” of her assault? Why? Because both of the performers chose not to perform the night that one was arrested and the other was in the hospital? In addition, Glen Campbell, a country singer with a history of abuse allegations, performed at the 2012 Grammys.
Now, no one would argue that the Grammys are exactly a relevant institution, but that does not make their decision to forgive Chris Brown, barely two years into his probation, any less offensive. This sends a clear message: If you’re famous or powerful enough, any violence you commit, no matter how disgusting, will be forgiven. Hell, it might even be acceptable. And that is unacceptable.