Read the washingtonpost.com Live Online discussion on CHRIS BROWN’S MISSING PRESCHOOL LESSON with The Root‘s Lisa Crooms.
My son Joel fancies himself a crooner. Over the holidays, he would sing into the shampoo bottle in the bathroom, belting out “This Christmas” with his eyes closed, like he was headlining a concert. So as I put together my seasonal iPod playlist, I included Donny Hathaway’s classic version as a little gift for my 9-year-old aspiring singer. When I played it, he asked, “Who’s that singing Chris Brown’s song?” I was incredulous. “What do you mean Chris Brown’s song? Donny Hathaway sang “This Christmas” long before Chris Brown’s mama ever thought about him.” Joel responded, “Well, the things that were cool when you were young aren’t cool anymore. Could you please download Chris Brown and put my song on your iPod?” I got over it, paid the 99 cents and added Chris Brown to my playlist.
Beyond noting that Brown had a Wrigley’s Gum commercial, Joel and I hadn’t really talked about him since the holidays. Until last Monday morning. During our 25-minute ride across town to his school, we found ourselves listening to “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” crew lamenting about Chris Brown and Rihanna. “Mommy, what happened to Chris Brown?” Joel asked. I shushed him so we could both hear the story. Chris Brown was in police custody because of a domestic dispute involving an unidentified woman everyone assumed was his boo, Rihanna.
I turned down the volume on the radio and asked, “So Joel, is there a problem with the story you just heard?” “Yes,” he said. “Boys should never hit girls.” He learned that lesson more than six years earlier when we were living in Jamaica, and I picked him up from day care to find that he had been in a fight with a little girl who hit him. His internal sense of justice was offended because I didn’t care to hear his side of the story. Hitting a girl was unacceptable, I told him, even if she hit him first. I took away his television privileges. I made him apologize to her. He never hit a girl again.
We hadn’t revisited the hitting issue since 2003, so I was prepared to have a fairly lengthy conversation about what allegedly happened between Chris and Rihanna. But Joel’s succinct response convinced me that there was no need to dwell on it. As details of the alleged assault have come out over the past week, I’ve been more concerned about having to explain STDs and booty calls than having to reinforce the basic lesson about not hitting girls. I have also looked for some sign of remorse from Brown—some evidence that at some point in his 19 years, his mother told him the same thing I told Joel when he was 3. Unfortunately, all I’ve heard are excuses and a failure to take some responsibility for what happened between him and the woman to whom he reportedly gave a 20-carat diamond ring.
Last Tuesday, when details emerged about Rihanna’s injuries, the media projected blame onto Brown’s reportedly abusive stepfather. The next day, we heard that Rihanna was the one who started the blowup, after she read a text message to Brown from another woman. He first threatened to kill her, we heard, after she threw the keys to his rented Lamborghini out of the car window. The next day, we learned that it might not have been the first time Brown hit her.
Evidently, while Joel and I were revisiting our “boys don’t hit girls” lesson in the car that morning after the attack, other parents either punted entirely or used their talk to convey very different messages. The avalanche of contradictory messages makes me wonder if that lesson I drilled into Joel when he was 3 can be unlearned. I think of what he told me back at Christmas: “Well, the things that were cool when you were young aren’t cool anymore.” Chris Brown won out over Donny Hathaway on my playlist. I’ll be damned if he’ll win this one, at least not in my house.