Kudos to Oprah Winfrey. Too many other celebrities have cowered away from stating the obvious: Chris Brown is a batterer and none of this shit is funny. (Kate Harding at SALON has a nice piece on black celebs’ soft-shoe routine in particular.) So now Oprah’s planning a whole show on domestic violence, hopefully stoking a conversation that it’s long past time we all have.
Lost in the giggling and snarking about Brown and Rihanna is the horrifying fact that one third of all women murdered in America are killed by intimate partners—that’s 1,200 women every single year. And surprise, surprise, black women are more likely than others to be victims. So are women under 24 years old. In other words, Rihanna’s not just some tragic celebrity story; she’s the typical profile of a domestic violence victim (except that she’s rich). Jennifer Hudson’s family wasn’t all that unique either when William Balfour went on his murderous rampage.
No, the details of these violent episodes don’t matter—not for Brown or anyone else. There are no circumstances in which partner violence is acceptable. None. And it’s no more of a private affair than it is if I beat up my neighbor because I don’t like the way he looks at me.
Yes, there’s a cycle of learned violence in too many families. Yes, a complicated tangle of emotions and finances mean too many women choose to live with violence they don’t deserve. And all of that’s why we need to talk seriously about this, not shrug and laugh it off. Oprah doesn’t need the marketing help, to be sure, but a whole lot of people need to tune in and watch. Also go over to ILL DOCTRINE and check out Jay Smooth’s conversation with Elizabeth Mendez Berry, who wrote a piece about domestic violence in VIBE in 2005.