by LZ Granderson
(CNN) — Recently it has seemed that every other tweet or Instagram posted by pop star Rihanna taunts the public with an uncomfortable thought: Singer Chris Brown, the man who beat her so badly in 2009 that was she was almost unrecognizable, may once again be her lover.
Rumors the two had reconnected began circulating not long after their infamous altercation, which ultimately resulted in Brown pleading guilty to felony assault. Then earlier this year there was the remix to Rihanna’s song “Birthday Cake,” in which Brown was the featured guest vocalist offering such coy nuggets as:
“Girl I wanna — you right now
Been a long time I’ve been missing your body”.
OK, maybe “coy” is the wrong word.
In any case, the couple’s allusions to their reunion –a Twitter picture showed her embracing a man who appears to be Brown; another showed a man presumed to be Brown face down and shirtless on a bed — culminated with Brown posting a photo of himself and Rihanna, who appears to be in her underwear. “What would music today sound like if these kids didn’t exist?” the caption read.
Normally I don’t like to get too involved in grown folks’ private business. But when you use social media to shove your business down the public’s throat, it’s no longer private.
Rihanna doesn’t need to be a spokeswoman for victims of domestic violence, nor does she need to live the rest of her life as a victim. But someone needs to send her a copy of “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” or something, because she’s sending a message that everything is fine and that the man who beat her is “a good man.” Maybe so, but 77% of women her age who report domestic violence have been victimized previously by the same man, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
This fall, some Upstate New York high school students dressed up as Rihanna and Brown and reenacted their fight in a school skit for fun. When one treats serious matters like this so lightly, does one inadvertently gives permission for others to do the same?
When the world first saw the images of Rihanna’s face after her fight with Brown, many rushed to blanket the songstress with support. The way she is flaunting their relationship now, I don’t anticipate the same amount of sympathy for her if another incident occurs.
Perhaps that’s why she (preemptively?) called her latest CD, “Unapologetic.” She likely knew she would hear a lot of criticism and I guess she wanted us to know she doesn’t need our sympathy.
Famed hip-hop author dream hampton recently tweeted that “Rihanna’s a dissertation, waiting to be written.”
At 24 with 12 No. 1 singles and five Grammys, the singer is already an all-time great in terms of chart performance and sales. She’s far more complex away from the mic, often seeming to reveal herself in the 140 characters she uses in her tweets… with the exception of one song.
Her biggest seller to date, 2010’s “Love the Way You Lie,” is a duo with Eminem. The song is about a physically abusive, love-hate relationship.
As Eminem, who has had his own very public dealings with domestic violence, raps:
“You swore you’d never hit ’em, never do nothing to hurt ’em”
Rihanna hauntingly sings:
“Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
Well that’s alright because I like the way it hurts…”
After that recording, I thought Rihanna had gotten Brown out of her system. I guess love, no matter how poisonous it appears on the outside, is a hard drug to recover from.
Since completing a 52-week domestic violence program, Brown has shown about as much control over his temper as Bruce Banner.
After his 2011 interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America — in which he said his attacking Rihanna is “not really a big deal to me now” — he reportedly went to his dressing room and trashed the place in anger. Allegedly, he smashed a window that sent glass falling into the street below, before storming out of the building, shirtless, in 40-degree weather.
More than once he’s lost his temper and turned to Twitter to tell critics to “— off,” or in the case of comedienne Jenny Johnson, wrote he’d defecate on her face. And then there’s the bar fight with singer-rapper Drake.
Again, this is a year after anger management.
Oh, I can hear Brown fans now — leave him alone. He did his time. Stop hating.
I grew up with domestic violence all around me — from close family to friends — and I tend to believe if a guy hits a woman once, she needn’t stick around to see if his apologies are sincere.
But it’s Rihanna’s choice, and apparently she’s not interested in apologizing for the decisions she’s made. And if there’s a repeat of 2009, a lot of us won’t be interested enough to care. After “Birthday Cake” I’m not sure if I would care.
Hopefully that incident was a one-time thing and she’ll be alright.
(Editor’s note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughss)