Last week, court papers were released that reveal Chris Brown had been diagnosed with bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders. I’ve had my issues with Breezy but that revelation broke my heart. He has become yet another example of what happens when mental illness and past traumas are ignored. Yet another Black boy who was not given an outlet to feel and express his hurt. On top of all of that, he has been exposed the spoils, vices and general fuckery that can accompany fame but’s he’s just a public example. He isn’t the only black boy walking around with bags filled with emotional and mental turmoil. He is one of thousands, maybe even millions.
Prior to the Rihanna incident, Brown revealed that he’d grown up watching his mother be abused by her intimate partners. But, since he was still the fresh-faced kid dancing in doublemint gum commercials, so people took that story as merely one of overcome adversity when in reality, he should have been getting help back then.
Then, it happened. Chris and Rihanna were missing for the 2009 Grammy ceremony. The rumors started swirling and then we saw that picture of her battered face. Brown’s downward spiral had begun. That’s when that interview about his child resurfaced. Statistically, children that are raised in abusive households grow up to abuse or get abused. While there is absolutely no justification for what he did, it shouldn’t have taken him assaulting his girlfriend for people to know something was wrong. He was a ticking time bomb and so are a lot of Black men and boys. And like Brown, no one cares or does anything until those bombs detonate. Our kids, regardless of gender, are born into a war because of their skin color so when they are not allowed an outlet, they suffer. We all suffer.
Black boys are not ending up behind bars because they are inherently bad people. They don’t get thrown in special education in droves and punished at higher rates than other school children because they are dumber. They’re hurting. They’re forced to adhere to some hypermasculine ideal that encourages them to be stoic from a very young age. When they cry, they get scolded and punched in the chest. If they express creativity that isn’t cosigned by the hypermasculine norm, they’re discouraged because no one wants to raise a fag or sissy. Their inner flame is extinguished early so they lash out. They lash out at their families, intimate partners and anyone else that’s close. They turn to crime. They drop out of school. They commit suicide. They hurt each other and they hurt Black women and girls. These boys become Chris Brown, my adopted younger brother, my cousin Tavares; cautionary tales that are discussed in hushed tones and behind closed doors. We need to do something about it or we will keep losing them.
We need to nurture our boys and let them have their emotion. Whether they like to throw footballs and roll in mud or play barbies with their sisterfriends, it’s okay. Sagging pants aint cute but they aren’t the end of the world. We need to let them be multi-faceted, complex individuals or they will keep slipping away. In addition, when we sense them slipping away, we need to act. Therapy, pills and a good cry are not weaknesses nor are they indicators of deviancy. I could go on forever about this but the point is, we need to let them BE so they can not only survive, but thrive. We might not be able to save each and every one of them but we will be able to hold on to more of them.