Why Do So Many Black Women Keep Working With Chris Brown?

Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images.
There was controversy recently directed toward R&B singer Chlöe Bailey, of Chlöe x Halle fame, after she announced that her latest single “How Does It Feel,” for her forthcoming debut solo album In Pieces, features singer Chris Brown. 
Many fans of Bailey’s were quick to express their disappointment and anger online at her for deciding to work with Brown. “We're failing Black women in music if they feel like they have to collaborate with a known abuser in order to chart,” journalist Ernest Owens tweeted
Bailey has remained quiet amidst the backlash, but Brown responded in a series of Instagram stories saying that anyone who still hates him “FOR A MISTAKE I MADE AS A 17 year old please kiss my whole entire ass!” (It should be noted that he was 20-years-old during the Rihanna altercation.) Continuing in his Instagram story, Brown posted screenshots from an article listing other famous men accused of abuse, including Sean Penn, Mel Gibson, and several other famous white men. “Where are the cancel culture with these white artist that date underage women [and] BEAT THE FUCK OUT THEIR WIVES,” Brown asked. 
Questioning why the public and system are uniquely punitive towards Black men who’ve committed abuse is a familiar retort, one I’ve personally used to default to when I was younger and wanted to defend famous Black men who had been credibly accused of intimate partner violence. But what was really the end goal of asking this question? We know that whiteness allows for white perpetrators of domestic violence to often evade accountability to their victims and survivors, but instead of this knowledge inspiring actions to organize towards a world where abusers are all held responsible for their actions, it’s instead used as an excuse to allow Black male abusers to continue this violent cycle. 
In the 13 years since Brown reportedly punched, bit, and shoved his then-girlfriend Rihanna against their car window, he has been accused of abuse and just general awfulness by others. In 2012, he allegedly assaulted a woman at a nightclub, pushing her to the ground, leaving her knee ligament torn. In 2013, Brown was kicked out of rehab for smashing his mother’s car window, according to his probation officer. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to a 2013 altercation that took place while he was still on probation for his assault on Rihanna. In 2016, his female tour manager quit in the same month Brown’s former male manager sued him for assault, after she also alleged that Brown threatened her with violence. That same year, Brown took to social media to mock singer Kehlani after she attempted suicide after being falsely accused of cheating on her former boyfriend basketball player Kyrie Irving. In 2017, Brown’s ex-girlfriend actress Karruche Tran was granted a five-year-long restraining order against Brown after she alleged physical abuse throughout their relationship and claimed that Brown had also threatened to kill her and her friends. In 2019, Brown was accused by Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta star Tokyo Vanity of shutting dark-skinned women out of the club while he was there. In 2022, Brown was sued for $20 million by a woman who accused the singer of drugging and raping her. (Brown denies these claims and Tthe case was later dismissed by a judge on the grounds of “no prosecution” after neither party appeared in court.)

Internalized misogynoir certainly factors into why many Black women can see themselves in Black men (even the ones who are violent predators) while dismissing the trauma inflicted against other Black women.

To the people who say that Brown has just made mistakes and deserves a “second chance,” the aforementioned repeated offenses — alleged or otherwise — and his lack of public remorse, contributes to a system that enables abusers. 
Despite his long — long — list of offenses, Black women continue to be Brown’s strongest support system. Which isn’t to say men in the industry haven’t also been a part of Brown’s success, but there’s a particular insidiousness with how women position their femininity to soften Brown’s image. Just a few days after Brown and Bailey’s song was announced, singer Cassie announced her own musical collaboration with Brown. Normani appeared in Brown’s video as a dancer back in June to the dismay of her fans. This past November, singer Kelly Rowland said that Brown was deserving of “grace,” after she defended him when the AMAs canceled his performance. Also responding to the AMA’s controversy, “Red Sangria” singer Jordin Sparks said that his physical violence against Rihanna "shouldn't even be a conversation anymore.” R&B stars H.E.R and Ella Mai have also worked with Brown.
Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images.
There’s not just one simple reason why Black women continue to support men like Chris Brown. Some fans online have theorized that younger artists like Chloe and Normani are being forced by their labels to work with Brown. Supporting this speculation is a resurfaced interview where singer Tinashe says her collaboration with Brown was arranged by her label. “It was really the label," she said on Entertainment Tonight "It wasn't me." Brown would later respond to this claim by calling Tinashe a “Hobbit Face Ass.”
But, just like the generation before us that clung to R. Kelly until it became publicly untenable to support him, internalized misogynoir certainly factors into why many Black women can see themselves in Black men (even the ones who are violent predators) while dismissing the trauma inflicted against other Black women. If even a woman like Rowland, who has spoken publicly about having experienced domestic violence, can dismiss public outrage about Brown’s violent behavior, what support can Black women victims expect within the industry and the world writ large?
Black women are not accountable for Brown’s ongoing violent behavior, but the Black women who continue to support him are culpable in the culture of silence and shame that leaves all victims and survivors unable to fully heal from the abuse they suffered from. 

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