I love Rihanna’s music and greatly appreciated her creative style. She managed to dress sexy & smart without being slutty. Her music is smart too with great lyrics that don’t contain cooing, moaning or other forms of simulated sex. She worked with really interesting artist combos. She was a breath of fresh air and proof that black women can sell music and stay classy.

I’d avoided commenting on Chris Brown’s assault because I didn’t want to add to the feeding frenzy around what was a personal story. Ultimately, my hope was that she would emerge triumphant, using her celebrity as the spokesperson for a domestic violence nonprofit to help other women — turning the PR disaster into career gold.

She’s clearly chosen a different trajectory for her life. I’m writing now because the issue has become more relevant to the image of African-Americans in the public eye. Rihanna seems destined to follow in the footsteps of another squeaky-clean, mega-successful recording artist who allowed her love life to destroy a promising career — Whitney Houston. Whitney and Bobby’s spiral into jailings, domestic abuse and drugs tarnished the perspective of African-American prosperity. Those of us who once exulted at Whitney’s positive example for young black women came to shudder at the mention of her name or that of her husband whose career also tanked during their volatile and drug-fueled marriage.

Rihanna’s young and perhaps she can learn from this. Any reconciliation will benefit only Chris Brown at the expense of RiRi. It’s the essence of self-destruction: even if Brown is sincere in his desire to change, it’s likely to take time, putting Rihanna’s very life in danger. Why should we care? According to the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community:

African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates 35% higher than their White counterparts and 2.5 times the rate of men and other races. Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45. Domestic violence affects all Americans, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. However, this threat has disproportionately dire consequences for African-American women.

According to the Wikipedia, domestic violence occurs at a significantly higher rate in Barbados, where Rihanna grew up than the United States. It’s sad to see people struggle to transcend the negative aspects of their youth.

Rihanna is showing a bad example to her young fans on the treatment a young lady deserves from her partner. This is weakness not strength and courage on display. It says that violence against women is forgivable — when it is not. She truly has become a “Good Girl Gone Bad” as her last album was (looking back) poignantly named. I expected more from a woman who has done so much for charity, launching her own foundation for terminally ill children and helping to raise money for cancer research, children in Malawi, and Gucci’s UNICEF AIDS awareness campaign. It’s a shame — a shame that’s ultimately bigger, given her visibility, than just one woman’s poor choices unfortunately.

What do you think?

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