Open Letter to Chris Brown

Dear Mr. Brown,

You are standing at a crossroad of your life. One that many men have come. One that I had been. You joined (probably a long time ago) the ranks of men who have abused women. I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t part of the group but I am. Like most men, the cornerstone of my pride was based on my sexuality and physical toughness. There were times in my life where I felt humiliated for not being violent or abusive. I felt like the only way to wipe out the humiliation was to be violent and abusive. My crossroad came when a person came into my life and shook me to the core. This person started the deconstruction of my male belief system and 20 years later am I continuing that work. I was stuck in this “man prison” because my definition of masculinity was limited. Once I alleviated both perceived and real peer pressure that motivated me to engage in physical and sexual aggression to affirm my masculinity I was free. I hope this letter gives you some of the same freedom.

I took great pride in being labeled a “ladies man”. I was more interested in conquering women for sexual use than in the sensuality of the sexual experience. I regarded sexual experiences as conquests and often achieved these through conning. Just because I didn’t use force or coercion doesn’t make my abuse any more or less significant or vile. My interest had been in sex objects for my use and not as sexual partners. What I learned and what I hope you learn is that your behavior was terrible but you are not terrible. The second is that abuse is never good. Whether it is insults, shoving your partner, undermining confidence, or making slurs. I don’t limit my definition of abuse as just physical. It is all abuse.

My crossroad came unexpectedly. During my college years, there was a woman that every guy was interested in but none seemed to good enough for her. Let’s call her Marie. Of course, she became the object of my desire. I could do what no other guy could. I never talked to her. Instead I talked to her friends, did things for them, was available to them. I knew they would get around to telling her what a “nice guy” I was. You see, at the time I had the equipment to be involved in an adult relationship but I did not have the maturity, probably just like you. Eventually, we talked and I gained her trust. So much so that she told me intimate secrets of her life. Slowly she told me more and more. I eventually gained so much of her trust that she told me that she wanted to be intimate with me but there was something she had to tell me first. On the cusp of what I felt like I “worked” so hard for, what could have been that bad? I played the game and was about to win. Well, Marie told me that at her previous university she was ganged raped. I never have had a lower moment. I came face to face with who I really was. Marie loved me for who she thought I was. It was definitely someone I could be. Was it someone I wanted to be? My answer was yes. At that moment, I knew I needed a new soul or at least some major work on the one I had. The range of emotions that she went through that I had ignored for such a long time made sense to me now. One moment she was like a scared child, the next she was confident. One moment she wanted me right next to her, the next she couldn’t get away from me fast enough. This wasn’t day to day. This was minute to minute. I realized I had come close to abusing her even worse than the guys that gang raped her. I was no better than them. I had been using my penis as a weapon. Inflicting damage without thought of any consequences on others. I was always told what I was doing was part of being a man. It was game. I was playa. But if this was a game, how come I didn’t feel like a winner? I started going to domestic violence groups and eventually became an operator on a domestic violence hotline. I showed new female students areas on campus that had blue lights where phones were located for emergencies? Why would anyone need protection from winners? I realized I wasn’t a playa, I was jerk (to say it lightly). I began to do Women Self Defense workshops. Marie was proud of what I was doing but I had to share with her my most intimate secret. I wasn’t who I presented to be. I detailed my sexual history. I told her the extent of my search for sexual power, the ways I conducted that quest, the purpose it served, and the effect on others. She hugged me and said “Thank you”. She asked me to do her a favor. She asked me “Can you teach boys not to abuse women?”. Another enlightening moment. I was doing everything backwards. I was trying to teach women how not to get abused instead of teaching young men not to abuse.

I’m reaching out to you to do the same. Here are some of my recommendations where you could start. Because like myself, I think you have some work to do if you are truly sincere about not doing this again. Don’t allow your guilt and shame to ward off confusion, tears, tenderness, sorrow, and love. When we allow ourselves these feelings, the women and children in our lives may be able to feel a commonality and closeness with us, rather than feeling driven by us. I had to be comfortable not being in control, being patient, listening, offering advice, being of service- if power and control are essential to who we are, these will always be alien. But if we want love and connectedness, rich relationships with women, children, other men and ourselves…you have to be open to these. I had to do was develop a self disgust for the very behavior that I thought defined me. I had to look at the damage I inflicted on the life of others. That took me dropping the excuses (i.e. it was her choice, its all part of the game). Friends and family may even try to excuse your behavior (i.e. she started it, you didn’t plan on being abusive, you didn’t really mean it). Don’t accept the excuses. Look at your behavior for what it is. Divorce yourself from the image of playboy/ ladies man. The longer you hold onto that image the further away you get from stopping your behavior. That means getting away from your songs you have been so used to producing. It means divorcing yourself from the artists that produce music that encourages the behavior. It means possibly losing endorsements, money, and friends but it is an essential part of your healing process. Keep checking yourself. Make sure you are always aware of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that encourage your old behavior. Intervene in the patterns and continually fight old ways. Use your music as a sounding board for the survivors of violence against women. Use it to help with the healing process for friends and survivors and to raise society’s awareness of the extent of the problem of violence against women. Lastly, confront men in the absence of women. Confront the attitudes when you are not on camera. Let people know this is the new you and not someone trying to reduce their sentence or come back into good graces. There are people out there who are willing to help and support you. This is only the beginning. Be well.

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64 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow.

    It’s too bad that the incentives for men to stay the same are numerous. Society say violence is bad rewards men who are.

  2. Wow. Wonderful post. Thank you.

  3. Thank you.

  4. This is powerful. Thank you.

  5. Beautiful.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. Your story really touched me. I hope Chris Brown reads it.

  7. This is amazing. Thank you for writing it.

  8. excellent letter. i’m so glad that you had the courage to write this, and the sense to recognize that attitudes and behavior need to change.

  9. Thank you for your honesty, with yourself and with all of us.

  10. thank you so much for this. keep up the good work.

  11. You are the kind of man that makes me proud to be a man.

  12. [...] You listen. Seriously. Go now. [...]

  13. [...] You listen. Seriously. Go now. [...]

  14. Thank you.

  15. thank you for this.

  16. Thank you.

  17. Hugs too. I wish well and thankyou.

  18. Bravo. It likely won’t make a difference to Chris Brown but at least you’ve stated some truths for other young men to ponder. Educating our children, both male and female, is essential if this battle to eradicate abuse is ever going to be won.

    Thank you for your contribution.
    Ingrid Berzins Leuzy
    Author/Silent Women

  19. This is what I was hoping would happen… men who understand the true meaning of masculinity would stand up and speak out.

    Thank you.

  20. Wow… thank you so much! I wish someone would also write an open letter for Rihanna.

    I was really, really disappointed when it happened.
    Chris Brown needs to go down to that place where he needs to be honest with himself.

    Thank you for this letter.

    It is so moving.

  21. Powerful. Eloquent. Inspiring.

    Thank you.

  22. Everyday in life, when we get out of bed, we make choices…
    We long for our Hero to rescue. We yearn for your protection. We respect and admire your courage in keeping us safe. His strength allows her feminine heart to flourish. Not the physical strength but in character. Fear and control is not something that we want to live with everyday.

    Thank u for the post

  23. Thank you for posting this

  24. [...] Diary of a black male feminist you should read this. [...]

  25. This is wonderful. Thank you for doing your healing work, and for sharing it. Hopefully Chris does his.

  26. Thank You for sharing your journey and I hope that Chris Brown and other men benefit from your honesty. I also hope that someone writes an open letter to Rihanna, because if her behaviors don’t change, she will put herself in the same situation again. I read all of the details (after the initial reports that he attacked her first) and she did start the violence first while he was driving. His reaction was all wrong and no man should beat any woman, but at the same time, women shouldn’t hit men. There has to be that mutual respect. Again, in no way am I justifying Chris beating Rihanna, but she needs to get some help too, if she is going to be safe in her next relationship.

  27. When someone is abused they take pity on themselves, but it’s different hearing the story from the other person’s perspective.

  28. Chris Brown most likely will never read but hundreds of thousands of other men are just like this open letter and maybe many hundreds will want to become more too choosing to put aside a hollow empty life and give rather than living to take from others. It is never too late to change and live a life of love.

  29. [...] Open Letter to Chris Brown « Diary of a Black Male Feminist Another enlightening moment. I was doing everything backwards. I was trying to teach women how not to get abused instead of teaching young men not to abuse. (tags: sexualviolence gender domesticviolence feminism men) [...]

  30. [...] at Diary of a Black Male Feminist has an open letter to Chris Brown in which the author discusses his past as an abuser and how he evolved away from such a [...]

  31. Outstanding stuff. The kind of thing my male students need to hear.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think young Mr. Brown will listen. The woman he abused has apparently rushed back to him, so why should he? That will be what he takes from this.

    I hope I’m wrong. I tend to doubt it here.

  32. [...] blog is Diary of a Black  Male Feminist: New Black Masculinity. The author wrote an article called Open Letter to Chris Brown. The article is skewed towards a young , black male but it’s not a stretch to aim this at any [...]

  33. This letter is a true example of manhood. It’s not right for men to use and abuse women and I really hope that not only Chris Brown reads this, but other men who still do these kinds of things to women. I also hope women read this so that they know that not all men are bad guys and that they can empower themselves. Chris is young so the sooner he learns his lesson, the better and I don’t think it’s too late for him to change his ways.

  34. Wow.

    I am almost speechless. What a wonderful, wonderful letter. It’s men like you who will lead us into a better future. I have always thought that men should be the teachers of men, and your letter is a shining example of a brilliant mind making a difference. I hope a lot of people listen to you and heed your words – we NEED more men like you!

    Thank you so much!!

  35. “Be well” indeed.

  36. Likely you will never know how many men and women this will touch and change. Thanks for posting this.

  37. You tell him

  38. Excellent post! Very inspiring.

  39. a moving piece – good on you

  40. this is a beautiful post.

    thank you. really, really thank you.

  41. I applaud you for this post. I wish more men could do the same (or atleast something similar)

  42. [...] was all set to complain about my rough week when I logged onto WordPress today.  Instead, I found this post, and I cannot help but share it with everyone that reads here (which isn’t a large group, I [...]

  43. I wish he would read it and take your advice but I hardly doubt it.

  44. Just as I discovered when I first heard Tim Wise speak that Whites will learn not to be racist from other whites, I have discovered that men will learn not to be sexist, and not to be abusive, from other men.

    Thank you.

  45. I am inspired. Thanks!

  46. Thank you for sharing this. We need more guys out there helping to work toward change!

  47. The YWCA Silicon Valley, for those in the area, will be having their 7th Annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. This is an event to raise sexual assault awareness allowing men to literally walk a mile (it’s a little less) in high heels… We will be passing out loaner shoes and there will be speeches given by officials. It’s a great event that allows the community to come together in hopes to raise some awareness. I’d also like to point out there is a group at the YWCA that goes around to teach young boys how to use their masculinity. If you are interested, please comment me and I will give you further information! Help if you can!

  48. This is wonderful. Thank you.

  49. Beautiful Letter!

    I hope Chris Brown really gets the chance to read this himself. Truly inspired by this. Thank you!

  50. Thank you for this writing and sharing your story and insight.I CB does see this.

  51. Wonderful post. I don’t know you but I wish you and Chris Brown all the best.

  52. Ps: I still don’t understand fully why Rihanna is staying with him. Oh wait, maybe I do.

  53. [...] Open Letter to Chris Brown Dear Mr. Brown, You are standing at a crossroad of your life. One that many men have come. One that I had been. You [...] [...]

  54. now lets just hope he reads it.

  55. [...] watched that, please go read Open Letter to Chris Brown over on Diary of a Black Male Feminist. And I think perhaps the crux of the argument is [...]

  56. Thankyou.

  57. I just found this blog and post by way of Shakesville. Thank you very much for writing this. I have passed it on to my husband and brother as well. Men have a responsibility for discussing male violence with other men that is too often ignored. It is so much easier for them to “go along” with what other men say and do rather than confront inappropriate and harmful attitudes and behaviors. Women can’t do all the work. Violence against women IS a men’s issue. Thank you for doing the work.

    I will visit this blog often now. Particularly since I see that you are also from my home state of MD.

    Thank you again!

  58. Thank you.

  59. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is deeply moving.

  60. this brought me to tears

  61. Favorite line: “I was doing everything backwards. I was trying to teach women how not to get abused instead of teaching young men not to abuse.”

  62. Thank you.

  63. Wow, halleluja moment.
    I was thinking that, too, in school.. We girls were tought to “self defense”, but what did the boys do? Nothing, or playing around (I don’t know). No one taught them to not be jerks…

    So thank you for this letter, I will link to this post =)

    Be blessed.

  64. Brilliant and moving.

    Thank you.


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