Dr. Boyce  Watkins, a professor of Syracuse Universitywrites…

It appears that Chris Brown and Rihanna are revamping a love affair via Twitter, making duets and sending each other loving messages back-and-forth.   The two star-crossed lovers are not being bashful about their devotion to one another, and the world is taking notice.

I admit that as the father of young women who are about the same age as Rihanna, I was saddened to see her get back together with Chris Brown.   My goal was to be clear that making mistakes at the age of 19 does not permanently and automatically define you to be a social deviant.

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But while I defended Chris, I looked at him out of the corner of my eye.  In Mr. Brown, I saw (and still see) an arrogant young brother who feels entitled to anything he wants and doesn’t believe that he has to answer  to anyone.  In certain ways, he’s spoiled rotten, with millions of women, young and old, willing to do whatever he asks without any form of accountability whatsoever.

In other words, Chris Brown is a beast in the making.

Whether Chris will ever develop the discipline to know that his gifts don’t give him a blank check on irresponsible behavior, none of us can say.   But one thing that is true about life is that your choices eventually catch up with you.  If Chris grows into an R. Kelly 15 years from now, then we will know the answer.

The decision of Rihanna to reunite with Chris serves as a huge disservice to every family working to get their loved ones out of abusive relationships.   She sends a clear message (which tends to be more prevalent in black America, unfortunately) that if a man has enough “swag,” money and power, you can forgive anything he does.  While Rihanna may not be entirely innocent in her dealings with Chris, this message is a blow against women everywhere.

I am consistently amazed at how the strongest defenders of men like R. Kelly and Chris Brown tend to be women.   As a man, I can’t help but feel guilty about the fact that nearly any atrocious abuse I commit can be excused if I know how to make women feel good.  When we consider the downward spiral of relationship civility that has occurred in our community, courtesy of commercialized hip hop, it’s not surprising to see this shocking lack of self-respect.

The Chris Brown/Rihanna situation sends another message as well.  It reminds us that bad relationships can simply be another drug to which we can become addicted.  Rihanna and Chris make no secrets about how much their relationship was defined by getting high and drunk together, and enjoying another interesting drug called “sex.”  So, it only seems logical that both of them might be subject to a relapse; I just wish it hadn’t happened in public.

This is not going to end well for Rihanna.  The stories of Tina Turner’s abuse and Whitney Houston’s addiction are replaying themselves right before our very eyes.   Rihanna is simply repeating the deadly cycles of her predecessors, and she’s too powerful to care what we think.

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