When you returned home on Wednesday, May 6th I know you surely had a WTF moment. Discovering that your home was broken into, seeing your cars vandalized and finding a naked woman, whom you didn’t know, in your bed had to be shocking, infuriating and maybe even a little scary. You were violated by a young woman who by all accounts, even your own, was not thinking logically. I’m sure in the heat of the moment you were angry and wanted to publicly shame her and get vengeance for what she had done to your property and how she made you feel. So you posted her pic and called her crazy. But as you have already acknowledged, Amira Kodcia Ayeb, the 21-year-old woman who spray painted your Range Rover and threw your daughter’s clothing in the trash, is not crazy — she is sick. Most likely, Ms. Ayeb is struggling with manic depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia, or a combination of any of these diseases.
Initially you pressed charges against Ms. Ayeb for stalking, vandalism and burglary, when in fact, what she needed most was counseling. I’m gathering after being advised, and maybe some soul-searching on your part, you decided to drop the charges. This was one of the smartest, most thoughtful and selfless acts I’ve seen you commit in a long time and I was proud that you saw in your heart to handle this matter in a different, more effective manner.
To say that Black mentally ill people, especially women, do not fare well in the custody of police officers is a major understatement. Have you heard about Tanisha Anderson, who died after officers allegedly slammed her head on the pavement as they attempted to take her into custody? She had been prescribed medication for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Her family wanted the police’s assistance in getting her to go to the hospital for an evaluation. She was only 37 years old and now she’s dead. Another recent example is the death of Natasha McKenna just this past February after she was Tasered four times while in custody with her hands cuffed, legs shackled, and a mask over her head. She was a mother. Now she’s dead too. Chris, when you dropped the charges against Ms. Ayeb you not only saved her from possibly going to prison for many years, you may have saved her from being killed. So thank you.
Now imagine my surprise last Monday night when watching TMZ and their cameraman asked you what you thought Ms. Ayeb needed and you responded, “My dick.” Was this the kind of “help” you had in mind in your earlier statements when you dropped the charges against Ms. Ayeb? Even in jest, throwing shade on someone with psychological problems is crass, shows a lack of maturity and further stigmatizes mentally health in the Black community. But Mr. Brown, your sexual joke is so much more sinister than just playing the dozens or reading someone for filth because of not only this country’s history of horrendous sexual abuse of Black women, but also because of your own.
Saying that this young Black woman just needed you in a sexual way smacks of ego, misogyny and sexism. And haven’t we been down this road before? I know you know not what you say, or do you? Mr. Brown, the last thing a mentally ill woman who is having a serious breakdown needs is someone’s penis in her mouth. Yes, even yours!
There is a longstanding history of Black women being labeled “crazy,” “angry,” and/or “wild” without any discussion of mental illness or just how institutionalized racism and sexism marginalizes, traumatizes and breaks us. And there is a longstanding history of men who feel like our healing should be realized by mounting us– usually without our consent. From the slave masters of our pre-Civil War nation raping our African ancestors to make them “tame,” to the men in South Africa who are currently raping Black trans and gay women to “make them straight,” the notion that women must be penetrated in order to get their lives right is historic, not to mention, sadistic. The idea that Black women are somehow crazy because we are sexually deprived just reinforces the stereotype that Black women are hypersexual savages that need to becivilized via a man’s penis or his Taser. What you, and so many others, fail to realize is that our behavior, specifically when connected to mental illness, is not something that can be beat or frucked out of us.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had sex with a man and it didn’t radically cure me of my depression or leave me stress-free. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had mind-blowing sex and, even then, it didn’t make me a better person. Happier for the moment, but it never healed my insecurities, conquered my fears or vanquished my regrets. I was able to do that for myself through counseling and advice from my mom, a professional therapist, and my inner circle of trusted friends. I can, however, tell you how many times a man has said to me, “You clearly need some dick” or “Let me just fu*k you and you’ll be okay” as a response to me “acting-out.” Twice. I remember not because of the low frequency in which it has happened. I remember because being told that cuts in a place that dehumanizes. I remember because this kind of Black macho violated me in a way that made me feel naked, dirty, vulnerable, afraid, and small. I remember because “acting out” was just me telling a guy, a famous, married comedian actually, who was trying to kick it to my friend, that he was being rude to me and my friend.
The other time I was acting out was when I worked for a record label and was inexplicably fired. I went to the office and demanded to know why I had been terminated and a “colleague” and friend of my boss responded with the aforementioned let’s just do the nasty remark as a way of quelling what he saw in my demand and behavior as irrationality. What I clearly needed was understanding and some respect. Instead of acknowledging my feelings, these men responded with sexual harassment as a way of diminishing my relevance and my agency. As a matter of fact I know that writing you this open letter that I am opening myself to all kinds of attacks. How many of your fans will tell me I need to shut-up and get laid? Do they know that Black women are among the most undertreated groups for depression in the nation? I have suffered from bouts of depression several times in my life and can tell you therapy saved my life, not an orgasm or, god forbid, being in the custody of law enforcement.
Not too long ago, Mr. Brown, you were in a similar place as Ms. Ayeb when the media aimed to make you feel ashamed and small, so I’m sure you can understand when I say to you that your remarks on TMZ were damaging, ignorant and unnecessarily part of this unhealthy cycle of mocking the mentally ill. Not only do I hope you apologize for that comment, but also what I, and many women (and men), would really love to see is for you to extend a helping hand and make sure Ms. Ayeb gets counseling and medication, if necessary. Black women, experience higher rates of depression than white women and Black men, but receive lower rates of treatment– specifically adequate treatment– so we remain one of the most undertreated groups for depression in the United States. And yes, I know that you are praying for Ms. Ayeb, but how radically profound would it be to show us how far you’ve come in your own rehabilitation by securing the same kind of high quality medical health services for Ms. Ayeb. Showing us that you can make a change in someone’s life without using your penis could be impactful to not only Ms. Ayeb, but to your own growth and transformation. If that does not move you to action, please think about the countless number of young Black men and women who suffer alone and in silence because of the shame they feel without having their picture posted on the Instagram page of one of music’s biggest stars with the word “crazy” underneath. Or please consider Natasha McKenna, who, like you, was the parent of a young girl. Her last words before she died were reportedly, “You promised you wouldn’t hurt me!” In other words Mr. Brown, I am urging you to not inflict anymore pain upon Ms. Ayeb, to be bigger than your dick, and to think like the father of little brown girl and support Ms. Ayeb’s recovery. Your support could change the way in which we talk about mental health. Surely, you will be saving a life, maybe many lives.