Straight Outta Excuses: It's Time We Confront Dr. Dre's History of Beating Up Women

by Crystal Irby

Within the past year, more attention has been paid to Black men who abuse and victimize women. Bill Cosby, Ray Rice, and Floyd Mayweather have all been taken to task if not by the law, then by the public for their violence. However, there is one man who has, for decades, evaded being held accountable for his violence against Black women: hip-hop mogul and producer, Dr. Dre. As we near the release of Straight Out of Compton—one the most anticipated movies to document hip-hop culture—we must question, why are we still largely overlooking that Dr. Dre is also a known abuser of Black women?

While many find his content problematic, Dr. Dre’s innovation and influence on the music industry has been deemed admirable. He is, undoubtedly, a music icon. And as with all icons, his image has been sanitized. This is extremely troubling, as a Dr. Dre’s history of abusing multiple Black women in the 1990s has largely been erased. Thus, we must also question, what message does our erasure of his violence send?

Social media and the resulting 24 hour news cycle did not exist in the 90s. And neither did our culture’s willingness to have complex discussions around domestic violence. Today, though, pictures and videos travel around the world in a matter of seconds. Nothing an entertainer does is a private matter. Yet still, it continues to take insurmountable evidence to take a Black man to task for his documented brutality against women.

The consistent chorus of 46 women has still not been enough to convince some folks that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. Seeing Janay Rice knocked unconscious by her then fiancé Ray Rice in an elevator was not enough. So it makes sense that a blind eye has been turned to Dr. Dre, because no visual evidence is present. If there are no visible scars, it is easier to believe violence is not present or that it was invited. Unless you are the victim.

Furthermore women who spoke out against violent, misogynist behavior in the 1990s were deemed as women trying to tear down Black men. Robin Givens will forever be a gold digger, rather than a victim of domestic violence. Mike Tyson was given a hero’s welcome by Harlem after being convicted of raping Desiree Washington, while she disappeared into oblivion by changing her identity and undergoing cosmetic surgery. C. Deloris Tucker is remembered more for her fight against the misogynist tone of N.W.A. lyrics than her historic work as politician and feminist. Anita Hill was accused of participating in the “high-tech lynching” of Clarence Thomas when she testified about the sexual harassment she endured while working for the now Supreme Court Justice Thomas at the EOCC. And Dee Barnes, host of the 90’s show Pump It Up, was “a bitch who got what she deserved” after Dr. Dre beat her, because she did an interview with Ice Cube, in which he dissed the group N.W.A. after having recently left it.

Given the hostility and vitriol these women experienced, it is easy to question why anyone, especially a Black woman, would hold abusive Black men accountable for their actions.

The identities of these women have become inextricably tied to the men who perpetrated violence against them. However the men, Dr. Dre included, have gone on to carve out new paths and attain more success. Since Michel’le has began to openly discuss the abuse she endured while in a relationship with Dr. Dre, every interview she does becomes about him. While it is important for victims to speak their truth, we must see them also as survivors. We cannot allow victimhood to cast such a long shadow over their lives, that it erases their identity. On the other hand, when it comes to high-profile perpetrators of violence against women, society is more than eager to move past their transgressions.

The conversation about domestic violence, which seemed to be at an all-time high last year, is almost non-existent now. Instead, it has transformed into whether or not Ray Rice “deserves” a second chance. Floyd Mayweather’s greatness as a fighter and acumen as a businessman is discussed far more than his history of domestic abuse. The mayor of Compton offered Dr. Dre the key to the city. Social media is proving that the world is beaming with anticipation, awaiting the official release of Straight Outta Compton. Meanwhile the film completely erases the women Dr. Dre assaulted in the early 1990s, despite there having been some mainstream media coverage of the incidents at the time.

Yes, Dr. Dre’s career is impressive. However, it does not atone for the acts of violence he committed against women. Atonement cannot occur without accountability. Journalists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians—especially those who say they are fighting to dismantle systemic oppression—must hold Dr. Dre responsible for the pain he inflicted on these women. To write create stories and music around his legacy without acknowledging his violence is an injustice.

Just like his victims, he must be questioned in every interview. It is time to shift focus to the root cause of perpetrator behavior: misogyny and patriarchy. It is time to use a concrete definition of love that excludes violence. It time for Dr. Dre and other male celebrities to publicly confess and atone for their crimes.

The price being paid for their silence is too high. Every nine seconds a woman is battered. Every 107 seconds, a person is sexually assaulted in the United States. African-American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white women. They may also be less likely to report their abuser and/or seek help.

As Pearl Cleage stated in her excellent book, Mad at Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth, we must confront the painful yet necessary question of, “How can they hit us and still be our heroes?”

Photo: Maciek Kobielski / Wall Street Journal Magazine

Crystal Irby is a regular contributor to For Harriet.

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