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Why I don't feel like dancing to Chris Brown's music

By LZ Granderson, Special to CNN
R&B musician Chris Brown tells Rolling Stone: "I'm sorry for what I did, whatever it is."
R&B musician Chris Brown tells Rolling Stone: "I'm sorry for what I did, whatever it is."
  • LZ Granderson says he can't listen to the Chris Brown songs in his music library -- yet

  • Author wonders if Brown is sorry for assaulting Rihanna, or sorry he got caught

  • Granderson says Brown wants people to move on, yet won't say what we're supposed to move on from

  • He'd like to see Brown use fame to bring public awareness to dangers of domestic violence.

Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, and has contributed to ESPN's Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is the 2009 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) award winner for online journalism and the 2008 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) winner for column writing.

(CNN) -- There are 3,626 songs in my music library.

Some are played every day, others just a few times a year. There are songs that remind me of relationships I've royally screwed up (Hoobastank's "The Reason") and a few on my iPhone that were clearly DWIs -- downloaded while intoxicated (think Huey Lewis and the News, circa 1985).

But despite the wide range of emotions triggered by my 3,626 songs, I typically don't have a problem listening to any of them at any given time.

Except for four: "Run It," "Forever," "With You" and "Kiss Kiss." Haven't played them since last winter.

For those of you a little slow on the pop culture uptake, these are all songs by Chris Brown, the R&B singer who back in February assaulted his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, was sentenced to 180 days of community service, and now, eight months later, wants us to download his new music. And forgive him.

"Honestly, I would just like to get past it," Brown recently told Rolling Stone. "At the end of the day, I'm sorry for what I did, whatever it is."

This week, Brown headlines his first concert since the assault, the next step in revitalizing his image. As a one-time fan, there's a part of me that would like to get back to playing his music and get back to the party. But the last three words of that sentence just won't let me do it.

Video: LKL: Chris Brown
  • Rihanna
  • Chris Brown
  • Domestic Violence
  • R&B

"Whatever it is" doesn't sound like the words of a man who has done some serious soul searching. Rather, "whatever it is" sounds like the words of a man trained by his lawyers or marketing team to offer up a public admission of wrongdoing while avoiding linking his name to unpleasant phrases such as "domestic violence" and "physical assault." It's the same avoidance we saw during his interview with CNN's Larry King.

The reason why I am having a tough time moving on -- and thus playing Brown's music again -- is because he doesn't appear willing to say exactly what we're supposed to be moving on from. He's trying to speak up while remaining silent, which makes me wonder if he's sorry for what he did, or sorry he got caught.

I'm not saying Brown is a terrible person. I'm not saying he doesn't still love Rihanna. And I'm certainly am not trying to dictate when someone should be forgiven.

But I am having a hard time hearing his voice over a dance beat right now. And I am having difficulties singing along to lyrics such as "I won't let you fall girl" knowing that's not all together true.

We're all human, capable of making some terrible mistakes. I certainly have done some things I am not proud of and likely will do more things that fall short of being admirable.

But when the nation's domestic violence 24-hour hot lines are receiving 14 calls a minute, "whatever it is" just rubs me the wrong way.

Any PR guru will tell you it's nice to have the public forgive your sins, but it's even better to have them forget. Forgetting starts with redirecting the conversation and distancing yourself from the controversy, and it appears that is exactly what Brown is trying to do.

He doesn't want to be thought of as a perpetrator. He doesn't want to be linked to criminal behavior. He just wants to move on. I do, too. But reality won't let me.

Multiple studies show that nearly 2 million women are victims of domestic violence annually, and with the added tension fueled by a hurting economy, some crisis centers are seeing an increase of cases. I can remember women in my neighborhood, and even in my own family, trying to cover up bruises they believed they deserved for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

"He's a good man," is what they would say to each other, as if it was encouragement. And we all know this isn't just an issue that affects the everyday family.

It was just a year ago this week the mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew of Jennifer Hudson were killed, allegedly by her sister's estranged husband. Prosecutors believe he shot them in a jealous rage because Hudson's sister was dating someone else.

Also a year ago this month, Soul Train creator Don Cornelius was arrested on charges of domestic violence. This fall, actor Tom Sizemore was arrested on charges of domestic violence -- again. It's an ongoing problem, and yet culturally it doesn't feel that way. Culturally it feels as if we treat it like a private matter, an aspect of the couple's relationship that should be determined by the two of them.

Culturally, it doesn't even feel like it's a crime, with generations being spoon fed images of Ricky Ricardo spanking Lucy or hearing Ralph Kramden threaten to knock Alice to the moon. When the incident first occurred, some fans assumed Rihanna did something and thus deserved the assault, underscoring the sentiment that it's less of a crime and more of a fight between lovers.

To his credit, Brown is donating a portion of the proceeds from the fan appreciation tour he is doing next month to a Los Angeles, California, based nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence. A nice gesture that, unfortunately, is somewhat undermined by the bravado spewing from his latest single, "I'll Transform Ya," which brags about him being a great catch.

Talk about disconnects.

I guess this is why there are 3,626 songs in my music library and not 3,622. I haven't deleted the four songs by Brown from my music library because there's a part of me that understands this dialogue is way bigger than the incident that surrounds a 20-year-old kid.

Hopefully Brown really is a changed person, who, over time, will continue to use his fame to bring public awareness to the dangers of domestic violence. There's a part of me that wants to play his music again, rejoin the party, and yeah, move on.

Just not yet.

Right now I still have the images of a battered Rihanna in my head, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't feel like dancing to the songs of the person who did it.

"Whatever it is" he did.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.