Eryan Cobham

Thinker-tinker. Web Developer.

As Many Times as It Takes

White celebrities move in a space of white privilege that allows for both forgiveness and forgetfulness on behalf of the ever-present mainstream media machine. This is a space that Black artists are shut out of. As racial identity continues to be negotiated through images and representations, Black celebrities continue to be subjected to the deeply embedded archetypes and stereotypes of Blacks in this country. Read: Chris Brown as the “angry black juvenile delinquent” and Janet Jackson as the “hyper-sexualized, overly promiscuous black female.”

I’m a little torn about this article, which you should go and read first. On one hand, I definitely agree with her larger point—that black celebrities can be subject to very different standards than white celebrities. On the other hand, this seems to be a particularly bad situation to use as an example of such differences.

I would actually argue that the black community is a little too fast and forgiving in bringing its celebrities back into the fold. Not for the stupid stuff I don’t care about, like showing a nipple on or having a stress-induced nervous breakdown, but for serious stuff, like statutory rape and violence. I think there is too much rushing to protect someone because the mainstream media is being too hard on them. One obvious example is R. Kelly, who managed to neither apologize nor suffer any long-term legal repercussions beyond the expense and public humiliation of the trial. People never seemed to stop stepping in the name of love.

I think Chris Brown’s situation is quite a bit different though, because he committed an act of violence against another person, and that person was at least as famous as he was (don’t discount how important that second part is). I don’t really follow much celebrity news and gossip, so I don’t know how many other celebrities of any race were involved with violence like this. I know Sheen has had some charges brought and abused the women associated with him on several occasions. Unfortunately Sheen is a bigger star than them, and people took their colorful pasts to mean they were slightly less…reputable. Wrongly, their accounts of the incidents were discounted. There’s also Mel Gibson, but he’s continuing to suffer some consequences. I’m sure there are more, but right now I can’t really think of any comparable situations, other than maybe Ike and Tina Turner. Yeah, Miley Cyrus and Lindsey Lohan and others have done dumb stuff, but they’re only hurting themselves, and people love to see the rich and famous self-destruct.

With Brown, I never really got a sense of any contrition. Like I said, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention, so I could be wrong. I remember him putting out a youtube video, but I also definitely remember seeing pictures of him chilling at a pool with a bunch of women having a good ‘ol time a few weeks later. I’m not saying he needed to be a hermit, but c’mon son, Rihanna’s face hadn’t even finished healing yet. Since he was apparently shunned immediately after the incident, this is basically the first time in two years that people actually want to hear what he has to say—so long as what he has to say is “I’m sorry” (look no further than Michael Vick for an example of that). His big problem (besides having a temper) is that he has now turned what could have been a bad incident into a bad pattern. He could have taken all the questions in stride, sounded contrite, performed, and moved on to the next interview but he didn’t. Why? Because he does have anger issues.

Leigh is right that Brown is a young kid that needs better people around him, but I also think he needs some serious anger management and time before he should be allowed to let slide. Domestic violence is too important of an issue for two years, a misdemeanor charge, and some bs community service to be enough. That’s not the way things work nowadays, though. Now, your road to redemption is paved with dollar bills. The way things work is that he has two choices: 1) change the topic by making himself into a sideshow, so people stop thinking about why he was originally in the news (not an easy thing to do, making violence funny, but possible, as Sheen has shown); or 2) start excelling at his craft and making hit songs (the R. Kelly/Kobe Bryant route). He had already chosen the latter path, which is the only reason he was on GMA to begin with.

Unfortunately, if he really wants people to stop asking him questions, then all he needs to do is start “#winning.”