The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com
America is a funny place sometimes. We are a land of extremes with no room for nuance. Everyone is boiled down to either a Saint or Sinner in the court of public opinion. And our tabloid culture doesn’t make room for people to be complicated. Complicated doesn’t “move the needle” as they say. Because while we allow ourselves to be imperfect, while we go to Church and say “I am a work in progress”, etc, etc, we don’t allow celebrities the same room. So the narrative becomes Paula Deen is a racist, Kim Kardashian is a slut, Kanye West is an egomaniac, and Chris Brown is an abuser. This short hand is necessary because people don’t seem to recognize that famous people are also just people.
We tend to judge people we don’t know more harshly than people we actually know. So if you one of your best friends has a domestic violence incident you wouldn’t be a misogynist if you eventually forgave him. If your friend got into a fight in a nightclub you wouldn’t start the discussion about it by saying ”remember that time you beat your girlfriend”. But that’s how literally every conversation about Chris Brown starts. He’s been flagged. After all he is an admitted woman beater and the only thing worse than a woman beater is a child molester right? Wrong.
[Also Read: Chris Brown Being Sued Over Fight With Frank Ocean]
R.Kelly was videotaped peeing on a minor. His “redemption” has been complete including gospel albums, a chameleon like ability to shed his bad boy image and then put it back on when needed and most importantly the freedom to be discussed without mention of his past transgressions. If R.Kelly came on GMA Robin Roberts and ABC wouldn’t have approved a line of questioning that invoked memories of his past transgressions. That would have seemed in poor taste for a man who by some accounts has attempted to turn his life around. Yet when Chris Brown came on GMA to promote a project he was ambushed by Roberts and the unscrupulous producers who had previously agreed to abandon a line of questioning that invoked the brutal Rihanna beating. The message to America at large “please don’t forget that this is a horrible horrible person”. Chris spazzed. And of course in his anger he “proved” what the underlying subtext of that line of questioning was intended to imply. He’s at best a jerk, at worst dangerous and violent. When that incident occurred I was disappointed in Chris for feeding into the negativity. And his “downfall” (and I use that term loosely, because his career has rebounded to the point where he’s still a bankable star with millions of adoring fans) has been rooted in reacting negatively to the negativity of other’s judgments.
There is the Frank Ocean beef to consider. Frank Ocean won over mainstream America because of his talent and because he basically became the first popular openly gay performer in the hip-hop nation. But long before he came out the closet he instigated Twitter beef with Chris Brown along with his Odd Future cohorts. And when they came to blows outside of a studio in L.A., Brown’s history of violent confrontations, along with misogynistic and homophobic tweets had him painted clearly as the asshole in that situation despite the fact that none of us who wasn’t there knows the exact details. There was even talk of Ocean pressing charges something that would have damaged his status in the hip-hop community in a way that being open about his sexuality never could.
For me the best example of a typical Chris Brown new story is from Nov 26, 2012. The headlines read “Chris Brown Deletes Twitter After Vulgar Attack on Female Comedian”. If you had bothered to click the link and read the story to confirm the worst things you thought about Chris Brown you would see that he merely fell for a troll’s trap. The female “comedian” who by many accounts isn’t all that funny or well known attacked Chris Brown actually but that part of the story was never explicitly spelled out and nobody criticized her for her lack of class or tact. You see she was merely standing up for women or something. Chris’s initial tweet was something to the effect of being tired. Her reply was something like “its hard work being a huge piece of shit”. In this instance who committed an act of verbal violence? Well of course it was Chris who responded with a very insulting and disturbing tirade. No one felt his pain though. It’s hard to compute that a “bad guy” could actually be the aggrieved party in an altercation. This is the same logic Zimmerman’s lawyer used against Trayvon Martin. Trayvon had no right to act in a violent manner even if he was stalked by a strange gun toting man on a dark street his feelings don’t count.
Ultimately this “hit and run” situation in which Brown was actually videotaped providing his insurance info was just a catalyst for the court to do to Chris Brown what the media has been doing for the past four years which is to continue to prosecute the horrific beating of Rihanna. It may be no less than he deserves for his initial act although all the twists and turns that led to it proved very troublesome to me. I found myself in the odd and extremely difficult position of empathizing with someone who committed a horrible crime. But I feel like too many times we assign labels like “woman beater” instead of trying to understand. And I kind of feel like we in the hip-hop community should think twice before we forever condemn someone that is being railroaded by forces outside of our culture. Chris Brown won’t actually quit though.
If you would like to write for AHH here’s how.