For the rest of his lightskinned, limber and rhythmic life, Chris Brown will have to contend with what he did to Rihanna in 2009. Such is the consequence of his actions, and his occasional habit of reminding us of them—including his online and offline temper tantrums as well as his ongoing relationship with misogyny in his music. Even so, two recent actions last week gave me pause about the way we treat brown and other Black men and women who’ve committed crimes.
The most recent is news that the singer-songwriter’s appearance on The Daily Show was abruptly cancelled because several staffers “disapproved” of having Brown on the show. This despite word that host Trevor Noah intended to use Brown’s interview as a platform to discuss his history of domestic violence. Noah is no stranger to domestic violence; his stepfather abused his mother. As we learned years ago, Brown’s stepfather abused Brown’s mother, too.
So there was an opportunity for two Black men to tackle domestic violence on that wide a platform, only to have it squandered by a majority White writing staff. Not just two Black men, but one whose mother was shot and maimed by her abusive husband and another who repeated his cycle of violence. Perhaps the interview might’ve been a disaster or maybe it would’ve been something worthwhile. Whatever it was to be, it should have been given the chance.
Comedy Central ultimately released a statement to EW saying, “Guest bookings are always subject to change. The show hopes to reschedule Chris for a future appearance.”
One hopes that is the case. I certainly won’t hold my breath at present moment, though. In the meantime, the Australian leg of Brown’s One Hell of a Night tour has been cancelled after the Australian government made good on its warning to formally deny Brown’s visa due to his criminal conviction for assaulting Rihanna in 2009. (Mind you, Chris Brown has already performed in the country since his conviction, specifically in 2011.)
In a statement, the promoter said: “Mr. Brown and the promoters both remain positive that the tour will take place in the near future. Mr. Brown wishes to express his deepest gratitude to the fans for their support and looks forward to a successful tour in the near future.”
I’m sure that select staff members of The Daily Show and the Australian government are feeling mighty morally superior right now. But I’m curious to know what they all think about whether or not it’s ever okay to allow a person who has made a mistake and served their time a legitimate second chance?
I’d especially like to know this from The Daily Show staffers. Maybe some of them were not around at the time, but Charlie Sheen—who has never, ever faced consequences for his history of physical abuse of women—has appeared on the show. It may have been in 2003, but that was certainly years after claims of his abuse of women surfaced. In Brown’s case, if he were going to be challenged about an issue he’s actually addressed multiple times (unlike Sheen), why keep him away?
Chris Brown is not the most endearing figure, but one reason why Black audiences tend to be somewhat protective of him (unfortunately, at times at the expense of Rihanna and other women have been abused by their partners) is because of these racial double standards. Brown is certainly worthy of continued criticism. Again, the misogyny in his music, including his most recent mixtape, is a prime example.
And for those who think they’re doing this in Rihanna’s honor, she reignited a romantic relationship with him (that she later ended) and continued to work with him in a professional setting. If she’s moved on and embraced him to that extent, why can’t The Daily Show staffers, the Australian government, and others like them?
Do we not trust her judgment? Maybe we don’t.
Chris Brown feels like a famous example of a problem presently plaguing many ex offenders of color. I am not comfortable with holding anyone who has served their time to a singular crime for their entire life. Do we truly want people who have done wrong to be better when we behave this way?
How can we expect someone to grow and evolve if we’re so insistent on tripping them up with their past every step of the way?