I understand that Christopher Maurice Brown isn’t the most charming man in America, but at one point does a person say, “I should give this guy a break when I’m reading his interview about essentially being sexually assaulted before the age of 10?”
Some media outlets paused, others not so much—and the key difference in coverage was clear. As repugnant as Chris Brown may often be, I can’t help but feel somewhat protective of him in this instance and accept that his paranoia about the media isn’t completely unfounded.
If Chris Brown were White, or more specifically, a White woman, I highly doubt that the interviewer, Decca Aitkenhead, would’ve swept Chris Brown’s declaration that he had sex at the age of eight so swiftly as she did in his now infamous interview with The Guardian. As Colorlines editor Akiba Solomon explained, “To disarm someone—particularly someone as troubled as Brown—without sanctuary feels unethical to me.”
To use his revelation to further vilify him is reprehensible.
Enter Jezebel’s Doug Barry, who wrote the following about the Brown interview: “Of all the pop stars milling about the culture landscape these days, Chris Brown has a singular talent for making it impossible to sympathize with him even if he’s recounting a vaguely traumatic incident from his childhood.”
Empathy does not always have to be contingent on the behavior of another. I respect the mission of Jezebel, but find it troubling that in the context of statutory rape, Brown is being vilified for the way he internalized his sexual exploitation. It is inexcusable when done to a woman and the same attitude should be applied to a man no matter how annoying they may seem. Brown could literally take a piss on my computer, but that doesn’t alter how disgusting it was for someone to exploit him sexually him at such an early period in his life.
Chris Brown losing his virginity at the age of eight to a 14-year-old teenage girl is not a “vaguely traumatic incident,” it is rape. Yes, the singer sounded quite boastful about the experience, but that speaks to the way boys are often socialized into believing there is no such thing as rape for them. His attitude about the matter speaks just as much to a societal ill as it does his overinflated ego.
We know how dangerous that mindset, so we needn’t further perpetuate it simply over a personal disdain.
The same goes for Perez Hilton, who on Tuesday appeared on The Wendy Williams Show to discuss the matter. Hilton dismissed the rape as “inappropriate” and proceeded to mock Chris Brown and claim that he has a disease and that disease is “half a brain.” Perez added that, “He does not have a grasp of reality.” He went on to say, “I don’t say that to be mean.”
Repeat after me: I-r-o-n-y.
Brown reacted angrily on Twitter, and though I wish some caring publicist would lock him out of social media forever, I understand his frustration. So much so that I disagree with writer Rich Juzwiak at Gawker, whom I’m a fan of, for concluding the following quote is one of others from Chris that will affirm your hate for him: "They want me to be the example. Young [Black] kids don't have the fairer chances. You can see Lindsay Lohan in and out of court every day, you see Charlie Sheen, whoever else, do what they want to do.”
If there’s anything to find hateful about this comment, it’s that there’s truth to it. Brown is as right now as he was two years ago when he first noted how troubled White celebrities are given more favorable coverage after their transgressions than their Black peers. Nevertheless, as I wrote two years ago, he needs to learn that you live in the world as it is, not in the manner in which you think it should be. Until he learns that lesson, he’ll never escape the “angry Black man” media narrative. Especially considering that he has been often unrepentant and seemingly more disturbed by the lack of forgiveness afforded to him than by the significance of his crime (and other anti-social behaviors after the assault).
Even so, when you think take into account that this is a man who admitted years ago that he grew up in a violent home, and now, that he lost his innocence in yet another unfortunate circumstance, how helpful do you think it is to further alienate him? It appears that one constant in his life is that he’s never had been afforded a safe space to discuss all the wrong done to him in his life. It may be a trite phrase, but hurt people hurt people and we now know a bit more about the hurt this young man has experienced. Shaming him for being assaulted or dismissing his assault will not protect Rihanna, Karruche or any other woman in his life, nor will it train him not to be the sort of man who beats women.
Mocking his assault may garner Web clicks and ratings, but for all those people out there who want him to stop being an “a**hole,” know that you’re not exactly setting a great example on how to be a better person.
We don’t have to be play therapists online in our coverage of him, but no one should allow their contempt to soil a serious matter. If not for him, for others with similar struggles.
Michael Arceneaux is the author of the “The Weekly Read,” where tough love is served with just a touch of shade. Tweet him at @youngsinick.