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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Chris Brown’s penance still unpaid

    Chris Brown will be coming to Tucson on Sunday to headline 98.3 FM’s Sunday Nite Slow Jams Live. This marks Brown’s first concert in Tucson since he was let go as the headline for last year’s Associated Students of the University of Arizona Last Smash Platinum Bash. The reason for his dismissal: assaulting pop star, Rihanna.

    Damn good reason.

    Whether celebrities ask for it or not, they are role models for children and teenagers. It’s inescapable. Children see celebrities as an ideal whose life epitomizes the American Dream. Celebrities have money, fame, power and influence. They have the freedom to do whatever they want — for better or worse.

    Whether Chris Brown wanted to be or not, he was a role model. Specifically, he stood to be similar to Michael Jackson — the next success story for an entire generation of black youth. To many, Brown was an escape from the cold reality of economic disenfranchisement.

    Last month, the Department of Labor released earnings-related statistics. Caucasian men have an unemployment rate of 9.1; black men, 17.6. Caucasian men make an average of $12,168 more per year than black men.

    Chris Brown was a millionaire with job stability by his 16th birthday.

    You can’t tell me Brown wasn’t idolized immediately. He was a fairy tale. Born in the small town of Tappahannock, Va., Brown taught himself to sing and dance and was discovered by a local production team at his father’s gas station. He was a multi-platinum recording artist with aspirations of an acting career and was dating Rihanna, one of the most attractive and talented pop stars in recent years. He was only 19.

    Was. Now, I don’t know what he is. I can only tell you what he isn’t.

    He isn’t the celebrated artist who can push 3 million units worldwide like he did for each of his first two albums. Billboard reports that Brown’s Graffiti sold a paltry 258,184 copies as of Feb. 1. He isn’t dating Rihanna anymore, as there is a five-year restraining order of 100 yards separating the two. His episode of “”Sesame Street”” will never be aired again. He is only 20.

    Yet, in Brown’s own words on a Sep. 2, 2009, interview with Larry King: “”I don’t think, at the end of the day, my career is over.””

    This is the same Chris Brown who admitted to ABC News’ Robin Roberts that his first YouTube apology after the incident was “”heavily coached.””

    The same Chris Brown who, according to the affidavit released by the Los Angeles Police Department, punched Rihanna numerous times, put her in a head lock, restricted her breathing and caused her to start to lose consciousness. He also threatened to beat and kill her, and he bit her ear and her fingers.

    The same Chris Brown who, nine days after beating Rihanna, sent her an apology — via text message.

    The same Chris Brown who appeared on “”Larry King Live,”” flanked by his mother and an attorney.

    The same Chris Brown who doesn’t have a single sponsor anymore and, given the facts, seems unmarketable.

    Despite these damning details, tickets for Brown’s concert have been selling for as much as $290 and have sold out all except the front three sections, in which the cheapest seats cost $175. It seems Tucsonans want to see Chris Brown perform. They, like Brown, don’t want his career to be over. And I don’t understand that one bit.

    I’m all about second chances. I think everyone deserves a second chance. But people have to earn them. Second chances aren’t unconditional. Michael Vick had to serve 21 months in jail to earn his. Robert Downey, Jr. spent four months in jail and more than a year in a substance rehab facility to earn his.

    What has Chris Brown done to deserve a second chance?

    He took a plea deal that gave him 180 days of community labor and five years of probation. He issued an apology, but since when is an apology the same as a reset button? Brown beat a woman savagely. He should have to atone.

    Or is the going rate for domestic violence forgiveness these days 180 days of community labor?

    The infamous TMZ.com picture of Rihanna shows two large contusions, five distinct bruises and one bite mark. For argument’s sake, let’s say there are 10 distinct wounds left on Rihanna by Chris Brown. That’s 18 days of community labor per bruise.

    Ladies, it seems a black eye from your boyfriend will cost him 18 days working at the local library or cleaning the highway. What will that same black eye cost you?

    Young adults who are old enough to understand this situation are given two clear take-away messages. Boys are told that they should expect leniency for hitting a girl. Girls are told their bruises aren’t worth a single day in jail.

    On “”Fallin Down,”” Brown sings, “”Why is it so easy for you to blame / I’m only human we’re all the same.”” Something tells me he doesn’t get it.

    Keep in mind that Rihanna is a celebrity. There was no way she could keep her bruises concealed. How many women have the luxury of paparazzi announcing an assault? Likewise, Brown is a celebrity. There was no way he could keep his actions quiet. How many men have the luxury of silent, domineering violence?

    According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million partner-related physical assaults and rapes yearly.

    That’s the reported number, anyway.

    Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes, working with the National Institute of Justice, estimate that only one-quarter of all physical assaults by domestic partners are reported. To answer Brown’s question, that is why it’s so easy for me to blame.

    Brown may not have asked to be a role model, but he had to have known young adults looked up to him. Not only as a young black man who had found incredible success but also as a figurehead for children escaping abusive upbringings.

    His family torn apart by domestic violence, Brown had firsthand knowledge of the agony. Speaking of his abusive stepfather in 2007 with GIANT Magazine: “”He used to hit my mom … He made me terrified all the time, terrified like I had to pee on myself … I hate him to this day.””

    The word “”cyclic””  comes to mind.

    Even before his arrest, Brown had the opportunity to become an advocate against domestic violence. As a celebrity, he carried enormous clout among youth. As a survivor of abuse, he had every reason to make a difference. He did nothing.

    After his arrest, Brown had the same opportunity. As a celebrity, he didn’t spend a day in jail. He wasn’t fined a single dollar. He was in a blessed position to do something positive. Instead of becoming a voice for those who have none, he recorded a CD.

    On “”What I Do,”” Brown sings, “”Everywhere I go, they show me love, so I give it back.”” I suggest giving Brown a different message.

    We control Brown’s cash flow. Sales for Graffiti were in the garbage, but I somehow doubt that was a moralistic objection — the CD sucked outright. If the ticket sales for Slow Jams are any indication, he can still fill an arena, and that sends the wrong message. Buying a ticket for Brown’s show says you believe he has paid for his crime. If the concert sells out, Brown proves his star power — his career flourishes. And we are enablers.

    I want you to think about your best female friend. Imagine her face. See her hair, the way it outlines her forehead and temples when it hasn’t been torn at by her attacker. Now, focus on her cheeks, her chin, her lips; look at each one carefully, noting the smoothness and color. Picture them torn apart and bruised. Look her in the eyes. Picture her holding back tears while she smears make-up over contusions in the morning. And now, try to imagine yourself consoling her. Try to think of what you could say to make her feel better, make her feel whole again. Would you forgive her abuser after a mere three weeks? Would you pay him, too?

    Brown never once apologized for the shame he caused Rihanna. For the week after the beating, she walked through public, her face covered in bruises, labeling her a statistic. And while she wasn’t alone in that regard, I’m sure Rihanna certainly felt that way. I’m sure the 4.8 million women affected by domestic violence feel that way.

    I hope Chris Brown, despite performing in front of a packed arena, feels that way on Sunday.

    — Zachary Smith is a psychology senior. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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