Sunday, January 24, 2010

Race, Media and Domestic Violence

BitchMedia is asking some hard questions about domestic violence and the role that race plays in determining media coverage/public reaction:


Which celebrity has earned more bad press for reported acts of domestic violence—Chris Brown or Charlie Sheen?
When gossip Web site TMZ.com criticized Brown Jan. 21 for appearing with designer Jean Paul Gaultier, in makeup that made him look bruised and bloodied for a “warrior-themed runway show,” visitors to the site accused TMZ of vilifying Brown while giving Sheen a pass for allegedly battering his wife on Christmas.....
Clearly, Chris Brown is guilty—and of a despicable crime, no less. But because he’s African American, will it be harder for him to redeem himself in the public eye than a white celebrity guilty of a similar crime? If he genuinely changes, that is.

These are important questions, especially regarding rehabilitation and forgiveness. I hope no one will discount the centrality of the severity of the battery in Brown's case, however. This must make a difference. Proportionality matters. Chris Brown's battery was severe and he compounded it every time he spoke out publicly and refused to take full responsibility.

That said, this is not Sheen's first time out in terms of violence and substance abuse. The public's willingness to forgive some celebrities regardless of the severity and repetitiveness of their transgressions is stunning. And does, sometimes, seem correlated to race. I just don't think it's helpful to jump to Brown's defense, and I see a lot of that in the African American community of which I am a part, but I understand the frustration.