Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chris Brown, Twitter and the Politics of Race

By now Chris Brown's backstage meltdown at Good Morning America has become international news.  While that was bad enough, he then managed to make his situation even worse with a Tweet that he quickly deleted - but not fast enough to stop it from being widely distributed:
I’m so over people bringing this past shit up!!! Yet we praise Charlie sheen and other celebs for there bullshit.
Brown has a point.  The people laughing at Charlie Sheen's drug abuse seem happy to overlook his long and sordid history of domestic abuse.  And while Mike Tyson went to prison for sexual assault, Pittsburgh quarterback and serial rapist Ben Roethlisberger has managed to avoid any serious penalties for his misdeeds. But alas, as Michael Arceneaux pointed out on The Root:
Many, rightly, don't find this fair. It's obvious that Brown is among them. Unfortunately, life isn't fair, and one would think that a millionaire, of all people, would realize that. We can't often control what life hands us, but our real power lies in our reaction to whatever we're dealt. It's time that Brown accepts what he's done and the reality that he'll never fully be able to escape it.
And now a note to Chris from someone who grew up in rural white America, explaining in a bit more detail just how badly you screwed the pooch on this one.

Where I was born, being open-minded meant understanding "there's a difference between black people and n-----s."  Hating someone just because they were black was not cool: hating someone because they acted in accordance with various stereotypes was common sense.   I am not trying to justify this: you will note that I got the hell out of my hometown as soon as I could and never went back. But let's not pretend that this isn't a common belief among white Americans.

You got arrested for beating your girlfriend. When you were called on your actions, you threw a violent temper tantrum.  Then you committed the truly unforgivable sin: you played the race card.  Because that's exactly what you people do, at least according to White Conventional Wisdom.  You beat your women, you commit crimes, and then you whine about racism rather than taking responsibility for your own actions.  (Don't believe me? Ask the folks who comment on news stories at the New York Post and similar websites).

If you had acted properly penitent about the whole situation, you could have been a Good Example and a Credit to your Race.  If you were a little bit more Compton and a little bit less Cosby, you might have been able to capitalize on your violent reputation.  The entertainment industry has plenty of room for ho-slapping gang-bangers. (Surely I'm not the only one who has noticed that "Gangsta Rap" has become a 21st century minstrel show).  As it is you've succeeded in placing yourself squarely on the wrong side of white America's dividing line.  You've become yet another piece of evidence that racism doesn't really exist, that it's just a ruse used by professional agitators and career criminals for their own ends.  


Brother Christopher said...

I find your statement about Gangsta Rap becoming a 21st century mistrel show dead on, although from my experience, if it is a minstrel show, it is most strongly being performed for the African-American populace. In looking at the rap/hiphop music that is mainstream, it is not nearly as "gangsta" as it was when that genre was very popular 15 years ago. But that may just be the case in Southern California/Greater Los Angeles area.

Scylla said...

I grew up (and still live) in an extremely rural area with one black family between 100+ white ones.

When they moved in, the "town" was a-buzz... we finally had REAL, LIVE, Black People (tm)!!!!!

Our community was really concerned as to whether they were "Just black people" or "N*****s" So, that thinking exists here, too.

Of course, we had neighbors going door-to-door for the first time, telling each-other to clean up their lawn, because no one wants to live near a "bunch of inbred, redneck, white-trash-looking, sumbitches" and "they're gonna think we're a bunch of lynchmob -crackers- if we're not friendly!"

One the new family demonstrated that they were in every sense normal and nice everyone sort of shrugged and went back to life as usual.

Any minority, or "subculture", have to fight tooth and nail against stereotypes to be taken seriously. I'm a female from a rural area. Right now, I shouldn't even know words like "ambience" or "gestalt" - I should be popping out babies and getting beat by my husband. And the sad thing? That stereotype is a majority here. Until stereotypes are all but nonexistent, we will always have to struggle against them - consciously, pointedly, determinedly.

When I moved to a large city... I routinely had people give me shocked looks when I said I grew up in a mobile home. "But you're so smart" - yeah, because I chose to better myself. "But you dress so nicely!" - yeah, because I can.

As psychology begins defining a mental illness closer and closer to "anyone who's not a sheep" less people even realize they can be more than the culture they are raised in, and it hurts my heart. They are pressured to BE stereotypes, to be dumb, young, violent, promiscuous. Why do we react so surprised when it happens?

Eh... as you can see, a matter near to the bone for me. I'll leave things here before I get too ranty.

Pallas Renatus said...

The saddest thing about "playing the race card" is that legitimate cases of racism (especially by police) have become old (and thus boring) news. White America has largely stopped becoming outraged at minorities receiving relatively harsher treatments for similar crimes, and instead the outrage has been refocused on those who try to use race to weasel out of legitimate punishment (and it certainly happens).

And lets face it, when the overwhelming majority of popular news focuses on the latter, what do you expect the masses to believe?

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