Leave Chris Brown Alone
There was plenty of hypocrisy to spare at the BET Awards, but Chris Brown's breakdown during his tribute to Michael Jackson wasn't one of them.
Brown went from being a media darling and one-half of an industry "it" couple to being one of the most loathed figures in pop culture. Walmart wouldn't sell his CDs. He couldn't get booked on any television network, and radio stations refused to play his music. Is it really shocking that this young man would break down and cry? His BET performance was a rare instance in which he was being celebrated for his talents rather than being excoriated for his demons.
The applause that he received demonstrated support from his fans and the industry, both of which know that the way he has been treated is hypocritical at best when compared with other troubled artists (including domestic abusers). People are stepping in the name of love to R. Kelly songs, and Kelly was charged with, among many things, child pornography; praising Jesus with BeBe Winans, who was charged with assaulting his wife around the same time as the Chris and Rihanna debacle; and bouncing to T.I., who is a sho' nuff criminal. Yet, they want to know whether Brown is authentic?
Brown is a young man who clearly needs help, guidance and leadership from someone outside of the industry. Do I think he was wrong? Absolutely. But I do not agree with tossing away teenagers (at the time of the incident). He is clearly talented and made a horrible decision at 19. Imagine what the industry would look like if Puffy, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, T.I. and a host of others hadn't gotten a second chance after messing up royally as young men? If a 21-year-old can't get a second chance, but grown men like El DeBarge, Don Cornelius and BeBe Winans can, then why not Chris Brown? Why not the BET Awards, which needed him as much as he needed it? Why not a Michael Jackson tribute, particularly when he was handpicked by the family, which obviously witnessed the debacle that BET tried to pass off as a tribute last year?
Time will tell if Brown has actually taken a look at the "Man in the Mirror" and is committed to making real change. It is what it is -- a tribute to Michael Jackson that ended in tears, real or contrived. But to continue to attack Brown, a young man who may be trying to do better, while supporting others who aren't is wrong. That's the definition of inauthentic.
Nsenga Burton is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow her on Twitter.