For the benefit of headline-seeking celebrities everywhere, it's time we add an addendum to the phrase, "All press is good press."
In recent months, thanks to the likes of Fantasia Barrino and Tyler Perry, suicide and molestation — two issues largely unaddressed in the black community — have been brought to the forefront. Of course, Barrino and Perry didn't let the media into their personal lives solely for the sake of awareness; both of them discussed their problems in conjunction with the promotion of their latest projects.
Despite this, one could argue that at least the issues they've lent their names to may prompt an overdue public dialogue. I was initially inclined to agree, but after watching the breakdown of a fallen boy-band member over his alleged molestation, it's become clear that some stars who open up to the media about their troubled pasts can do more harm than good.
Raz-B, a former member of the black boy band B2K, has launched an Internet tirade against the men he feels wronged him. Raz, born De'Mario Thornton, first leveled allegations of molestation against his ex-manager and cousin, Chris Stokes, on Christmas Eve in 2007 by way of a YouTube video. In it, he claimed that he and his brother Ricardo Thorton were inappropriately touched and molested by Stokes.
Stokes quickly dismissed the claims, saying that they were "vehemently false and hold no merit." Raz-B lent credence to Stokes' denial when he apologized in a retraction video he posted just two days after his original video went viral. Nearly three years later, Raz-B is back with a vengeance and directing his anger at an ever growing number of targets.
Citing as inspiration Perry's revealing Oprah Winfrey interview, in which he discussed the sexual and physical abuse he endured as a child, Raz-B has now backtracked on his original backtracking. Now he says that while Stokes did indeed touch him inappropriately, it was actor-singer Marques Houston who had sex with him without protection. Houston has vehemently denied these allegations and has since filed a restraining order against Raz-B, citing "emotional distress."
Former bandmate Omarion, the group's breakout star, still aligns himself with Stokes and Houston and has also dismissed Raz-B as someone seeking money and attention.
In an effort to validate his stories, he's released several videos of his recorded conversations with everyone from Houston's sister to Quindon Tarver, a former label mate who previously shared his own allegations of molestation at the hands of Stokes in a 2008 interview with Vibe magazine. Many of these conversations were recorded and released without consent, drawing the ire of various unwilling participants in Raz-B's viral campaign.
Despite my own sneaking suspicions, it is not my place to state whether or not Raz-B's accusations are true. I do, however, have a problem with Raz-B's methodology.
Days ago, Raz-B released another video — this time of him holding a conversation with Ray-J. In the video, Raz continues the celebrity-patented pattern of mixing serious discussions with topics pertaining to his career. In previous videos, Raz-B has mentioned movies and new singles. In the latest, he seeks R&B singer and VH1 "celebreality" star Ray J's advice on how to salvage his career. Ray J suggests a reality show — because we don't already have enough of those.
Raz-B can talk iTunes, TV-show ideas and serious allegations of molestion in his videos, but he won't discuss legal action or psychological treatment. In an interview with Vibe.com, Raz-B dismissed the court as a "demonic" system, which is why he hasn't taken Houston and Stokes to task in court. And when asked if he's sought the aid of a psychologist, Raz-B said, "The only help that I will ever need is Jesus Christ."
What a pity that so few realize that God loves us so much that he gave us therapists and medicine.
Even more damaging than Raz-B's responses to questions about seeking legal or medical help for his problems is his insistence on linking pedophilia and homosexuality. When asked (irresponsibly) if Houston was "a gay man with a problem," Raz told Vibe: "I don't know Marques like that to say. But any person trying to mess with kids and have sex like that … that's gay to me, homie." No, that's pedophilia, and the last thing gay men need is another nitwit equating the two in front of a world full of other nitwits.
I want to feel sympathy for Raz-B because no matter what the truth is about what happened to him years ago, this is a person in pain. However, by discussing molestation in the context of trite stereotypes of perversion and choosing reality TV instead of therapy as a path to emotional recovery, Raz is doing little to elevate the conversation about molestation above the surface. And although he says he's doing all of this to help other people, his antics have turned an issue of severity into one of spectacle — only to his benefit.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer currently based in Los Angeles. You can read more of his work on his site. Follow him on Twitter.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.