Yes, but...what if you knew he'd killed his parents?
Do people change? When do you "forgive" someone of a crime? Who are we to judge?
I was wondering about these things due in part to Chris Brown's assault of Rihanna and the reactions it's provoked. What is known about the case is that Brown certainly attacked his girlfriend, causing visible damage, and then fled the scene. A warrant was issued for his arrest and he turned himself in. The police report leaves no doubt, nor do statements made by Rihanna's inner circle and by Brown himself—he laid his hands on her, she was injured.
He hopes to emerge a "better person." Rihanna hopes to emerge alive.
And yet, some of the reaction to the case has been disgusting—while few aside from anonymous commenters on blogs have outright excused Brown (if you read through those comments, you'll wonder if sociopathy is a new plague), many have suggested, either intentionally or not, that perhaps it is excusable to beat up your girlfriend.
There is also the ridiculous and unsourceable rumor that Rihanna gave Brown herpes, which of course means he had every right to beat her up.
The most annoying example of a Brown apologia came when Will Smith—whose wife usually makes a much more convincing women's advocate than she does an actress—said he and Jada had reached out to both parties. Why would you reach out to someone's attacker?
"This is a time where they need to be left alone and if they have things they need to work out, work it out. People should take a minute before they jump on it and judge. We don't know nothing. If there are mistakes people make, then they should be willing to live up to the mistakes and do whatever penance they need to do. I don't think it's up to us, specifically the media, with such a fast hand to try to chop someone's head off."
Actually, it's extremist (woman-hating) Muslims who are known for cutting off heads, women's if they are dishonorable, men's if they are gay. The media is not decapitating anyone, the media is simply reporting the facts. Is Smith seriously upbraiding the media for daring to besmirch the reputation of someone who, cute face or not, is clearly a violent criminal?
And how does he dare to call this a "mistake?" Or to suggest this is someone they, as a couple, need to "work out?" This is more than an oopsy, and any relationship that leads to one person beaten and bloodied and abandoned in the street is a relationship that needs to be worked out with one person moving on and the other moving into prison for a stretch.
Jada Pinkett-Smith began by saying Chris Brown is "wonderful," but did then say "violence towards women of any kind—of ANY kind—is completely unacceptable." But click here to listen to other prominent black women jumping in to give Chris, not Rihanna, the benefit of the doubt. Holly Robinson-Peete says "whatever set of circumstances" it took to "get to that point" were regrettable. Alfre Woodard warrns, "We need to be very careful about assuming what has happened in those people's relationship. I think it's very premature for people to speculate."
Taraji P. Henson of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button opined, "The unfortunate thing is you're not allowed to live in those private moments. Your private moments are shared with the world, and that's the unfortunate thing...If you fall or you make a mistake, you really don't have that chance to, that private moment to deal with your own stuff before people are projecting and judging you and saying, 'Well, you're bad for this or you're bad for that.' So it's a tough place to be, but at the same time it comes with the job description, so you gotta keep that in mind, too. You gotta be careful how you move."
As if this were a private matter! It's not like a sex scandal, Taraji. It's not leaked BlackBerry photos of your bare ass, it's assault and battery.
Brown himself finally spoke out, a week after he beat up his girlfriend, to say:
"Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired. I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God's help, to emerging a better person. Much of what has been speculated or reported on blogs and/or reported in the media is wrong. While I would like to be able to talk about this more, until the legal issues are resolved, this is all I can say except that I have not written any messages or made any posts to Facebook, on blogs or any place else. Those posts or writings under my name are frauds."
I don't fault him for being quiet; if you're under investigation, you need to shut up to save your skin. But read his take on this assault—it's not something he did, it is something that transpired. Also, he's attempting to hide behind Jesus, gambling that his African-American audience, more religious or at least more easily guilted by the invocation of God than some other sectors of society, will respond to this tactic.
How can anyone begin to feel sympathy for, let alone forgive, Chris Brown when he is barely acknowledging that he is at fault, as opposed to being an unlucky fellow to whom something bad has happened?
In the dog house.
We're told not to judge, that he is innocent until proven guilty. That is LEGALLY true, and that is something for jurors to keep in mind. But as people with brains, we are free to judge—and it is crystal clear that Brown is guilty. If Rihanna were to suddenly resist cooperating with police, my judgment of her would also be harsh—she would be a spineless, self-interested person setting an example for all of her female (and male!) fans that what happened was just a speed-bump unworthy of punishment.
Also, there is the case of reality-show contestant Cyril Jaquet, a cutie who was thought to be on track to win the Spanish series he was on until it was revealed (with no effort; he'd never obscured his past) that at age 15 he murdered his parents. He used three bullets on his mom when she arrived home, waited several hours for his dad, then spent seven more on him. He went to a juvenile detention center for three years.
Jaquet explains his departure from the reality show—in Spanish—by blaming the media and other bad people who won't let the past stay in the past:
Again, what exactly is it that the media is doing wrong? Reporting that a highly popular figure on a TV show has a demonstrable history of parricide? On what planet would that not be news? This is a man who has willingly jumped into the media's spotlight for no other reason than to achieve notoriety and some money, and he's now upset/can't take the heat?
His point is that the past is in the past, but...is it? He has paid his debt to society (it's arguable whether the debt was enough), but does that erase the horror of what he did? Sure, he is legally free to do as he pleases, but is it wrong to point out his past and keep that in mind as you deal with him (or watch him on TV and root for/against him) in the future?
In the U.S., sex offenders of all kinds—from those passively watching child porn to men who grope women to women who seduce children to brutal rapists—are frequently made to register as such for the rest of their lives. Their names and addresses are easily available all over the 'Net, ostensibly to protect primarily children, long after they have been released from prison. The reason for this is that society has deemed these people to be immune to rehabilitation, likely to strike again. But wouldn't someone with a history of violence be just as likely to resort to violence again? Does anyone really believe Chris Brown never hit Rihanna before, and will never hit another woman again? Would anyone be happy to have their daughter be the chick holding Cyril's hand in that video clip?
I'm against the registration mainly because it's unfairly applied. But I'm not against speaking the truth, presenting the facts and keeping in mind that judging others is something we all have to do every single day in order to survive—we should not be "judgmental" in the sense of jumping to stereotypical conclusions not based on logic, but otherwise, being judgmental is vastly underrated.