Whether you saw the story or not last week, Chris Brown’s appeal of the Australian government’s visa denial was rejected. Specifically citing his 2009 arrest in the assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna just hours before the Grammy Awards, Australian officials said they felt like Brown's very presence is unbecoming to their country and its culture. Subsequently, the R&B singer has canceled his scheduled tour of Australia and New Zealand; his camp is now issuing refunds to people who bought advance tickets.
Australia's Minister of Women, Michaelia Cash, explained her decision: "People need to understand, if you are going to commit domestic violence and you want to travel around the world, there are going to be countries that say to you, 'You cannot come in because you are not of the character that we expect in Australia,'" she said.
The problem is hardly exclusive to Chris Brown, though. Also this year, the wife of Five Finger Death Punch’s Ivan Moody claimed domestic violence while filing for divorce; and former Goatlord guitarist Joe Frankulin killed himself, his girlfriend and her son. Popular Texas country/Red Dirt singer Stoney LaRue was arrested for allegedly pushing his girlfriend down the stairs.
Again, that’s just this year alone.
From Tommy Lee to Rodney Atkins and bands like Puddle of Mudd, many American male musicians have been charged with domestic violence. Even the late Scott Weiland was arrested for domestic violence, made bond and played a Las Vegas show that same evening. And a slew of reality music shows all have their own domestic-violence offender rolodex of rock stars. Remember Bryan Abrams of Color Me Badd? Yes, even him.
But our muted outrage toward Brown and the dozens of other music stars guilty of domestic violence is all too easily dismissed. In fact, the Chris Brown story begs a few questions. Namely, how was Brown so sure he could obtain a visa that he was selling advance tickets and most importantly — why is Australia policing our artists?
Because America doesn’t care about domestic violence.
It’s exactly why sponsors still flock to support offenders, why promoters look past abusers in favor of profits, and why the American fan base still buys the music, merchandise and tickets of performers who have perpetuated violence against women. As if the slight was nothing more than a parking ticket, performers are given license to misbehave in ways that should never be acceptable.
But why is Brown's visa denial our fault? Because he shouldn't have been requesting a work visa because he shouldn't be playing, period. No, excuses, no free passes and no dismissal of criminal activity because he’s of celebrity status. The behavior of domestic violence is inexcusable and unforgivable, we must create a culture of zero tolerance.
Brown’s response to Australia? Offering to use his tour as a way of raising awareness about domestic violence. “I’m not the pink elephant in the room anymore [sic],” he tweeted.
Confused clichés aside, from that tweet it’s hard to tell if he’s being ironic or serious. So, a man whose name is synonymous with domestic violence wants to bring his musical tour to a foreign country and rake in millions of dollars while proving that he not only is above the their law, he can still have an enormous career and take their money.
No, no, Mr. Brown. You need to actually get your hands dirty. Like turning off the camera, visiting an anger-management counseling center, speaking to men who are incarcerated about making better choices when they’re released, and/or doing volunteer work with families affected by violence. Not singing songs for a paycheck. Take a lesson from musicians doing what’s right to change our violent culture, like Raheem Devaughn, or at least throw your money toward his cause.
It’s not a problem unseen in Texas or even Houston. Just last summer at Free Press Summer Fest, headliner, R. Kelly’s booking was met with a relative smidgen of minority outrage, then openly dismissed. Kelly played despite being a publicly known child pornographer, pedophile, child rapist, performing without apology for our city and we celebrated his arrival and gave him our money.
And, we nearly did it all again last week, when — with absolutely zero protest this time — Kelly was scheduled to perform following the SWAC championship game at NRG Stadium before canceling last-minute.
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As music fans, our support of musicians who engage in criminal activity not only encourages these artists to continue in such behavior, but continues to perpetuate that kind of crime in our culture. As culture makers, musicians are responsible for the art they produce. And as much as a celebrity may demand privacy, in our modern age it just doesn’t exist. Not even their families are exempt, as in the case against Nicki Minaj's brother, who was arrested just this week.
Unfortunately, there is no longer any line in a celebrity’s life separating the art from the artist. Those who play a key role in developing our current culture should be held to a higher standard, and whether they like it or not, celebrity status is inherently a role-model position. But that role also demands our scrutiny and criticism. Why is our culture comfortable with criticizing a celebrity’s outfit, hairstyle, romantic partner but not his or her personal behavioral practices? We are willing to dismiss domestic violence as something personal, and it’s not.
Unfortunately, nothing in America is more powerful than our dollars. If you want change, demand change by using the biggest weapon there is: your wallet. Booking agents should pass on their performances, sponsors need to retract those fat contracts, and fans should forsake their fanhood. Stop buying these people's music, merchandise and tickets to their shows.
When it comes to supporting artists, follow your own convictions or no one else will.