Bobby and Chris Brown: Why we can’t forgive their violent pasts

Did the Grammys really need to celebrate a man guilty of the same crime that ruined Whitney Houston’s life?

by Emma Teitel

Why we can’t forgive their violent pasts

Vinny Carchietta/Zumapress/Keystone Press

The sudden death of Whitney Houston on Feb. 11, and the tribute-filled Grammy ceremony that followed the next day, were overshadowed for many by the onstage performances and Grammy victories of R & B singer Chris Brown (no relation to Bobby). Was it really ideal for the Grammys to celebrate a man guilty of the same crime that plagued Houston for so many years, at the hands of her ex-husband, R & B singer Bobby Brown? Brown (Bobby) is said to have physically abused Houston until their marriage ended in 2007 (he was charged with domestic violence in 2003), and Chris Brown was convicted of felony assault and sentenced to five years’ probation for brutally beating his then-girlfriend, pop star Rihanna, in 2009 (the night before the Grammys, no less). Brown (Chris) performed live twice at the awards this year, and took home a trophy for best R & B album. Country music singer Miranda Lambert was the most forthright about her sentiments in a tweet she sent after the show. “Chris Brown twice? I don’t get it. He beat on a girl. Not cool that we act like that didn’t happen.”

But “we” weren’t the only ones who acted like it didn’t happen. First, there was Chris Brown’s now-notorious tweet in response to Lambert et al.: “HATE ALL U WANT. BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate F–K OFF!” Brown’s handlers, maybe guessing that winning a trophy doesn’t exonerate you for hospitalizing your girlfriend, removed his tweet. (Brown did not apologize for posting it.) Then came the disturbing onslaught of tweets from (mostly female) Brown fans who said they would relish the opportunity to be beaten by Chris. Meanwhile, in his half of the clueless universe, Bad Bobby Brown was acting as though the wife-beater who had terrorized Whitney Houston was some other Bad Bobby Brown. Directly following her death, at a concert in Maryland, he announced: “I love [Whitney] like a love God! I am badass Bobby Brown!” and proceeded to make customary obscene hand gestures to female audience members. A week later, ignoring the strong wishes of some family members, he showed up at Houston’s funeral, along with a nine-person entourage, and further distinguished himself by complaining about the seating arrangements. He was subsequently asked to leave the funeral. Critiques of his mourning strategy were not positive.

Back to the other Brown (Chris). He and Rihanna shocked the latter’s fans (and hopefully every self-respecting woman in the music industry) when they recently collaborated on a sexually explicit song in which Brown says he’d like to “give it to [Rihanna] in the worst way.” However, just because Rihanna has apparently forgiven Brown, doesn’t mean we will—or should.

In fact, the specific opprobrium the Brothers-in-Denseness Brown were treated to after Houston’s death and the Grammys was just a reflection of the general distaste the public has held for them ever since they started hitting women in public. This latest case also highlighted the secondary sin of the Browns, the one that no one gets a free pass on, no matter how many Grammys he cops: not the abuse of a person, but the abuse of remorse. We might be able to one day forgive a celebrity for beating on a girl, that is—but not for acting like it didn’t happen. We might be able to forget—but only if he doesn’t.

Think of when a friend has done you wrong—when a person you’ve recently forgiven for something you previously thought unforgivable stops apologizing for everything he does and starts having guilt-free fun again, you begin to wonder how contrite he was to start with. In other words, even though you have forgiven him for the original sin, you can’t forgive him for forgiving himself. In this regard, forgiveness isn’t a direct exchange for an apology, but a request that the person apologizing should do so until the day he dies. Or at least until the statute of limitations runs out on remorse for the sin in question. The more dire the sin—or crime—the longer the lag time (and the more abject the required remorse) until the slate is cleared.

What does genuine, effective remorse look like? When 22 Canadians died in the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak in 2008, CEO Michael McCain delivered one of the best public apologies in recent history, and more importantly, he kept on delivering. A year after the outbreak, even though the company’s profits had improved since the inevitable drop, McCain took out a full page ad in three Canadian daily newspapers commemorating the anniversary of the tragedy. “On behalf of our 24,000 employees,” the ad read, “we will never forget.” What McCain understood, that the two Browns likely never will, is that the only way people can put the past behind them is if you do not. The option to forget applies only to the victim, or the audience; never the perpetrator. It’s only when this equation is satisfied, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, that “forgotten is forgiven.”




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Bobby and Chris Brown: Why we can’t forgive their violent pasts

  1. This is really dumb and pointless, im sure whitney and rihnna forgiven them along time ago. I refuse to have someone in my heart that i do not know of or spent time with. this what i dislike about people putting your bisnuss where it dont belong. whitney had a good relationship with bobby infact she was at his mother furnurel  do not believe the media they are a bunch of scumbagggs

    • Why bring up the past, if the world would stay out of other people business this world would be a better place to live.  I believe Bobby Brown Loved Whitney & Whitney loved him, leave their pass along!!!! I believe she forgive him.  God’s word said if you don’t forgive He’s not going to forgive you.  God has forgiven Whitney, so the world needs to leave the pass a long.The media always mis-judging people, get a life!

    • Wow…first: learn to spell. If you wish to be taken seriously, please take the time to learn or at least proofread your mistakes. There was a history of abuse in this relationship which has to account for something. People who think “bisnuss” like this should be overlooked are people who enable and encourage the kind of abuse people endure in the real world. If that relationship was good it wouldn’t be OVER. While you research grammar, please look up accountability. Learn it and teach your loved ones to have it.

  2. Wow, you’re comparing 2 guys who abuse women to a ceo overseeing a company that was responsible for 22 deaths. I’m not getting how either is relevant to the other…

    • Women? Where are these women Chris abused? In your head?

  3. Let’s see…. could the reason be that they are both “BROWN”.?
    These guys should be able to move on with their lives without life long judgement.. Just move on!!

    • So you’re on record vowing that Chris Brown will not reoffend? How much money do you care to wager on that theory?

  4. Alot of people speculate…about chris brown and bobby brown they don’t have a clue till it happens to them, he who is without sin cast the first stone there have been many men who before them kick butt reall bad ie Ike Turner….only GOD can judge them, who are we to judge them like we are holier than tho and I know some people think they are and they are NOT! lets move on and talk about something more regardless of what the public thinks…we must forgive if you want GOD to forgive you…and try to forget and yes it can be done.

    • Until we ourselves have beat up a woman for the thrill of it, we cannot judge those that do.

      Jury selection in your universe must be surreal.

  5. i dont know why they let white people comment on black celebritys or people for that matter this is why i destroy white people s lives because of this

    • So white people shouldn’t comment on this because….beating up woman is a black cultural thing we wouldn’t understand? Is *this* really gonna be your argument?

    • Now you know White people ALWAYS got to put their one cent in Black people business while being MUTE on the business of White people.As my Grandfather says “It’s just their way”. They can’t help themselves because they have been indoctrinated to believe they are OUR GOD but i would liken them to the opposite of God…

  6. Who in the hell is “We”?

    I find it interesting that the two men you can’t forgive are both Black but then again I realize that when Blacks do something wrong that PEOPLE act as if they are God but when other races do wrong especially if they are White,it’s often OVERLOOKED,,,,

    • Where can I find the local chapter of the the NAAWP?
      National Aliance for the Advancement of White People)
      Oh..there isn’t any. excuse me!

      • The very fact that you brought up “NAAWP” shows EXACTLY what the problem is and YES you are NOW excused….

      •  It exists, it’s on stormfront.org. I.E. GTFOOHWTBS.

    • Fact is both of these entertainers are black men , and there have been many white people who have done something wrong and have been made to answer for it … Ted Bundy , for one …Josh Powell who killed himself and his two children , Charles Mason another , so I don`t understand why people always have to make it about race … it is about what there crime is not the color of there skin

      • You sound really stupid and yet so predictable….You are ACTUALLY  trying to compare Chris Brown and Bobby Brown to two serial killers and a man that murdered possibly murdered his wife and DID INDEED murder his two children and BTW,I already knew that news,I know,shocking isn’t it?

        Why didn’t you compare them to Charlie Sheen,Oh wait,he actually shot a woman and neither Chris nor Bobby shot a woman but then again,I bet you are a fan,huh?

        One thing about you White people is that you will NEVER admit to your judgmental ways for lack of a better term.

        The real truth is Whites often zoom in on anything a Black person does while totally ignoring what your own people do.There is only ONE that can judge HUMANKIND and he is NOT HUMAN…..

        • Sounds as though you are judgemental as well since you wish to refer to us WHITE people , your statement is false about we often zoom in on anything a black person does, NOT ….Don`t flatter yourself , it makes you look stupid to presume that . Again this issue was regarding there CRIME ….NOT THE COLOR OF THERE SKIN .

      • comparing Bobby Brown and Chris Brown to Charles Manson and Ted Bundy, or even Josh Powell, is just ridiculous!!!!!!

        • Well again, this issue was about what they were being charged with so I will use Lindsey Lohan , Robert Downey Jr. all were drug abuseres and done some kind of jail time or community service and they were all white . The media sensationalizes these stars and only report what they want us to know so we can only go on what they report. Whitney and Bobby had issues with drugs … did he kill her no … we don`t know who introduced the drugs in there relationship

        •  Exactly!

      •  LOL @ KUSOFly2002… that’s the biggest reach since Dhalsim won a competition against Inspector Gadget and Piccolo.

  7. Chris is nothing like Bobby. Bobby went to jail countless times and was on drugs. Get your facts straight. Bobby did not destroy Whitney’s life. Accept the fact that she wasn’t who you thought she was. God, the media is beyond stupid.

  8. How did the editor of this magazine allow this to go to print?   Poor thesis. This is embarrassing.  Write about something you know about and people you actually understand. At least a celeb gossip blog or mag calls itself just that.  This magazine calls itself the top magazine for Canadians seeking real news.  Will be telling folks I know in Canada who subscribe to this rubbish to pull the subscription.  Don’t throw a brother under the bus.

  9. And all the ignorant people who don’t forgive wont make it to heaven…god forgave them who are you?

  10. this is none of your business. there are pieces to everyones relationship that will never be understood by outsiders. whitney and rihanna forgave. plus rihanna was “beating” on chris beffore he started “beating” on him. if you hit someone repeatedly dont be suprised if they hit you back!

    • If Chris Brown was suffering from Battered Women’s Syndrome, this would have come out when the case went to court. It would have been quite the revelation, so its curious the first we heard about it was now.

    • To many people re-offend simply because they’re harassed and never forgiven–or allowed to move on.  You can’t crap on someone years down the road when they’ve tried to make things right with themselves, the people they’ve wronged, as well as with the Judicial system and expect no retaliation from them.  I wish Chris and Bobby Brown the best of luck.

  11. Yeah, whatever.  Just another black man to pile on.  Bobby Brown didn’t beat Whitney Houston, and your gossip rag has no evidence to support the claim you’ve put forward.

    • They pretty much fought each other. Whitney’s image was fake.

  12. Wow.  Gotta say, I’m kinda shocked by all the love for Bobby Brown and Chris Brown in the comments.  Personally, you beat a woman once and you’re in my bad books forever, I don’t care who you are.

    • Obviously all the spousal abusers you’ve met in your lifetime couldn’t lay down a sick track if their lives depended on it. That overrules ALL.

    • The good thing is that “Your Books” are not relevant when it comes to the SOULS of people….There are BUT a FEW relevant books.

      The thing about you White people is that “you will say you don’t care who one is that you feel do bad things” and yet I don’t see you speaking on what Whites do with the kind of vitriol you seem to save up for Black people….

      • I agree with every word you said all you have to do is look at what Adele did at the award show everyone was laughing about it but if a black person would have done that you would have never heard the last of it.

        •  Exactly…..

          • I am just wondering Sage, would you be defending Chris Brown and Bobby Brown if they were white and had beat up their women?

          • Actually I wouldn’t even care because it’s clear to me that you Whites don’t care when White men like Charlie Sheen shoot and beat up his White women,so why should I?

            Truth is…You don’t even care about Rhianna,she is just the vessel you use to disparage a Black man like Chris Brown so let the pretense stop…

        • What did Adele do at the Grammys? (I honestly didn’t see it, and I can’t find any mention of it online).  

          Ironically, (given our context) the only references to Adele at the Grammys I can find are to how happy her fellow performers, including Rhianna, seemed to be at her success that night.

          • She didn’t do anything except sing and reap awards at the Grammy’s; however the next week when she was receiving the biggest reward of the night at the British equivalent of the Grammy’s (sorry I don’t know what they are called) — they started playing the music before she got to thank everyone and she flipped them the bird.

          • Ahhhh, the Brit Awards. Well, that’s different. I think I know why no one cares that she flipped the orchestra the bird then. One, ’cause no one likes the annoying orchestra playing people off prematurely, and two, ’cause it’s the U.K. I’m sure if she’d flipped the bird at the Grammys the American media would have had a stroke (parts of it anyway).

      • you White people“??? Seriously???

        And frankly, there’s considerably more vitriol in your reply to me than there is in my comment. Also, I certainly don’t claim to have any relevancy to the future disposition of either man’s soul. I do, however, reserve the right to personally categorize a woman-beating jerk as a woman-beating jerk.

        • It doesn’t surprise me that you would feel my comments are laced with vitriol  especially since I speak on The  “White Superiority Complex”  that has convinced MANY Whites that they are the ULTIMATE judge of Blacks…

        • LOL, well I admire you for trying.  But it is interesting to read such disparate viewpoints and see what others think.

          • It is fascinating, isn’t it?

            Never in a million years did I think I’d hear or read someone defending Chris Brown, of all people, on the grounds that people who think he’s a woman-beating jerk are just racists.

          • You are not racist, just truthful.  Any defense of Chris Brown maybe trying to defend someone in their own lives that showed “love” like he did or are woman beaters themselves. As a black woman, I thank you for standing up and respecting women even in the face of comments you’ve received.

    • Stop lying. Your comments are faker than Pam Anderson’s chest. Go sit down.

      • OK, I may think that calling my comments racist is silly, but calling them “lies” is just irrational.  

        My comment simply expresses my personal surprise, and my personal opinion of Chris Brown, and Bobby Brown.  These are opinions.  You may disagree with these opinions, but unless you actually think that I’m NOT surprised by all of the claims of racism, and that I’m secretly a big admirer of Chris and Bobby Brown, how can you think that I’m “lying”?

      • LOL!!!!!

    • We’ve wandered off the main path, LKO.

  13. people really need to mind their own biz. Move on the past is the past everybody has one. We all sin and if Whitney loved him thats her biz. We are not suppose to judge. Im sick of hearing bobby brown this and that and chris brown beat riahnna. well it happened and get a life they dont feed you.

  14. You need to stop taliking what you don’t know, did you see being bobby brown? whitney was her own woman ans so is rianna these are not some angelks dropped down from heaven and someone took advantage of them.  Stop it, it takes from the women who really suffer frm domestic violence.  I am not saying this is not important but both these women had the means and the opportunity to leave these men if they felt threathen.  that is how I feel about that.  I am sorry whitney is gone, she was my gilr and noe of the hoopla will change what she gave to us.  Leave bobby alone he only acts out because that is what you want him to do.  Just find some stories about all these budget cuts in the various states toward education and most of them have lotteries how do you cut education when you are pulling in billions can you write aobut that that is much more important than you blame game.

  15. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged .” Quit judging these men especially if you never received their side of the story; there’s two/three sides to every story and you only heard the woman’s side. Stop blaming Bobby Brown for Whitney’s demise — their bad habits destroyed both of their careers at one time and Whitney herself admitted to being abusive towards Bobby. And if you did you research you would know Whitney was snorting coke long before Bobby came along.

  16. Some think their God and star to judge people. Its true they did something wrong but till me one person who hasnt done somthing wrong. No one is perfect, we are all human and make mistakes every day. Insted of talking mad about people we should wish them the best and hope they find their way back. God is love!!

  17. This story is so wrong,on so many levels,but none of them are about being black or white or brown these stories will continue to appear every so often because people refuse to live a healthy life what will these poor poor babies be crying about next week

  18. Rap & Apologies may or may not go together like a horse and carriage:-)

    • Technically both of them are r&b/pop stars neither of em are rappers

  19. . I agree that it was in bad taste to glorify a domestic abuser right when Huston, who’s life was ruined by abuse just died. I think Chris Brown is a douchebag, but he won all these awards based on his work, not his personality. Sometimes we have to separate our proffessional lives from our personal lives, which is hard to do when you’re famous.

  20.  rihanna is into s&m and chris brown wasn’t….so when he got confused when she said “MUSTARD” he started hitting her harder….end of story…….or so that’s what her story is now……”it’s cool guys, i asked him to hit me by hanging out with friends and getting drunk when he didn’t want me to”

  21. It’s sad we have to live in a culture and society that’s so morally decayed that no one has to be accountable for there negative behavior or the effects that behavior may have on the people they calm to love or a culture and generation as a whole. How selfish a society we leave in. It’s not about judgement, it’s about accountabilty. It’s not about Black or White, it’s about respecting one another. What message are we sending our children when it’s OK to beat up on someone and than have no remorse about it and be celebrated for the mundane things that are only fleeting. It’s not about all the words we are trying to use to describe how to defend or judge the person Chris Brown or Bobby Brown or the act each of them committed. It’s about what we are not saying that our childern are picking up on.
    How do you lead? BY “EXAMPLE”. How do you be a role model. BY “EXAMPLE”. If Chris Brown and Bobby Brown are “EXAMPLES” of how men should treat women in this society, than are sons and daughters are in big trouble. As life has taught me, believe 85% of what you see and 15% of what you say and if the 2 together don’t mirror each other there’s a huge problem. 
    Until Chris Brown and Bobby Brown reconcile there inner issues, heartache and pain no amount of money or fame is going to bring them the peace or love they both are truly missing.
    Hey Chris, Hey Bobby neither of you have cornered the market on heartache and pain and whatever is the driving force within you that’s causing you to cope by using your present behavior the behavior won’t stop until you heal the pain deep inside, and that takes work. Work I don’t see either of you doing no time soon. And the money and fame, well that’s only fleeting. So the cycle keeps going, cause the pain remains.

  22. so wat ya sayin is reckless and ridicoulous wats dat got to do with whitney housten? as of wat just becuz bobby brown probably made a mistake in the past he now is shock,its not his fault that whitney housten addicted to drugs.Thats her fault for being addicted to drugs and alchol uh duh! my point exactly so stop bringin up the past about chris brown beatin riahanna becuz thats not important rite now.And Bobby brown was bad now hes doin somthin good for himself he might feel bad about whitney but its not his fault so leave it alone and think about the future

  23. I THINK PEOPLE GOT SO MUCH HATE IN WORLD THEY THINK THEY ARE GOD. YOU CAN FORGIVE, IT SAY IN BIBLE THOSE WITH OUT SIN CAST THE FIRST  STONE, THEN IT SAID IF YOU SEE YOUR BROTHER FALL THOUGH WE ARE SUPPOSE TO LEFT THEM UP WITH LOVE ,PLEASE LET THESE MAN ALONG  LET GOD BULD THEM UP ,AND LET US HAVE LOVE

  24. If we have to continue judging theses guys for their past mistakes we will never move on, none of us are perfect we all make mistakes or fall short some way or the other at some point in our lives. They not constantly apologizing to the public does not mean they are not sorry for their mistake, they do regret. Just move pass the issue and forgive and forget! Rhiana and witney has.

  25. You wanna know why people can’t forgive Chris brown, it’s not about what he did but who he did it too, Tina turner and Rihanna were both darlings of the public, people loved them and because people loved them the media ran with the story so hard that by the time they were done with them you hated Ike and chris’s souls. Whitney Houston wasn’t about domestic violence so much as we were disappointed at how drugs brought her down and we blamed bobby for getting her into drugs. Take the Mel Gibson situation for example he was accused of domestic violence caught on tape making anti-Semitic and bigoted racial remarks but the public didn’t give him 1/5th of the hate that Chris brown got, why? 1. People love Mel 2. People don’t really know his wife because she isn’t a celeb. R&B fans are quicker to forgive Chris because they knew who he was and familiar with his nice guy image prior, many of the people who can’t forgive Chris now, we’re never fans or even knew who he was prior to this incident so hating him is easy. Charlie sheen beat many women, stone cold Steve Austin has been convicted of the crime multiple times and tommy lee has gone to jail for this as well. Does Chris have to continue to apologize and act remorseful? No. Why? Because three years later the vitriol carried by theu public isn’t about what Chris is doing to solicit their anger it’s about the publics insatiable appetite to make him suffer, anybody who hates Chris brown has mad their point a long time ago 3 years on he has no reason to continue to beg forgiveness nor does he have to continue to accept the hate that’s his coming his way as justified all he has to do, the only thing he has to do is not batter women point blank period. A 19 year old kid he was when this happened to continue to persecute him for a crime that the public regularly overlooks when the celeb they love beats someone they don’t know is pure hypocrisy. Cant expect someone to kiss your behind forever because you can’t move on, he owes the public nothing, they should stop acting as if he does.

  26. Damn these people are relentless!! Leave Bobby Brown alone. Maybe he did abuse Whitney, but they did have a great relationship at one point. The drugs made it bad. Drugs make people change. I’ve been in the same kind of relationship, It was all peachy in the beginning and then we started using drugs, he became a totally different person. And it’s hard to leave because you think he’s going to go back to how he was especially when he promises that he’ll “never do it again.” I eventually got the strength to leave and Whitney did too.
    And you don’t hear about him abusing his fiance’ now… Probably because he’s sober and in his normal state of mind! Now as for Chris Brown, that’s another story… No drugs involved there, just a piece of crap guy if you ask me!!

  27. So your issue with Chris Brown and Bobby Brown is they don’t appear to be sorry for their crimes.  They have not shown enough repentant behaviour.  You would be satisfied if these men walked around with their heads down for the rest of their lives, or spent their time doing domestic abuse PSAs.  You use speeches and full page ads by Maple Leaf Foods after they caused a food contamination outbreak that killed 22 people as an example of someone demonstrating that they have accepted responsibility and accountability for their actions, and are truly sorry. 

    But what if Maple Leaf Foods was still continuing with the same practices that had caused their crisis in the first place?  For all you know they are, and all of the things that have ‘convinced’ you that they haven’t forgotten what they did were just done to pull the wool over our eyes.  Believe it or not, businesses and individuals have said one thing while doing the opposite before, and that’s not going to stop anytime soon.

    So your solution for Chris Brown and Bobby Brown isn’t a solution at all–not to the real issue of domestic abuse.  Both Browns could employ PR or crisis management experts to make them publicly look like apologetic and reformed men without either of them having changed at all.

    The real questions we should be asking are: how do we get people to understand just how serious domestic abuse is?  It isn’t just how some men are.  It isn’t a private matter.  It is a cancer on our society that destroys communities from the inside out.  How can someone who does something this horrific get real help to change?  Not programming so they sound contrite in public, but help to resolve the issues leading them to think violence is the answer to domestic conflict.  If they do change, how can people, families and communities remain vigilant, yet be open to giving them a second chance?  If they don’t change, how do we ensure they don’t hurt anyone else? 

    Whatever the answers, I’m sure they look nothing to do with Miranda Lambert dedicating Gunpowder and Lead (her song about a beaten woman killing her abuser) to Chris Brown, as she did at a recent concert.  That attitude, often called ‘empowering’ among women, in fact is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  28. Forgiveness has nothing to do with how long we want to see someone *grovel* in order to pay for it. How long would be long enough?  And who decides?  

  29. To the person who wrote this: We all make mistakes, nobody is perfect, as we make mistakes we all would like to put those things behind us. Nobody wants some needle nose person sticking his/her’s nose into everybodys business and most of all bring up the past that were trying to put behind us.

  30. Those without sin, Cast the first stone.. I am so sick of people being up on their high horses. Leave Chirs Brown and Bobbi alone. God along with the saints will judge the world. Are you God or a Saint? Exactly, I wish the media would report some positive news that would help someone.

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