Chris Brown is not O.J. Simpson


Fox News chooses a highly "post-racial" photograph for it's article on the domestic abuse case

Fox News chooses a highly "post-racial" photograph for it's article on the domestic abuse case

Ah, celebrity arrests. They never cease to amuse us. It’s probably because celebrity arrest just provide that perfect release of jealousy. After all we spend all our time admiring, adoring, and respecting these people as they work their way up the social ladder making more money and buying more things than we could ever imagine. And just as we start to hate them for their beautiful cars, spouses, and lifestyles, they get arrested. Finally, we can have the higher moral standing. Where has all that money gone now, celebrity?

Well the latest celebrity run-in with the law has been Rhianna and Chris Brown. It certainly is an upsetting story, as a photo of Rhianna’s battered face was leaked recently. This has led to a great deal of coverage. However, while normally we could expect a certain amount of coverage, oohing, and ahhing, the domestic abuse case here is anything but post-racial.

For instance, take this article on the Daily Beast, where Rhianna’s case is compared with O.J. Simpson. “O.J. Simpson would have scored off the charts for lethality measures. I hope Rihanna understands the deadly nature of this victimization, before history repeats itself.” Linda Fairstein, the author of the piece, tells the grim story of Nicole Brown, Simpson’s wife, in juxtaposition with Rhianna’s. This is placement and comparison can’t help but draw attention to the image of the angry, violent, and criminal black man so often seen on television. In fact, the very way in which the Simpson case was covered on television was highly problematic, often portraying Simpson as the typical brutish athletic black man.

While Fairsten should be commended for the crux of her article, which was to examine the horrors of domestic abuse and the complicated and heartbreaking ways it persists, using O.J. Smpson as a point of similarity, when there are numerous celebrities who have gotten into abusive relationships, and thousands of cases in the United States, is troubling.

Fox News did not disappoint in their coverage of the case.

“In many cases, especially with celebrities, jail can be avoided with big fines, public acts of contrition, and heartfelt visits to Oprah.”

Perhaps that is the case for couch-jumping Scientologists but I would be surprised if Chris Brown was on the show any time soon. This article has few poignant post-racial moments. Firstly, and most egregiously it calls Rihanna the “alleged victim” when clearly she was. Secondly, by saying it would not have been made into anything had the “tussle” happened in New York it diffuses the actual case and blames “liberal media” for caring too much about these kinds of celebrity stories. Oddly enough, there is more coverage on Fox News about this case than on CNN or other “liberal” media sources. Most troubling is the imagery brought up by the above quote that mentions Oprah. One can’t but help think about why the writer chose Oprah and what stereotype she could represent.

Fundamentally, this was a sad case of domestic abuse. As there are more and more articles, examining Chris Brown’s background, we’ll be sure to see more questionable or problematic language. The black criminal is a historical image. One that in many ways, not only appeases the majority’s desire to see the successful fail, but to see successful minorities fail. It’s upsetting that this happened at all, but for the media to run with it and so clearly play into images of black criminality is quite unsettling. How can we possibly be living in a post-racial society?


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