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Perspectives: The Brown Decision

Although Chris Brown’s domestic violence case has come to a close, domestic violence will continue to be a problem in all areas of our society, including academia. It occurs on our college and university campuses. It occurs in our neighborhoods, without our knowledge among colleagues, family members, and friends.


An article entitled “The Brown Decision” at first glance brings thoughts of the famous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, which is perhaps the most monumental legal decision of the 20th century. The Brown decision to which this opinion article refers is that of singer Chris Brown and the felony assault charges lodged against him involving Robyn Rihanna Fenty a.k.a. Rihanna. Brown is a popular entertainer from the idyllic community of Tappahannock, Va. His (hopefully former girlfriend) Rihanna is also a renowned entertainer and hails from Saint Michael, Barbados.


We are all aware of the story, as it is typical of non-marital domestic violence. Brown goes into a rage and strikes and beats Rihanna numerous times while they are engaged in an argument in his vehicle. As usual, the source of the confrontation is not a life-and-death matter. It seems that Chris received a text message from another woman. Subsequently, the argument was so vociferous, violent, and physically harmful that some good citizen called the Los Angeles police in response to Rihanna’s cries for help. Felony assault charges were filed, pictures of Rihanna’s face were leaked to the press, both parties retained high-powered Hollywood lawyers, and the process of damage control began.


Again, as is the case in far too many (or any domestic violence situations) the parties are seen together soon after the assault takes place. This time it was at the Miami waterfront estate of P. Diddy, who has his own interesting history of relationships involving young ladies.


Domestic violence has been a scourage in our society for too long. Women of every race, ethnicity and social and economic status in America have suffered the physical and emotional pain that being the victim of domestic violence brings. Much too often this violence is a part of woman’s inability to extricate herself from the grip of a bad relationship or a very bad person. There are also the problems of females feeling the need and or desire to return to the relationship out of low self-esteem; feelings of having a relationship in a society where there’s a low male-to-female ratio; not being able to financially support themselves because of the continuing problem of uneven compensation; and the fear of what the guy will do if she leaves.


Fast forward to June 22, 2009 as Chris Brown’s attorney Mark Geragos (Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson have been among his clients) was able to secure a plea deal for his client. The agreement requires Chris to be on probation for five years during which time he “must serve 180 days in jail or its equivalent.” The 180 days in confinement translates to approximately 1,400 hours of what we know as community service. However, in this case, the “labor-oriented service” will involve work, as the sentencing judge wants Chris Brown to perform some physical task, i.e. removing graffiti. The agreement also mandates Brown participate in a year-long domestic violence class. Failure to comply with the order of the court will mean Brown could be sentenced to serve four years in a California state prison.


The judge in this case also issued a stay away order that requires Brown to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from Rihanna. This restriction is reduced to 10 yards if both parties are at the same “industry event.” The interesting part of this stay away order is that the judge made it clear to Rihanna in a separately held session after sentencing Brown that the court’s stay away applies to her as well. It is reported Rihanna had requested through her attorney that a stay away order not be implemented, feeling that the protective order issued after Brown’s arrest would suffice.


This is the beauty of this Brown decision. Rihanna now has a court order that in essence protects her from herself and the potential that the emotions of her heart will override the good sense to move on with her life and careers without Chris Brown. The stay away order is timely, necessary and conducive to helping Rihanna in an area many abuse victims have difficulty negotiating. The order also indicates the wisdom of Los Angeles Criminal Court Judge Patricia Schnegg.


On the surface another domestic violence case has been completed, another young male with anger management issues has been dealt with, and another Hollywood relationship has gone south. So why this article?


Unfortunately, domestic violence will continue to be a problem in all areas of our society, including academia. It occurs on our college and university campuses. It occurs in our neighborhoods, without our knowledge among colleagues, family members, and friends. Each of us has an obligation to speak out on this important issue and to counsel our students both male and females on personal, emotional, physical, spiritual, family, relationship and career devastation that domestic violence causes.


This is especially true for those in the African-American community. According to the Institute on Domestic Violence, in the African-American Community “African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates 35 percent higher than their White counterparts … intimate partner homicide is leading cause of death for Black women ages 15 to 45.” Domestic violence is wrong, and those who participate in these nefarious activities must be dealt with swiftly and firmly by the criminal justice system; however, all of us have a part to play in addressing this issue.


Dr. Wayne A. Jones is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va.

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