The Redemption of Chris Brown

The Redemption of Chris Brown

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A lot has already been said about Chris Brown's emotional tribute to Michael Jackson at the 2010 BET Awards aired last night.

That this was Brown’s "comeback moment." That it was a shameless and feeble attempt at regaining the notoriety he deservedly lost after he beat his ex-girlfriend, pop songstress Rihanna, over a year ago.

What has not been said, however, is that this was Brown's first true shot at redemption in the eyes of the public since that fateful beating incident. His many, many (some would even say too many) attempts at regaining the public’s trust up to this point have all ended in further scrutiny and ridicule, like when "#chrisbrownsbowtie” became the number one topic on Twitter during his interview with Larry King.

When he later released his sophomore album, Graffiti, he was almost a pop culture footnote — a joke. And while we, the viewing public, weighed in and pontificated on these two young pop stars' personal lives and decisions, we look at Rihanna as the hero/victim, and Brown as the villain/aggressor.

Brown's apologies and attempts to atone his “sins” were all but laughed at. No one thought about his personal struggles and demons. Instead, he was viewed as Rihanna’s domestic abuser. His sign of strength or masculinity became unacceptable, and his music career suffered.

Before the beating incident, Chris Brown was an extremely physical, high-energy dancer and performer. These days, he only gets contrition from the public. And, Graffiti was weighed down by too many slow "Baby I'm so sorry" tracks that did nothing but remind the public of what they didn't like about him, while doing almost nothing to remind us what it is we did like.

Unlike Brown's album, his Sunday night's performance at BET Awards was loud, physical, energetic, happy, and was full of songs that we all love and know word for word.

Graffiti was a critical and commercial flop, an apology that the public refused to accept. That is why it is fitting that his seemingly re-emergence into our good graces came during a Michael Jackson tribute on BET. A young man we refused to forgive, performing a tribute to a dead man that we all refused to hold accountable.

Perhaps that's what really made young Chris Brown cry like a baby while performing Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." He received an overwhelming support from a house full of his peers in Los Angeles — something that had become alien over the past year. Seeing black women (his harshest critics, by far) standing, clapping, feeling and crying, with and for him, was revelatory.

When it is allowed to occur, redemption is a beautiful thing.

Chares Jones is a writer and social commentator at NAM.