Sunday, September 6, 2009

From Emily: Chris Brown on Larry King

Here's a link to a youtube video of the Larry King Live Interview . The entire interview is shown in five parts.

I've been rewatching the interview since I only saw part of it, and I cannot believe my ears. I don't know how I didn't hear this the first time I watched the interview on TV:

When Larry King plays a clip from the apology video Chris Brown posted online, King asks him what he meant when he said he was sorry that he "wasn't able to handle the situation better and differently." But if you listen closely, what Brown actually says is "I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today, that I am truly, truly sorry, and that I wasn't able to handle the situation both differently and better." In case the significance of that little conjunction isn't as obvious to everyone else as it is to me, let me break this down:

the conjunction makes it so that this statement could be broken down into the following two sentences:

I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today, that I am truly, truly sorry
I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today that I wasn't able to handle the situation both differently and better

As problematic as an apology that states "I'm sorry I was incapable of doing anything else" is, "I want you to know that I'm sorry, and I also want you to know I was incapable of anything else" is even worse.

What disturbs me even more about the video, though, is that Chris Brown refuses to answer any of Larry King's questions about what caused him to become violent, with the argument of "I can't talk about that night, since it would violate Rihanna's privacy." He's probably right to not discuss that night if it would violate her privacy - for all we know, he'd just found out she was having an affair, and that's something she would not want out in the open. But if he truly thinks that every single fact leading up to that act of violence was contained in that one night, then I doubt he understands his personal responsibility in that situation well enough to change his behavior the next time an unexpected "incident" affects his temper that much. We all do things we shouldn't at times, and I think everyone has had an experience where they did something that surprised them. But there is always something leading up to it, whether we initially recognize it or not. I'm a firm believer in the human capacity to predispose oneself to react in particular ways, and I worry that anyone who cannot understand what it is that predisposed them to act that way might not be able to avoid acting that way again.

It also troubles me that his lawyer so openly cautioned him against publicly apologizing, and against pleading guilty right away. I think he should have let him. It also bothers me that his lawyer's defense for Brown's behavior in other incidents is yeah, but she slapped him first that one time and when he broke a glass that other time, it was technically vandalism, not domestic violence. Perhaps those facts show those incidents in a clearer light, but it doesn't change the fact that Brown demonstrated violence with Rihanna prior to that night. Many perpetrators of abuse work their way up from inanimate objects, to animals, to people. As Larry King points out, if Brown understood what had brought him to this point and could articulate it, he could help other people avoid becoming abusive. And that would do a lot more for the world than producing music or painting over graffiti.


  1. Something to consider with your disection of his statement, you are reading it as a transcript of spoken word and applying grammar rules to infer a negative connontation.

    It is entirely possible that the meaning you are reading from it was not his intent, and that either it was mistakenly phrased that way, or due to his education (not to make any broad statements about black education, as there are plenty of examples of all races having poor grammar skills depending on a lot of factors) he is unaware that it being phrased that way could have that implication.

  2. That's a great point, and I have thought about that. If Brown had simply stated it that way once or twice while he was talking to Larry King, then it wouldn't bother me so much since spoken English is different than written English, and it's easy to say something dumb and later regret it. But Brown said that he had help from others with the wording. The way he spoke in the apology video was more articulate and careful than in the live interview. Even if he doesn't realize the implication of what he's saying, his lawyer and others who are more accomplished with English should have steered him in another direction.