My good friend Alyssa has a post up about VH1’s decision to pull Chad Ochocinco’s reality show with his wife, Evelyn Lozada, after reports of Ochocinco beating up his wife.
But in comparing Charlie Sheen and Ochocinco, Alyssa makes the wrong conclusion:
Johnson is hardly a money machine like Charlie Sheen, so the decision to drop him isn’t as painful to the network as it would be for the networks of the world to collectively and permanently turn their backs on that particular member of the Estevez clan. But still, it costs money to shoot a show and then shelve it. I’m glad that for now, VH1 isn’t interested in peddling that fantasy, and is willing to take the hit on the show.
I get that Alyssa is trying to make what she probably thinks is a larger point about VH1’s willingness to take a financial hit. But she fails to actually interrogate why it will take that hit — race — and in doing so, gives VH1 more credit than it deserves.
Black male violence is always considered somehow worse and more dangerous than white male violence. And there is a long history of celebrating the violence of, and dehumanizing, a black man in controlled environments like professional sports for the benefit and enjoyment of white men and then turning that same love to virulent hatred when that violence extends beyond the field (see: Simpson, OJ and any poorly behaved black athlete of the last 25 years).
I mean, come on, Charlie Sheen shot a woman. His long history of violence against women is well-documented. But he gets a $25 million settlement from a former employer who, let’s remember, only fired Sheen when he talked slick about him (not because he’s a well-known violent misogynist and drug addict) AND he gets a new show that enjoys a promotional campaign that both profits off Sheen’s misogyny and trumpets the fact that Americans still love Sheen. In contrast, Ochocinco’s punishment for his first reported offense* is swift, decisive and unequivocal.
Domestic violence is wrong. It doesn’t matter who commits such violence. But the punishment for it in our society is in no way meted out in a uniform way or is in no way free from bias. I am not defending Chad Ochocinco. I am pointing out that VH1 is not as courageous as Alyssa suggests.
VH1’s decision has nothing at all to do with a repudiation of violent behavior or respect for the essential humanity of women. It’s racist.
*There are now reports that Ochocinco has a history of violence.