The Australian Government’s Ban Of Chris Brown’s Visa Criticised As Inconsistent, Misguided And Racist
Some believe banning Chris Brown's Australian tour is a stunt to score cheap political points -- and one that could carry racial undertones.
Making good on the promise to “very, very seriously” consider refusing Chris Brown entry to Australia, the Immigration Department announced this morning that they have issued the R’n’B singer a Notice of Intention to Consider Refusal of his visa, due to history of violence against women. Brown was convicted of assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009 and sentenced to five years probation; while there have been other allegations since, his time was only slightly extended after pleading guilty to an assault of a man in Washington last year.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Brown has 28 days to “present material” as to why he should be given a visa to enter Australia, adding that: “Decisions on whether a visa will or will not be issued are made after that timeframe and consideration of the material presented to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.”
Ahead of his Australia-wide tour in December, for which tickets were due to go on sale tomorrow, a GetUp petition launched this week put pressure on the Turnbull government to block Brown’s visa, on the basis that it would send a message about their strong positioning against domestic violence. New Minister for Women Michaelia Cash supported this view: “People need to understand that if you are going to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world there are going to be countries that say to you, ‘You cannot come in because you are not of the character we expect in Australia’.”
Sounds Like Good News, But It’s Much More Complicated
Brown’s violent history is inexcusable, and with the now-infamous statistic that one woman is murdered by a partner or ex-partner in Australia each week, the public’s desire to keep him out of the country is more than understandable. But since the outrage apexed this week, a few questions have been raised: Like, why aren’t Brown’s white, non-R’n’B/hip-hop musician counterparts also feeling the heat for past-controversies? And will banning him from Australia actually do anything to help diminish domestic violence here?
“By emphasising the menace of a foreign entertainer, it obscures the real locus of violence: the nuclear family,” Sparrow says. “It’s much easier for politicians to denounce musicians than to acknowledge that most women are hurt or killed within their family, a fundamental social institution.”
He also notes that Brown is just one in a string of African-American artists to be denied entry to Australia based on character assessment, while white musicians tend to avoid receiving the same treatment. Sparrow cites an instance in 1928 when an African-American jazz group were deported during an Australia tour for “consorting with white women” — or basically partying just like white folks. More recently, in 2007, Snoop Dogg’s visa was rejected because of his drug-related charges — yet white rocker Keith Richards, who is a known drug abuser, continues to be allowed back into the country. And there’s no doubt that if John Lennon, who publicly admitted to beating women, was alive today, he’d be enthusiastically welcomed Down Under.
“Everyone knows that rock music is full of misogynists, many of whom have been known to express their sexism in song,” Sparrow writes. “Yet somehow it’s always black artists turned back at the borders.”
Chris Brown has been refused a visa to Australia. Violence against women – Australia says not unless you're a guard at a detention centre.
— Nazeem Hussain (@nazeem_hussain) September 27, 2015
Daily Life writer Clem Bastow has also pointed to the hypocrisy of the movement behind banning black artists such as Brown and Tyler, The Creator, an American rapper whose lyrical content prompted a recent petition by feminist group Collective Shout calling to have his visa denied.
“Where is the outcry over the misogyny of The Decemberists, appearing at Byron Bay Bluesfest early next year, whose lyrics frequently concern the rape and mistreatment of women?” Bastow writes. “Or is it okay because they’re not rappers, and folk music isn’t seen to ‘incite violence against women’? If you’re going to decry the misogyny inherent in music, then apply the same lens to metal, country, pop, rock and alternative artists.”
“These campaigns are inconsistent at best, racist at worst,” she says.
Won't be popular opinion, but I'd rather Chris Brown come here and move the convo forward on #VAW We are robust, opinionated and can cope.
— Wendy Harmer (@wendy_harmer) September 27, 2015
Brown deserves to be called out and punished for his violent and misogynistic behaviour — he was charged with it, spent 108 days in prison, and was made to publicly apologise — but it’s important to remember who the perpetrators of violence against women are here in Australia: they’re not black American hip hop artists, and they’re certainly not influenced by our Immigration Department’s policies. Furthermore, if the Federal Government wanted to really show the public where they stand on misogyny, they might punish a few of their own instead.
By banning Chris Brown from entering Australia, the Government sends a strong message that it will not tolerate violence against women. But allowing a group of men to remain in power as they consistently yell sexist things at their female colleagues in Parliament? That sends a message too. And perhaps it’s a stronger one.