GetUp!, the activist group who led a successful campaign calling for US singer Chris Brown to have his visa blocked by the Australian federal government, have issued an apology for the “racist aspects” of their campaign.
“We chose to get involved in this campaign because Chris Brown is a massive celebrity and we wanted to put a spotlight on the issue of domestic violence,” says national director Paul Oosting, via the Sydney Morning Herald.
As Tone Deaf reports, on Sunday Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that Brown, who has an Australian arena tour scheduled for December, had been issued with a Notice of Intention to Consider Refusal of his visa.
In 2009, Brown was convicted of assault and threatening to kill his then-girlfriend Rihanna. The brutal bashing saw Brown sentenced to five years probation, one year of domestic violence counselling, and six months of community service.
The notice was hailed as a victory by many Brown critics, who said it would be inappropriate to let a convicted domestic abuser into the country, particularly as the government embarks on a new campaign addressing violence against women.
“Over the course of the weekend a lot of people started reaching out to us and raising the issue of the racist aspects of this campaign,” Oosting now says, highlighting what he calls Australia’s unjust immigration system.
“We have a migration system that unfairly targets people of colour and this is a system that we inadvertently fed into. We caused angst and grief and we are unreservedly apologising for that,” he adds.
“I find Chris Brown abhorrent and it’s really damaging to society that men who commit domestic violence are granted celebrity status. There are wide range of white Australian men who have committed acts of domestic violence who enjoy celebrity status.”
GetUp! campaigner Sally Rugg had previously said the campaign wasn’t about Brown exclusively, but the “horrifying” number of men who have been convicted of violence against women but continue to enjoy high profile careers in entertainment.
“This announcement sends a strong signal to Australians that the Federal Government are willing to show strong leadership on gendered violence and that they are prepared to condemn violence against women,” she said.
Brown, who has 28 days to present a case for being allowed to enter Australia, took to Twitter earlier this week, saying he should be allowed to tour Australia as his past mistakes could educate young people about domestic violence.
“I would be more than grateful to come to Australia to raise awareness about domestic violence. I’m not the pink elephant in the room anymore,” he wrote. “My life mistakes should be a wake up call for everyone.”
“Showing the world that mistakes don’t define you. Trying to prevent spousal abuse. The youth don’t listen to parents nor do they listen to PSAs. The power that we have as entertainers can change lives.”
Oosting said GetUp! will continue to lobby the federal government about domestic violence, particularly funding for frontline services such as women’s refuges. Fairfax reports this is the first time GetUp! have made such a major change to a campaign.
“As an organisation with a small staff base we are not always going to get it right and we have to be open to changing our approach and acknowledging where we got things wrong,” he said.