Whitney Split Prompts Respect for Bobby Brown

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Commentator Jimi Izrael says he has gained a newfound respect for the otherwise eccentric singer Bobby Brown now that he's going through his own contentious divorce. Izrael is a columnist for the Web site AOL Black Voices.


Whitney and Bobby - no last names needed for most of us - are scheduled to start divorce proceedings next month. The controversial couple have shared private antics in the public square.

For commentator Jimi Izrael the divorce of Houston and Brown is more than just a high profile celebrity split. As someone going through a divorce himself, he says he knows just how bad it can be.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Columnist, AOL Black Voices): I don't think anyone was shocked to hear that Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown were calling it quits. In fact, a lot of us were expectant and downright gleeful, eager to sit back and watch all the drama that comes with divorce.

If it ever gets to court, some of us will get a good laugh watching the antics. Well, not me. You see, Bobby and I have two things in common. We're both fathers, and we were both recently handed walking papers. That's right. And this is my second lap around divorce court, but the first with children.

Divorce can be hard and painful, and that must magnify in the glare of the public eye. Reporters are rushing to document and photograph every detail of the crash and burn, without any consideration for the toll all of this will take on the children.

I know Judge Maybelline makes Divorce Court look like fun and games on TV, and to some degree that's true. Divorce with no kids is a breeze. You don't want to be together anyway, so essentially you're fighting over the wedding gifts and who gets to keep the good porn. Divorce happens. Teeth and tongue fall out, and they were God-given, as my grandfather used to say. But when kids are involved, either step or biological, well, that's when the drama starts: especially if you're a man.

More and more men get custody of their children over women these days, but it's a hard fight, and it's hard to know what toll it takes on the children involved. I'm fighting for custody of my son, and visitation rights to my step-son, and let me tell you, when my soon-to-be ex found out, it turned into low-rent chitlin' theater real quick. But I took my time, set off in the cut, lawyered up and got ready to rumble.

One of the most shocking things I initially ran across were people, family, who dissuaded me from fighting at all. Paying my support and settling for any visitation I could get would be in the children's best interest, they'd say. Now, I can see their point. On the one hand, you don't want to disrupt your child's life by uprooting him from his mother. But on the other hand, your child has to have a role model with their best interest in mind. And sometimes, more often then not these days, that person isn't the mother.

Now, in the case of Brown versus Brown, I can't call it. Bobby and Whitney have a daughter and few step-kids in the mix. I can't speak on their parenting skills, but if the reality show was any indicator, family court will have its work cut out for them. A judge is going to be charged with deciding who will be the better parent to Bobby Christina, and I don't know if the court is equipped to make a choice between two people clearly struggling with their own excesses.

But however it ends, my heart goes out to Bobby, because sometimes divorce can make it hard to be a good dad. Because despite all his foibles and tomfoolery and minus the drug addiction and lax dental hygiene, I am Bobby Brown - another young brother who married too early now caught in the throes of divorce, trying to hold on with both hands to my precious children without taking their childhood away.

(Soundbite of song, “My Prerogative”)

Mr. BOBBY BROWN (Singer): (Singing) …live my life…

CHIDEYA: Jimi Izrael is a columnist for the Web site AOL Black Voices.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) It's my prerogative. Tell me, tell me why can't I live my life without all of the things that people say? Yo Teddy, kick it like this. Oh, no, no.

CHIDEYA: This is NPR News.

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