Mike Tyson Appears on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
What price forgiveness?
Mike Tyson will appear tonight in a new episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit entitled; “Monster’s Legacy”. He will play a character named Reggie Rhodes, a sympathetic victim of child abuse who murdered one of his attackers. This is the first time that Mr. Tyson will play someone other than himself in a screen role.
Tyson’s role has some similarity to his real life. The former undisputed heavyweight champ was arrested in connection with the rape of an 18-year-old beauty queen, Miss Black America hopeful Desiree Washington, in July of 1991. In February of the following year, he was convicted of one count of rape and two counts of criminal deviate conduct. Tyson served three years in prison for the convictions.
The move has drawn considerable outrage from more than 12,000 viewers of the show who have signed a petition demanding that the episode be pulled or Tyson be removed from the role. The show was originally scheduled to be aired on February 13 but it has now been moved up to February 6. Tyson continues to deny raping Desiree Washington and states that he is innocent of the crime.
Since his release from prison, Tyson has retired from boxing, moved to Arizona, and started a family. He claims that he is five years clean and sober. He has remarried and pursued an acting career. He has appeared in “The Hangover”, “Entourage”, and stars in his own one man show on Broadway.
Many fans of the Law and Order series are outraged that the network would cast a convicted sex offender in such a high profile role. Some protesters view the move as a slap in the face to victims all over the world.
In examining this question I ask myself, at what point do we forgive a person who has paid their debt to society?
There are 2.2 million people behind bars in the United States. Sixty percent of them are people of color, mostly African American and Hispanic. The fact of the matter is, once these individuals serve their time they often find that rebuilding their lives is another issue altogether. They cannot vote, they often have great difficulty finding employment. They have difficulty in their homes. They are often estranged from their spouses, families, and communities. This huge population of estranged people sends a shockwave of chaos and disharmony through our communities.
When do we forgive a person who has paid their debt to society and allow them to rejoin the community?
Mr. Tyson is a man of color. He represents a sector of the population of this country that is often demonized and is disproportionately incarcerated. Tyson has chosen acting as his new career and his role on Law and Order takes courage. He was abused as a child and he has publicly discussed his history on a number of television shows. Tyson is a victim of our society who has profited from a singular skill, his extraordinary athletic ability. However, his sometimes erratic behavior has often detracted from what could have been an even more stellar career. Many people in America want to metaphorically “keep him behind bars” for what he has done.
As a nation, we incarcerate more people than any other country in the world. More than China, South Africa, Russia, Rwanda and Nigeria. Part of the reason that we do not often examine this statistic is that we do not have to look at the people we incarcerate. Mr. Tyson will appear on national television tonight and he will portray a man who is not easy to like. However, he too is the face of America.
He too represents a portion of the soul of this country. We paid millions to cheer “Iron Mike” on when he was a fighter. We paid millions to watch him in “Hangover”. We filled theaters in Vegas and New York to watch him in his one man show. Those venues however, did not show the gritty, deviant, criminal element of life that is depicted on Law and Order. Those venues allow us to laugh and cheer the life of a person that many now protest.
Forgiveness is a word that is integral to the process of healing. If we are to heal the scars that lead to the crime, mental illness, and racial disparity that plagues our country, we have to examine our hesitancy to forgive. In particular, we need to examine our hesitancy to forgive those who do not look like us.
In a haunting and somewhat poignant episode, Law and Order has given all of us a chance to look into the face of one of our own and ask the question; am I ready forgive this man?
Mitchell Earl Gibson MD
Dr. Mitchell Gibson is the author of The Enlightened Perspective. He is the
bestselling author of Your Immortal Body of Light, Nine Insights for a Happy and
Successful Life, and The Human Body of Light. Gibson received his
medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed
his residency training at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. More than
3.4 million people have downloaded his YouTube videos and millions of people have visited his website http://www.tybro.com The Enlightened Perspective was launched in late January 2013 and in a few short months has grown to attract almost 200,000 views.