Right off the bat, I admit that I have no idea if Chris Brown’s breakdown while performing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” on Sunday’s BET Awards was real or a publicity stunt.

Regardless, it has ripped off whatever scab had started to form over the self-inflicted wound caused by his beating up then-girlfriend Rihanna 16 months ago.

For those who missed it, after saluting Jackson in a scintillating dance medley in which Brown, once considered an heir apparent to the King of Pop, tried to sing the reflective “Man in the Mirror” and could barely choke out a word. Then he quit trying, dropped to his knees, and let the crowd lead the singalong.
Who knows what prompted the mini-collapse. Brown’s not talking yet—we’re sure even if this breakdown wasn’t planned, whom he first talks to about it is being micro-managed like Gen. McChrystal’s next interview. Was he overcome with his love for Jackson?  Was it regret over his own misdeeds? Was he truly hearing the lyrics to the song for the first time and vowing to “change his ways?”

The question of the day—second to if this little performance was staged—is if we’re ready to forgive Brown.  As if this is a collective decision. That seems a ridiculous question to me. Some crimes are so heinous, they don’t deserve forgiveness and only each individual can determine if he or she feels this way about Brown. There are so many other factors here. Brown is 21. He was 19 when he was arrested for assaulting Rihanna. That’s young, but certainly old enough to know better. But other than some misguided shots of Brown jet-skiing shortly after the attack, he’s been a model citizen. He’s done his community service; he’s apologized again and again and tried to show that he has learned his lesson.Do we give him no shot to redeem himself?  (Clearly, the British don't: As is its right, the U.K. declined to issue Brown a visa to allow him to tour in England earlier this month).

It would appear that some  portion of his fan base has forgiven him—in abundance. Last night he also won the fan-voted AOL Fandemonium Award. We don't know how many people voted, but it was sizeable enough for him to win the honor, therefore, some fans have not only forgiven him, but are actively rooting for his return. During his acceptance speech, he vowed not to let us down again.  He also was recently voted one of the sexiest performers in a tacky Billboard.com poll.

Musically, his redemption has been slower to take hold. After seven months, his third solo album, “Graffiti, has fallen off the Billboard 200 and the three released singles never really captured people's attention. Was that because radio listeners aren’t ready to forgive or it is simply that the songs weren’t that good?

Several artists are rallying around Brown today, as if that’s worth anything, but it remains a thorny issue. Can you be a fan of Brown’s music without condoning what he did? Can you separate the man from his music? That's a question that Jackson himself found there to be no easy answer for and it's a little ironic that both face the same challenge. Many fans, especially those outside the U.S., were completely able to shake off the child abuse allegations against Jackson, while they permanently tainted him stateside. (Jackson was never found guilty of any wrongdoing).

I believe Brown should be given a second chance—both as a person and as a performer. But if I had a daughter, I sure as hell wouldn’t want him within 50 yards of her. Hypocritical? You bet.