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Tony Zizza

The Problem With Psychiatry And Race In The Victoria Osteen Case
By Tony Zizza
Aug 13, 2008 - 11:00:28 AM

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When black celebrities claim dog fighting isn't criminal because it's a cultural thing, or when Barack Obama claims Republicans have made race a Presidential issue while he simultaneously reminds us daily that he is indeed a black man, it's safe to say some black people simply inject race into everything.

But Obama true believers and dog fighting apologists are darn near color blind if you compare them to the race baiters involved in the Victoria Osteen civil case. The problem with psychiatry and race in the Victoria Osteen case is, well, psychiatry and race. I haven't observed something so completely insane as this case in years. You almost have to go back to when some people were glad O.J. got off for double murder only for the singular fact that he was - black.

In the civil case against Victoria Osteen, the wife of evangelical pastor Joel Osteen, common sense and reality have gone out the window. In reading about this case, it's hard to believe there are adults involved here. You would have to be on the wrong side of the facts to not see that the Osteen's are in danger of falling victim to an attempted extortion of high consequence.

Here's the deal. Back in December of 2005, Victoria and Joel Osteen were sitting first class on a Continental Airlines flight to Colorado. Remember, they are sitting in first class. And the flight had not yet gotten off the ground. Victoria was upset because there was a liquid spill on the armrest of her seat. She could not identify the liquid. She summoned for help from flight attendant Sharon Brown. Victoria Osteen wasn't satisfied with her response and some of her other co-workers. Here's where the accusations fly.

Sharon Brown alleges that Victoria Osteen threw her against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the left breast. Not to mention, she tried to get into the plane's cockpit. There is also a dispute as to whether the Osteen's left the plane voluntarily causing a 2 1/2 hour delay for the other passengers, or if all the flight attendants involved asked to have Victoria Osteen removed.

Since then, The Federal Aviation Administration fined Victoria Osteen $3,000 for interfering with a crew member. The fine was paid as an effort to put the incident to rest. Victoria Osteen has apologized for her behavior, but properly denies a lot of the physical attack alleged by flight attendant Sharon Brown. Sharon Brown has stated she has been assaulted in the past by another passenger. There is also some dispute as to who wound up cleaning the spill. Speculation abounds about what really happened, so you would have thought a resolution for all concerned could have been made years ago since adults were involved.

I cannot believe that as an adult, Sharon Brown has sued Victoria Osteen for punitive damages amounting to 10 percent of her (obviously Joel's as well) net worth. She is also claiming that she now has major depression and post traumatic stress disorder that is only a result of the incident that took place years ago. Here's the kicker. Part of her lawsuit contends her faith has been affected.

She must not have believed too deeply in God if this incident alone can shake her faith to the point that only money can restore it.  I think she and her lawyer and her psychiatrist have a deeper faith in attempting to extort money from the Osteen family. Their combined efforts are making a mockery out of our already jaded judicial system. They should be deeply ashamed of themselves for being the extortionists that they are in the view of this writer.

Her lawyer believes that this trial will show "that celebrity status doesn't take precedence." Well, my question to Reginald McKamie is precedence over - what? He's trying to make Sharon Brown a celebrity for crying out loud. Was it his idea to make this trial about race and psychiatry? Did he suggest his client be diagnosed by Shayna Patrice Lee, a psychiatrist who claims to have "expertise" in "treating African-American women" and how to treat such women who feel demeaned and humiliated? What does that mean to even suggest? That the way black flight attendants respond to an upset first class passenger is to sue for millions and claim the incident alone suddenly caused her to come down with major depression and post traumatic stress disorder? Sounds racist to me, if not incredibly stupid.

Shayna Patrice Lee earned her M.D. over twenty years ago. And this is what has become of it? She has been quoted many times over that her patient Sharon Brown suffers from major depression and post traumatic stress disorder from this "scuffle" alone. What a slap in the face to real people suffering due to the death of loves ones or fighting in actual wars. But Dr. Lee is just another cog in the wheel of psychiatry that has made this profession an affront to human decency. After all, if Sharon Brown has been diagnosed properly, what experiences in life don't qualify you for a "major depression" and a post traumatic stress disorder psychiatric label?

I find it beyond ironic that there are no medical bills Sharon Brown's attorney wants Victoria Osteen to pay, just expenses for counseling. Memo to attorney Reginald McKamie: Your client suffered no injuries! So where is the proof that she has suffered to the degree worthy of 10 percent of the Osteen family net worth? Where is the merit in this racial and psychiatric joke of a civil case? Victoria Osteen's attorney Rusty Hardin is right, it's just "a money grab."

The judge in this civil case needs to make an example out of Sharon Brown, Reginald McKamie and Shayna Patrice Lee. These three individuals represent everything that is wrong with access to our legal system to sue others, race relations, and the ease to which someone can be diagnosed with mental illness. Again, I wonder if attorney Reginald McKamie recommended psychiatrist Shayna Patrice Lee to his client Sharon Brown, or if she was being treated by her before seeking out a lawyer for her apology and extortion attempt.

Victoria and Joel Osteen are the ones entitled to an apology in regard to this asinine civil case. Not to mention, all the money they've spent on their defense. I'm sure they would donate it to a good charity. Don't hate them just because they lead a very successful mega-church. This is still America.

They don't owe Sharon Brown a dime.

Tony Zizza is a freelance writer who lives in Hermitage, TN. He writes frequently about mental health issues and popular culture. Reach Zizza via email: His columns have appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper and on many websites including,,, and

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