Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins: Are We Willing to Learn From This Tragedy?

“Can I, can I save you from you?”
Lyric from: Fall For Your Type from the album Best Night of My Life
Written By: 40, N. Cobey Noel Campbell and Aubrey Graham
Performed by: Jamie Foxx, Drake

Photo of Jovan Belcher, Kasandra Perkins and their daughter, Zoe Courtesy of NYDailyNews.com

The Kansas City Chiefs got a win on Sunday.
The team snapped an eight-game losing streak, beating the Carolina Panthers 27-21 while improving their record to 2-12 on the season.
During the post-game press conference, Chiefs’ head coach Romeo Crennel did not look the part of the winning coach, nor did his words sound as such.
The coach lamented, “I’m choosing not to answer any questions about what I saw yesterday. I think that you will understand that, and hopefully you will respect my wishes on that, because it wasn’t a pretty sight.”
What the coach had seen the preceding day was the 2nd half of a tragedy.
Fourth-year linebacker, Jovan Belcher, killed himself with a gunshot to the head in front of Crennel and GM Scott Pioli in the parking lot of the Chiefs practice facility shortly after murdering his long-time girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, shooting her in front of her mom and in the presence of his mom and the couple’s 3-month old daughter.
On Monday, this piece was published on KansasCity.com about Ms. Perkins, offering a little bit of background on the woman whose tragic death has nearly made her a household name.
Her friends had apparently inspired the column in that they did not want her to be “overshadowed” by the recognition of the famed athlete and boyfriend by whom she was killed.
The friends spoke about how they had not known Belcher to be violent, offering that sure, the couple’s relationship had endured some rough patches but nothing out of the ordinary.
“They’re like every couple, they argued,” said Kelsie Hoberg, a close friend of Perkins. “Nothing we thought was ever super-unhealthy...I don‘t know how it got to where it did-why he thought he needed a gun.”
This article posted today on ESPN.com confirms that the Chiefs were aware that the couple was having relationship problems.
In the days since this tragedy, guns and the broader issue of this country’s gun culture have been offered as areas in which rethinking and reformation may have an impact on domestic violence fatalities.
Belcher legally possessed the handgun that took Perkins’ and his life so it’s hard to know just how and what politically or lawfully might have prevented the act.
I would offer that, perhaps, the greatest opportunity we have to affect the high incidence of domestic violence lies in our willingness to take a long, hard look at our culture’s fascination with toxic relationships and the factors that contribute to our growing inability to know the difference between a rough patch and a red flag.
In Hoberg’s quote above, more than her questioning Belcher’s need for a gun, her words regarding the seeming  absence of anything unhealthy in Belcher and Perkins’ relationship gave me pause.
I wondered, in these times, how difficult it must be for a woman, especially a young woman of just 22 years, to make an informed decision about the state of her relationship.
While our society’s stance against domestic violence is a constant as we remain unified in our disdain and disgust for offenders, we have failed to provide reliable education as to the various toxicity markers that might help identify a love affair gone wrong.
Worse yet, so much of what we see on our televisions and hear on our radios glamorizes the exquisite pain of a hard won relationship, persuading would be significant others to be willing to endure more suffering in order to gain more superficial pleasure.
As far back as what would seem to be a lifetime ago, I was in an abusive relationship. It’s hard to describe how I got there. Once engrossed, however, I only remember the empty, powerless feeling of having adjusted every part of my personality in order to try to relieve someone’s insecurities only to realize that their insecurities had nothing to do with me.
And here’s the tricky part, I wasn’t struck physically until more than eight months into the relationship. Up to that point I had only been assaulted verbally.
I would like to believe that if I had been courageous enough to reveal my plight to someone at the time, I might have received a stern warning to get out before things got worse.
But in reality, I have little faith that anyone in my life at that time-excluding my mother who would have been the last person I told-would have been equipped to advise me of that.
The truth is, short of a black eye or a death threat, most people would have found little reason for alarm. People are more content to butt out, choosing to spare themselves the risk of being accused of having too much of an opinion on the matter.
In our current relationships climate, the Chris Brown/Rihanna narrative and the others like it, more than anything else, have distorted our view of what it means for love to conquer all.
It seems the more famous the partner the more easily their actions are excused.
That and the incessant show of support for Brown from his fanatic base demonstrate that, apparently, talent too pardons crimes in the court of public opinion.
Furthermore, our popular culture’s sad inclination to value what you have more than who you are may render someone helplessly illogical in their choice between starting over in a new, healthy and loving relationship or getting a new designer bag in your old one.
A quick trip around the radio dial reveals that this generation's music defines a healthy relationship, by today’s standards, as having begun with a little crazy and a lot of carnal pleasure, ending with a lot of crazy and a few new outfits plus a BMW in the garage.
And it’s not only women who are drawn into this delusional web of erroneous perspective.
Men are lyrically lured by their hip hop contemporaries into the belief that all a damaged female good needs is a strong man to-according to Grammy-winning recording artist, Neo-love her until she learns to love herself.
Though the intent is noble, any man who embarks on that journey is sure to find a cruel and distressing ride and faces a very low possibility of conversion. Such aspirations are usually nothing more than a figment of the male ego.
It is the responsibility of each of us individually to be moved to love ourselves and to believe we are worthy of love. It is senseless to think otherwise.
And domestic violence is the quintessential senseless act. Despite all we will learn in the coming days and weeks about Belcher and Perkins’ last days, the details will be meaningless in our quest for answers.
A mournful tragedy such as this one should inspire us to ask better questions of our loved ones and ourselves. We need a deeper, more significant discussion around how a healthy relationship looks and feels.
It’s the truest way to open our society up to the possibility of a preventive plan of attack on domestic violence and domestic violence fatalities in this country.
 We have all suffered in silence long enough.