The Soapbox: On Kasandra Perkins And The Color Of Domestic Violence

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On December 1st, the sports world was in shock as reports came in that Jovan Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, died in a murder-suicide, killing himself at the Chiefs training facility after murdering the mother of his three-month-old child in their home. Most people tried to figure out what would make a good kid like Belcher, who appeared to “have it all,” end his life in this way. But I found myself asking, “But what about the girlfriend? Does she even have a name?”

Her name was Kasandra Perkins. The 22-year-old mother had given birth in September and now she was dead. Gone.

In the blink of an eye, this poor innocent child has lost both of her parents. Two beautiful young lives are gone. But for some reason, the mainstream media has mostly focused on Jovan. I get it. He was a professional football player. He was on the rise. He was a talented sports star living his dreams. He is the story. Why would he kill himself?

Since the news of the tragedy broke, many have tried to rationalize why it happened. Was Belcher dealing with some type of mental illness? Did the pressures of manhood that make it impossible for a young black man to seek help finally become too much to bear? Were stress and alcohol factors? Did his girlfriend send him over the edge by coming home late from a Trey Songz concert? Most of the reports that I read and saw on TV seemed to be more concerned with making excuses for Belcher’s behavior or trying to figure out what lead him to kill himself.

What about the domestic violence aspect of the situation? Is anyone going to talk about the young black woman who was killed in the prime of her life? For some reason, when it comes to acts of violence against women of color, the mainstream media has a hard time categorizing it as such. The “strong black woman” stereotype has made it nearly impossible for people to think of black women as victims. Whether it be a young woman who is missing, or a girlfriend or wife killed by her husband, violence against black women is often ignored or unreported. It seems as if many times in American society, white women are the only ones who are allowed to be victims.

I wonder, if Kasandra Perkins had been a white women who was killed by her black NFL boyfriend would the media have handled this story differently? Would people have been so quick to have compassion for Belcher and sympathize with his mental state? Or would he have just been called a murderer?

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that African-American women experienced domestic violence at a rate 35 percent higher than Caucasian women [Rennison & Welchans, 2000]. Although a recent report called “Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2010″ from the BJS concludes that the Violence Against Women Act has aided in reducing intimate partner violence by 64 percent overall, violence against black women is still significantly higher than that of other races.

When Evelyn Lozado was assaulted by football player Chad Ochocinco Johnson, many people blamed her and said that she deserved it. When Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna, many people said that she must have done something that lead him to being violent towards her. Does anyone else see a pattern here? What does a black woman have to do to be a “victim”?

The murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins is a horrible situation for everyone involved. I pray that the families of both of these young people find peace, and that everyone who was affected — from Jovan’s teammates and his coaching staff to the child that is left behind without parents — will be able to heal. But I also must ask, will the day finally come when the lives of all women, regardless of race or economic status, be valued the same?

Erica Watson is a stand-up comedienne and actress. Find out more from EricaWatson.com.

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