A domestic violence attack so familiar and so depressing continues to play itself out in Chicago as police have found what maybe singer/actress Jennifer Hudson's brother's missing white SUV with the body of a young black boy inside. It's likely that this is the body of Hudson's 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, who disappeared after the murders of Hudson's mother and brother Friday.
From The Associated Press:
Police searching for Jennifer Hudson's missing 7-year-old nephew found the body of a young black boy in an SUV Monday. There was no confirmation on the identity of the body.
Hudson's nephew, Julian King, hasn't been seen since Friday, when Hudson's mother and brother were found shot to death in their home. Police issued an Amber Alert for Julian, who lived in the home, and were looking for a 1994 white Chevrolet Suburban.
The body was found in a white SUV on the city's West Side Monday. It was towed away with the body still inside. Police refused to comment.
As a newspaper reporter I covered a lot of crime but none bothered me more than the murderers that happened at the hands of spouses and relatives taking out their aggression on innocent friends and family members. I once worked on a homicide story regarding a former Bakersfield middle school vice principal, Vincent Brothers. Several years ago his wife Joanie, her mother -- a local civil rights activist -- and Joanie and Vincent's three children, ages two, four and 6 months, were found shot to death in their home. Brothers was charged with and tried for their murders and now sits on death row in California.
The case made me angry because if the prosecution, the police and my paper's own sleuthing is to be believed, Brothers was a self-involved, selfish, arrogant man, who cheated on his wife, lead a secret life from her and resented playing child support to a teenage daughter from a previous relationship. He was vain and wanted to leave his wife, but had no real desire to be held responsible for any of his children. He'd been a well-liked member of the community until the murderers happened. They were so violent and malicious and unnecessary. It just made me angry.
What right did he have to take away someone's life just because he didn't want to own up to his responsibilities?
It was the same with Scott Peterson, who killed his pregnant wife Lacey over one Christmas, the countless "boyfriends" who shook their girlfriends' babies to death because they "wouldn't stop crying," the foster parents who treated their displaced children like slaves making them work a horse farm with little water or affection (that was an especially messed up crime to come out of Bakersfield).
I used to joke with my friend, the police reporter, that they should start printing up T-shirts for babies in Bakersfield that said their age and "still alive!" underneath them. But the joke was based on the sad truth that our paper did cover a lot of dead women and children, all murdered at the hands of people who claimed to love them.
Why didn't they just walk away, I always find myself asking? Why didn't the alleged murder just kill themselves rather than take out their whole family first? Why did the more cunning ones go on for months playing coy like they didn't know her body was floating in the Bay? Why didn't those boyfriends ever leave the house rather than shake a child, who often wasn't theirs, to death?
But what has bothered me the most is that in domestic violence, women get mad, women organize, but many men still stand on the sidelines as if these acts of violence don't affect them. Much like the fight against rape, there seems to be a reluctance to join the fight in issues that adversely impact women and children. I've never understood this because in the end, we women can scream until we're blue in the face, but rape and domestic violence will never be taken seriously unless everyone, men and women, take it seriously.
A rape counselor once told me something that surprised me at the time, but made perfect sense as I got older, only men can stop rape. A crime often perpetrated by men, tried and prosecuted by men, there are so many levels of obfuscation that exist to keep women who have been sexually assaulted or who are victims of domestic violence silent. Things are better and more resources are available, but many of the same old thinking still exists, left over from centuries of when women and children were considered, by law and religion, to be mere property.
These issues affect mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, co-workers -- how can someone sit on the fence and not speak out when they see something wrong? How is it that the national attitude towards domestic and sexual violence is set by the fence sitters who still want to shrug it off as an aberration or justifiable?
And with black people it seems doubly worse. We're reluctant to deal with these issues because we want to protect our own, not realizing that in protecting abusers were are simply allowing ourselves to be victims. We should celebrate men who do the right things, who go above and beyond the call of duty. Cherish them. Don't cover for the rapists, child molesters, violent lovers and perverse family members who lurk among us. The ones who we are often told to cover for no matter what horrors they've committed.
Vincent Brothers, the murderer I covered, didn't exist in a vacuum. He didn't merely sit around for thirty years then suddenly "went off." He'd been violent towards his college girlfriend, he'd had a turbulent previous marriage, most people he worked with didn't even know he was married as he kept no pictures of his wife and kids and wore no ring. His wife tried to leave him a few times, but they remained together. He went decades without seeing his family back east, but they all had alibis for him when the murderers happened. They all made excuses. No one ever questioned him because he was supposed to be one of the good ones. A success story. No one wanted to "bring a good brother down."
Then he murdered his family.
I'm a stand-by-your-man kind of girl if that man is worth standing for. With the high profile murders of Hudson's family, possibly out of vengeance by her sister's jailbird ex-husband, once again I'm left to wonder how many excuses were made for this individual before her sister finally realized she needed to get away from him? How many times will his family go on television to say he would never do such horrible things when he went to prison for attempted murder previously? Would everyone pretend like this happened in a vacuum? Like he never exhibited violent behavior before and like there aren't others like him lurking in our communities?
Some will point out that Hudson's sister Julia did a poor job in selecting a husband and that most assuredly she did. She picked a violent ex-con. I'm sure he had a great story to tell her. Many of them do. But that doesn't change the fact that no one has the right to take another's life. I hope people learn from this tragedy and it will go on to prevent new tragedies from occurring. I hope Hudson's home church and other community groups will do more outreach to women and children-at-risk. Do more to educate men, young and old, that passivity is not acceptable and that they must help lead on this issues. That they must do more to prevent this violence and hold their brothers accountable.
I hope men and women come forward to stand up for their mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends and friends to get the point across to the more recalcitrant members of the community that this behavior is not acceptable. Women and children are people, not property you can simply dispose of when they no longer pose a selfish use.