What was supposed to be a peaceful Easter Sunday ended in tragedy for an innocent elderly man who was doing nothing but walking down the street after dinner. Cleveland investigators say that Robert Godwin Sr.’s death was random as they believe that Steve “Stevie Steve” Stephens just walked up to the 74-year-old and shot him in the head.
In a video of the murder that was posted on Facebook, Stephens is heard saying, “Found me somebody I’m about to kill …this old dude.”
According to that same video, as the 34-year-old geared up to shoot Godwin, Stephens said his ex-girlfriend’s name, “Joy Lane,” and added “she’s the reason this is about to happen to you.”
In another video, Stephens said he “won’t stop” killing until his mother and ex-girlfriend call him.
“I’m killing motherf****rs all because of this b***h …She’s putting me at my pushing point…Today is the Easter Day Joy Lane massacre.”
While there were plenty of condolences being given on Twitter and Facebook for the Godwin family, like clockwork, misogynoir—the intersections of racism and sexism geared toward Black women—reared its ugly head when folks began to blame Joy Lane for Stephens’ unhinged and murderous behavior.
Peering through my timeline, I’ve witnessed both men and women question why Lane didn’t just call Stephens; wanting to know what she did to invoke this type of behavior; and that perhaps Lane should have been killed instead of Godwin. Even worse: Lane’s sexual skills have been said to have caused Godwin’s death and that she isn’t pretty enough to “drive a man” insane.
Talk about the bottom of the barrel. Thankfully, there were plenty of folks speaking out against this nonsense:
Yes I know that Lane spoke to the press apologizing for Godwin’s death, calling Stephens a “nice guy” who “is generous with everyone he knows.” I also recognize how frustrating it is to hear that: How can you call a murderous man a “nice guy”? But before we jump down her throat, let’s also keep in mind how much pressure is placed on Black women to defend Black men to the end, regardless of what they do and say. (And I know you all know what I’m talking about.)
This still isn’t her fault.
Regardless of whether Lane was abused or what she thinks of Stephens—it’s impossible to deny how hypocritical the public response to this whole situation has been. Let’s just say she had been abused: We often blame Black women for staying in abusive relationships, wondering why they don’t leave, ignoring the fact that leaving puts us more at risk to being killed. But when a Black woman has garnered enough courage and has the support to walk away from something dangerous; we blame her for having the audacity to be free.
Real talk: Folks are still mad at Ciara for not putting up with Future’s infidelity and finding true love. It’s as if Black women’s only role on this earth is endure pain for the sake of men and the community at large.
What’s even more infuriating is our inability to hold men accountable for their own actions. To see such a massive refusal to acknowledge that what happened is solely on Stephens’ shoulders is not only heartbreaking, but terrifying. That and the misguided belief that this situation is some isolated incident and not part of much larger problem in our community: Toxic masculinity.
We can no longer keep turning a blind eye to the sexism and gender violence that plagues Black America. We need to have honest conversations about how toxic masculinity breeds disdain for Black women and we have to do that in a way that doesn’t pathologize or demonize our men. But first we need to admit that we have a serious problem.
And I fully understand the reluctance to do so. In this #BlackLivesMatter world we want to protect our Black men and boys given that they have targets on their backs every time they walk out the door. But so do Black women—and not just when we enter White America or cross paths with the police, but when we exist in own homes, walk down our own streets and even when we lie in our own beds.
We are vulnerable, especially to violence that comes from the hands of the very men that we have been raised to fall on swords for and start social movements in their names. But who is standing up for us?
It’s exhausting to watch my own call us “Queens” out of one side of their mouth and then out the other, scapegoat us for everything that is wrong with Black folks. In the end, I hope that one day Lane—and others who blame her—will realize that Stephens’ actions—and men like him—are never about what Black women are doing or invoking. Death, violence and abuse are about the perpetrators’ poor choices, callousness and instability.
Now, just think if we could actually make them own it.