Featured, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Steve Stephens Is at Fault for Robert Godwin Sr.’s Death. He and He Alone. Not Joy Lane or Anybody Else. Stop That Shit.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “toxic masculinity” but it has stuck with me ever since. It’s not a hard concept to define or understand. Effectively, and simply, it’s a label placed on actions and behaviors attributable to “manhood” that are destructive, often violent, and naturally come with extremely negative consequences toward both men AND women.

By now, everybody is familiar with the story of Steve Stephens. He is the murderer from Cleveland (though his current whereabouts aren’t known) who brazenly killed Robert Godwin Sr., a man doing nothing more than walking home after Easter dinner. Stephens, while filming the entire thing on Facebook Live, approached Godwin, asked him to say the name of his ex-girlfriend, Joy Lane, and then blamed her for the act of murder he then committed.

Let me be very clear upfront: It is not Joy Lane’s fault.

Say that again: It is not Joy Lane’s fault.

In fact, let’s all sing that together – IT IS NOT JOY LANE’S FAULT.

It is not Stephens’ mother’s fault. It is not any Black woman’s fault that this monster committed such an act, ever. He acted on his own choices of his own volition and did the unthinkable. It takes a sick individual to find blame in a person just because her name was uttered in connection to an immoral act. But it has happened.

I’m also not going to be so quick to jump on the he has mental health issues bandwagon. I’m no psychologist, armchair or otherwise, and neither are most people with opinions on his state of mind. Some people just have evil in them and those demons surface. I do believe that all of us, especially Black people, need to engage in more self-care, ensuring our ability to manage in a world that is very hostile to our livelihoods, spirit, and bodies. That is important. You can’t help anybody if you cannot help yourself. Stephens may very well be an unwell person, his actions indicate that as a possibility.

But really, he comes off as a man who snapped and had no idea how to deal with the rejections he faced for various reasons and as opposed to dealing with his own problems in a non-destructive fashion, he did the most cowardly, morally bankrupt, nihilistic, and sadistic thing he could do, became aggressively destructive, took a life, blamed it on a woman, and begged for attention while doing it by filming it live. I do not wish grace or mercy on Stephens. My heart has no room for a man who could do what he did.

Robert Godwin, Sr., God bless the dead, could have literally been ANY OF OUR grandparents who did NOTHING more than decide to go home at that time. There was no way to stop that crime from happening.  That’s what makes it the most heartbreaking; What could have been done? Once Stephens decided that somebody was going to die, the only obstacle was picking a person. He allegedly told his mother the day before that that particular visit was going to be the last time he saw her. Should his mother have called the police then? Maybe. But what could they have done? He hadn’t done anything wrong and unless he WAS a mentally unstable person and did something that the police COULD have legally stopped him for, and there is no indication that prior to this act there was anything on record to indicate as such, there would be no file or anything started.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that it is entirely possible to live a life in a way in which nobody can tell that you are suffering. His FB live video implies as much, but this is where toxic masculinity comes in. As opposed to trying to find a way to deal with it, he decided that destruction and chaos were the only ways to address his problem. Now a family is out a patriarch, a community is shattered, and his is now a life lost as well.

I don’t care what happened between he and Joy Lane. The fact that he attempted to place the blame on any woman for his actions is asinine. What he did to Robert Godwin Sr. is irredeemable. Just like any time a man has taken the life of a woman or anybody due to rejection, and violence due to rejection is far too frequent to be silent about it. This shit has got to stop. We have to hold our brothers, fathers, friends, and really ANYBODY accountable to the destructive actions and behaviors that exist, even if they haven’t resulted in extreme circumstances. Our culture is one rooted in this type of patriarchal behavior for which there is entirely too much access to information explaining why its toxic. Knowing better to do better is ALWAYS a possibility. If you have the pre-meditated wherewithal to make such terrible decisions, the entire onus for them is on you, not the woman who broke your heart.

I expect that Steve Stephens will be probably be killed by police, if he doesn’t kill himself first. Any person who is willing to go to the lengths he has has probably already decided how this is going to end. I will be surprised if he’s captured and sent to prison where I imagine his actions would be lend themselves to the most unpleasant lifetime sentence of all time, should he even make it that long.

I felt horrible for Mr. Godwin and for the family for having to find out that your father was mercilessly gunned down by a maniac with a vendetta. Watching the news story was heart-breaking. I’m afraid we’ll get more outrageous stories like this, and more of our family members will pay the price for a societal lack of addressing issues like toxic masculinity that have such negative impacts on our community.

I’m praying for the family of Mr. Godwin in this trying time. Rest in power, sir,  and God bless the dead.

 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Me

    I heard on the radio this morning that his frat brothers are already trying to “whiteboy” him by claiming he had been suffering from mental illness for years. My immediate reaction was HALE NO! Not today. You’re not going to invalidate this old man’s senseless death with one of the most bogus excuses that white folks came up with to absolve their little snowflakes of all wrong doing. Don’t cape for this murderer. Point him out!

    • PhlyyPhree

      I HATE That they are trying to blame it on his mental illness.
      I have a mental illness and I haven’t killed anyone. A disease is a disease, it is not a cause or reason or justification for any fucking thing

  • Giantstepp

    I watched the video yesterday and had real tears rolling down my face. It was awful. Just AWFUL! Like you I have no room in my heart for understanding. If he was gunned down in the street (after what he did to Mr. Godwin) I wouldn’t question it one bit. F-him is how I feel.

    “I’m praying for the family of Mr. Godwin in this trying time. Rest in power, sir, and God bless the dead”.

    Indeed.

    • Question

      I’m curious. Did you know what the video entailed before you watched it? And if so, why did you still want to see it?

      • Giantstepp

        I knew. I usually avoid those things foolishness overall online but for some reason I watched it. I regret that I did.

        • Question

          Trust that I’m not picking on you – but I think the compilation to watch is also worth understanding. It’s like the videos of IS beheadings and people saying that after they watched them they couldn’t sleep for days. What is it about these heinous acts of violence that people feel compelled to watch?

          • Giantstepp

            We’re good, and I don’t feel picked on. I can defend (argue-debate) my positions, and I am not closed to learning and adjusting my positions with new (or better) information.

            I can’t peak for others, and as mentioned earlier, I usually avoid those types of things, but I felt compelled to watch that particular video on that particular day. Good example with the ISIS reference. And for the record, I’ve never seen one for obvious reasons.

            Overall I don’t have a taste for those things, but I can’t explain why I watched that one. I regret it too.

  • Hugh Akston

    I don’t believe in the death penalty but I do believe individuals like him should be taken to snake island and let them survive there on their own

    • miss t-lee

      “I don’t believe in the death penalty.”

      I do.
      Especially in cases such as these.

      • Roz

        I have my list too, but yes, this is one of them where I agree.

        • miss t-lee

          I lost a cousin on some drive by shooting bullsh*t like this.
          Dude got the death penalty. It was deserved.

          • Michelle is my First Lady

            Yup. We had a DV situation happen in our family. My cousin’s mother was brutally murdered right in front of them by the father. Then dude committed suicide. I will never understand the need for taking someone else’s life.

            • miss t-lee

              My cousin was like the 4th person he’d killed that day. He went on a whole azz spree.

              • blueevey

                :( I’m sorry that happened to you and your family

                • miss t-lee

                  ‘Preciate it.

            • grownandsexy2

              ” I will never understand the need for taking someone else’s life.”

              Perhaps the ultimate act of control.

      • Hugh Akston

        That’s ok

        I used to be in that same boat..but I prefer snake island

        • miss t-lee

          Well have to agree to disagree.

    • NattyJammin’Inna

      And make sure that the waters around are shark infested for good measure. The water on the island must not be exactly potable, dysentery causing amoeba must also be abundant in that. .

      • Question

        Seal island. Dressed like a fat leopard seal. During great white AND killer whale hunting season. With bloody tuna tied to his ankles just for good measure.

        Nature.

    • Michelle is my First Lady

      I don’t believe in the death penalty either but in this case….. yeah, he needs to go.

    • Zil Nabu

      I think rotting in max security is a fate worse than death and that’s what this man deserves.

      • NattyJammin’Inna

        nah. Most of these people are morbidly afraid of dying

        • Zil Nabu

          Maybe so, but once they’re dead it’s over (depending on your beliefs). Prison is hades on earth and I want them living through every minute of that pain before they descend into the spiritual form.

      • TJ84

        Nope. My tax dollars do not need to be spent keeping the scum of the earth alive. Fry him.

        • BlackMamba

          That’s more expensive fam.

          • NattyJammin’Inna

            Than to house someone for 30 odd years.

            • Yes, believe it or not.

              • NattyJammin’Inna

                What are they using. Here it is just the noose. but we aint hang anyone in a while thanks to the privy council. The Law Lords said, you have to prove that the crime is the worst of the worse.

                • It has to do with the way the Death Penalty was re-legalized in the 70s. Each death penalty conviction here requires special lawyers, mandatory appeals and a separate Death Row for the convicted. It usually takes 15 years between a death sentence and an actual execution. Plus few ways are considered legal to actually execute someone due to the scores of appeals. (For example, you can’t hang anyone. Why? Because prisoners have gained weight knowing that above a certain BMI, hanging can decapitate, and decapitation is Cruel and Unusual Punishment under the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution.)

                  • NattyJammin’Inna

                    I see. Sometimes I hate freaking liberal or rather progressives who think that we can talk everything out.

            • BlackMamba

              It is! Its the appeals process that makes it so.

          • TJ84

            That’s another issue I have. The appeals process should be completely overhauled. If there is very clear video evidence and/or admission of guilt with no proven mental illness (I’m looking at you Dylan Roof) then you get no appeals. NONE.

            • Zil Nabu

              I’m very wary of acquiescing any rights to the government or allowing them more latitude in criminal justice. Usually those rules NEVER work out well for us and are often used to lock up even more of us without avenues for recourse. You think what you’re suggesting will only harm those who “deserve it,” but believe me it’ll reach beyond to those who do not.
              I feel the same way about people who support sending the National Guard to Chicago to stop the violence. People are often desperate for a quick fix that they miss the long term implications and the additional chaos they are allow to be wrought upon them.

  • jmoo2k15

    This is another sad case of toxic masculinity, but you do not randomly kill people. The killer had a soundbite where he said that he always heard other people’s problems and no one seemed to listened to his. It made me think mental health just isnt priortized in the black community. Men and black men especially, if we are lucky we have an uncle or a couple of close friends to talk to or know when to drag you somewhere for help. We need to better able to cope with the difficulties of life and not kill people. The other thing, is the people blaming her for the situation, she is doing everything she can to help the situation and working with the police. If she makes disparaging remarks about him it may set him off and do harm to who knows how many other people. Mr.Godwin and no one else deserves to die like that .

  • Skegeeaces

    Say it for the people in the back!!!

  • cyanic

    Toxic masculinity is too simplistic an explanation for murder. Manslaughter sure, but murder of a random innocent–no. Mental health needs to stop being stigmatized in our community. I don’t care about what the mainstream does. We need to have conversations about how we’re governing ourselves to each other.

    • I am not quick to jump on the mental health bandwagon for this one. Yes, mental health is important (see all my previous comments about how therapeutic therapy is for me), but this right here was a coherent and calculated killer. He was on the phone talking with friends. Responding to Facebook live comments. Claiming to have slaughtered others. He was behavioral health specialist who understood the importance of mental help.

      In the end, he was just evil.

      Some people are just that.

      • PhlyyPhree

        So… I hate to ask this, but DID he kill anyone else?
        I’m hoping that was just a sensationalist specious claim….

      • cyanic

        Godless behavior can only be described as mentally ill because that’s the only way to make sense of it.

        • If that’s the case, there are many “godly” people who do godless things, daily.

  • Courtney Wheeler

    Weak men are a afraid of being laughed at or being judged by a woman

    Women are just afraid of being killed by a man. :(

    • It is so similar about the fear Black men have about raging cops. If we can only take those feelings when we see a mirror.

    • AKA The Sauce

      I don’t think it’s a weak man strong man thing. All men are have this fear….some react differently than others. It’s how they react that makes them weak.

      • Courtney Wheeler

        Yeah I think that’s what I’m trying to get at. No one wants to get rejected or made to feel like a fool. But when you justify hurting others for your pain? It’s a total cop out.

        • AKA The Sauce

          I understood but I just wanted to be clear. Thing is I have had these thoughts when I was younger during a break-up. Not proud about it but when you feel played…you think of some extreme ish. But…you also have a moment that’s like “really…that’s a dumb move”. He had that moment and still thought it was a good idea

          • Question

            But we also glorify extreme reactions to relationship fall outs. And we’ve normalized the “clap back” for even the smallest infractions.

            Blah blah blah – I guess what I’m saying is beyond mental illness, I honk we really need to think more deeply about what we consider “normal” reactions to things.

            No, I’m not saying that the community is in any way responsible for this. Nope. This is on dude and dude alone.

            But there was nothing but praise for Angela Basset’s reaction to being cheated on in How Stella Got Her Groove Back that I’ve always found confusing…

            • That first sentence is the truth. And it goes for both genders. I’ve seen so many dudes being praised for “fighting for his woman” by men and women. Meanwhile, if a dude moves on, it’s considered an admission of guilt. So messed up…

            • Valerie

              “But we also glorify extreme reactions to relationship fall outs. And
              we’ve normalized the “clap back” for even the smallest infractions.”

              True. Now you are looked upon as strange if you quietly leave the relationship without being petty or angry towards one another.

              • Question

                I had a BFF tell me I was weak for not staking out an ex’s job when I thought he was side-dipping with a coworker. Like she was mad at me for not getting all wrapped up in it and trying to PI what he was up to. Instead I told him not to call me anymore and moved on with my life… but I was weak…?

                • Valerie

                  YES. A thousand times yes. I have “friends” tell me to do crazy things too but at the end of the day he just wasn’t worth it and it’s better for me to move on.

                  Actions speak louder than words.

                • JennyJazzhands

                  I always say, “I don’t need to see the flames or get burned by them to exit. If I smell smoke, I’m gone”. You smelled smoke and got ghost. That’s what I would do.

                • Spicy Kas

                  People have strange ideas about relationships. Usually the same people who have horrible relationships.

                • Looking4Treble

                  You were strong. You valued yourself, realized your power to move on positively from a toxic situation without undue drama, and did it. Roll credits.

            • AKA The Sauce

              Ummm….I’m not with you on this one playa. As a man I think it’s more noble/gangsta to leave a relationship quietly. Having an emotional reaction to a break-up shows the other person they won.

              • Question

                You and I are saying the same thing. I’m saying I’ve never understood why clap backs and revenge scenarios get so much praise from either side (VSS here so I can’t speak to what men do). Keying cars, trashing and burning other people’s stuff. I’ve never understood why it was so glorified…

    • Question

      Ehh.. I get what you’re saying but I think it oversimplifies the situation. Men in America are raised to believe they are entitled to a woman’s respect and admiration, warranted or not. In some sections of the Black community, I would say that the level of entitlement is even more pronounced.

      Couple that with confusing images of black male masculinity, few examples of healthy relationships in some parts of the Black community mental illness that goes unaddressed, contradictory messages about displays of weakness and poor communication skills when it comes to emotional issues within relationships, easy access to firearms, “disrespect” culture and social media notoriety and you have a real problem on your hands in small corners of the community.

      • Courtney Wheeler

        Yeah..I agree

      • One, if I had a dollar for the f*cksh*t that gets cosigned in social media on a relationship front, I could pay off these student loans, get a downpayment for a nice crib and set my daughter up with a college fund. They’re on that BS, and they don’t even know.

        Also, being Black and navigating the mental health system is an adventure, to say the least.

      • Ess Tee

        I’d slightly edit your second sentence to read, “Men are raised to believe they are entitled to a woman’s respect and admiration…” This shizz is global.

        • Question

          Oh I don’t doubt its global. I’m just focused on black men cuz I’m black and primarily dated (and am now married to) black men…

    • cyanic

      Women are fearful of everything one could possibly be frighten of. Men have most of the same fears despite their gender and society’s conditioning and expectations for them.

      • We’re having this actual conversation now, at work. One guy is afraid to ride home thru the park. The other guy has the exact same car, and they’re both shook.

    • ClaymoreParamore

      Full quote is from a lecture given by Margaret Atwood:

      “Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. (I love that wonderful rhetorical device, “a male friend of mine.” It’s often used by female journalists when they want to say something particularly bitchy but don’t want to be held responsible for it themselves. It also lets people know that you do have male friends, that you aren’t one of those fire-breathing mythical monsters, The Radical Feminists, who walk around with little pairs of scissors and kick men in the shins if they open doors for you. “A male friend of mine” also gives—let us admit it—a certain weight to the opinions expressed.) So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. “I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.

      Writing the Male Character, a Hagey Lecture at the University of Waterloo (9 February 1982)

    • orchid921

      Margaret Atwood told no lies with that one.

  • The regulars in the comments know my story about my…challenges with my intimate relationships and my mother. There are some things I’ve said on here, and some things that have happened to me that I’ll likely not ever say publicly. The worst way I’ve ever dealt with it is by maybe watching too much pr0n or strapping up and humping some chick I wasn’t feeling that night. Murdering random dudes was always a few dozen bridges way too far, and he ain’t ish for doing that.

    Also, we need to find a way for men to deal with issues that are healthy. So often, we laugh off crazy stuff men do, or worse yet, find it attractive or admirable. While few dudes go to the extent of murder, so often dudes hit women or destroy themselves because of their pain. While it’s not anyone’s job to care for a dude who is way in their feelings, the least we can do is not endorsed messed up ways of dealing with problems.

    Third is that this dude was a therapist for troubled youth. How do you deal with someone trying to help the youth having trouble themselves? Therapists can go through it as much as anyone else, and they’re in a unique position to cause harm if they don’t have their stuff together. And in terms of the woman in question, nothing she could have done merited his response. I don’t care if she r@ped and beat the man.

    • On your second point, I’m not sure how to de-chexualize violence in our culture. By ‘our’ I mean American. These chickens have come to roost to a degree that I’m not sure America has the will or creativity to root it out.

      • Rewind4ThatBehind

        We don’t. Not without rewriting the entire book and most aren’t prepared for that.

        • Two things are pretty well accepted:
          1) We have to do better than this and
          2) We can do better than this

          What bothers me is that because we can’t agree on the logistics, everyone is content to do nothing.

          • Rewind4ThatBehind

            I agree with you.

            However the problem is, there is always someone out there doing the work. But one person is never enough for people to notice, and as long as the majority still keep up the act, all that work the minority can do goes unnoticed.

            • One spark can cause a grass fire. We just gotta keep on sparking.

              • Rewind4ThatBehind

                It will catch at some point. Just takes the right person to be the flame.

    • Val

      Therapists are supposed to go to therapy. That’s pretty standard. Not sure if this guy was a professional or just a rec center type therapist though.

      • miss t-lee

        Yup.

      • No, he was a professional, from what I gather. By chance, I am in a FB of Black Therapists, and someone said that she was a colleague of his.

      • Helga G.Pataki

        He was a case manager at Beech Brook which is a behavioral treatment center for adolescents. I’m not sure if his title meant he was also a liscensed social worker, but it’s likely.

  • Valerie

    I did not watch the video. RIP Mr. Godwin, you did not deserve this. I hope they catch this man. I’m so angry and hurt for Mr. Godwin’s family. I’m still speechless.

  • I’ve been policing my timeline heavily to make sure the video doesn’t pop up.

    All in all, this is why I’m for gun control. We’re a country drowning in toxic masculinity, and the availability of guns makes it easy for fragile men to kill people.

    • NattyJammin’Inna

      But isn’t that what makes a man a man? 45 is a great president because he knows how to flex his muscles.

      • Too many men believe that being a man means having the ability/physicality to send another one to the afterlife. And they will behave that way in a way according to the amount of resources they have or power they acquire.

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