Monday, December 3, 2012

“Where Do You Stand on the Jovan Belcher Murder/Suicide?”: Essence Magazine Wants to Know

“ESSENCE is more than a magazine. Black women look to us to help them enhance and transform their lives. The information that ESSENCE provides is life-changing: Black women are empowered and, in the process, they advance not only their individual lives but also the quality of life for others. For all these reasons, ESSENCE has evolved into an institution that embodies the hopes and aspirations of Black women.”
                                                                                            -Essence Magazine Website

As a person who is not too computer savvy, I have a select group of websites that I look at every day. During this weekend as I perused through my Yahoo stroll, I saw the story of the NFL player who killed his girlfriend and later himself. The story has since then been everywhere, yet seeing it on the Essence Magazine website has really struck a nerve with me. Essence magazine, which is a magazine targeted at African Americans, offers a variety of things in their issues. Topics and advertisements range from African American hair, fashion, love and relationships to current events and heated editorials that challenge the opinions of what are perceived to be the collective view of its African American readers. However, with the topic being that of a tragedy in which no one benefits, Essence presented a poll on its website asking its readers, “Where Do You Stand on the Jovan Belcher Murder/Suicide?”

The response options are as follows:
1) I sympathize with Javon Belcher. We don't know what was going on in their lives and why he made that        decision.
2) This is a tragedy. My heart goes out to Kasandra Perkins' family and their 3-month-old daughter.
 3) I'm terribly saddened for everyone involved in this tragedy.

 As a magazine that tends to pride itself on the image it presents of African Americans to pose such a question in the wake of such tragedy is irresponsible and insensitive to members of the families of the victims. This magazine has had countless interviews of the President of the United States and many other African Americans of esteem yet they find it appropriate to associate themselves with such an ill-timed, controversial poll question.  Not only is the poll inappropriate, but for the most part a majority of the poll takers responded without challenging why Essence even presented this question. As I read through the comments looking for at least one person with some form of dignity, I came across roughly four commenters who expressed similar sentiments as mine. One commenter stated, “ Essence, you should be ASHAMED of yourself. How crass, insensitive and inappropriate. Really, a poll to see where people's sympathy lies? You have sunk to a true new low....I am so happy I have let my subscription expire.”

As a reader of Essence Magazine and a frequent viewer of the website, I simply find it unsettling and inappropriate that such a poll exists on their website. I just do not understand how a magazine that prides itself on catering to an African American audience and being “more than a magazine,” can provide its readers with such filth, and insensitivity concerning the deaths of two individuals.

Is a poll of this nature appropriate/inappropriate? Does Essence Magazine have a responsibility to its readers or does freedom of the press overrule here?


  1. I do not think lowly of Essence Magazine for printing the story about Jovan Belcher, but I do think the polling question was insensitive and inappropriate. I do not know of any kind of good that can possibly come out of taking or analyzing a poll of this kind. The story of Jovan Belcher is an absolute tragedy that is far too complex to be sized-down into nothing more than a question with three possible answers. The poll confines the tragedy, it puts Belcher as well as his girlfriend and their families into a small box in which we, as readers, are supposed to make a spectacle of them. I think Essence Magazine had every right to print the story of Belcher, and the tragedy of this situation should be acknowledged. But the poll attached to the story makes it clear that the feelings and issues of those involved and connected to the tragedy are being exploited for sheer entertainment—and that is something I do not agree with.

  2. I am torn over this subject. One part of me says I am happy that they printed the article to keep the problems in the black community relevant and on the other hand, I find distaste in the idea of the "sympathy poll". I feel like one way the poll could be interpreted was to raise awareness of the topic that had hit the black community and not just let it fall by the wayside. We read tragic things every day and forget them within a few minutes, but things that we vote on stick with us. In my opinion, they should have utilized a comment box where individuals could express their grief and remorse to how much of a tragedy this was for the black community.

  3. I didn't think of it from that perspective. You made a good point.