Kasandra "Kasi" Perkins is dead. The 22-year-old woman, whom her family described as being full of laughter, kindness, optimism and inspiration, had recently given birth to a baby girl, an infant who was in the house when her father, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, killed her mother.
Perkins was buried in Texas last week with little to no fanfare, reflecting the way that this tragic story has played out in the media. The story of Perkins’ murder has been overshadowed by Belcher’s suicide and NFL-player status to such an extent that it is frightening.
Perkins has been relegated to the position of Belcher’s "girlfriend" instead of being treated as an individual separate from her killer. The way in which Belcher might have thought of Perkins as his property — which could have contributed to his thinking that he could take her life over something as frivolous as how she allegedly spoke to him during an argument — is the same way she’s being misrepresented in the media. Pundits, radio hosts, friends, colleagues and the like have been discussing the case, constantly referring to Perkins as "the girlfriend" or not referring to her by name at all.
What happened to Kasandra Perkins is a crime, and the least folks can do is remember her name and remember that she mattered to many people before she connected with an NFL player who would ultimately take her life and then his own.
Belcher’s thoughtless actions left a three-month-old without parents. While folks have failed to focus on this murder as the domestic violence incident that it is, even fewer people have discussed the implications of Belcher killing Perkins while his mother and daughter were in the house. Domestic violence takes different forms, one of which is the use of violence against a member of the household to demonstrate what will happen to other members if they also "get out of line."
The fact that Belcher killed Perkins while in the presence of his mother and daughter, causing what is sure to be psychological trauma to both, needs to be discussed in the same way and with the same zeal that praying for Belcher and both families has been discussed. It is only fair in a situation that continues to seem completely unfair to Perkins, who had her entire life in front of her.
The ways in which women are often devalued in society are manifesting themselves in this high-profile crime, which is being treated with kid gloves. While I understand the need to pray for both families, since they are all victims of Belcher’s heinous crime, I do not understand why folks are equating Belcher’s death with that of Perkins.
Yes, both people are dead, but Perkins had no say in the matter. Belcher killed her and then took his own life, which makes him far from a victim. In fact, he seems to have been pretty blessed and lucky in life, even welcoming a beautiful baby girl with Perkins. Yet and still, he decided to do the unthinkable.
Kasandra Perkins had a name and an identity separate from Belcher. His status as an NFL player should not overshadow her status as a human being. Where are the articles on the life of Perkins? Why don’t we know important parts of her story?
This was a woman with friends and family members, a woman who wanted to be a teacher and make the world a better place. Why wasn’t her funeral covered by the national news media in any meaningful way? The only thing sadder than a woman being clearly undervalued in life by a supposed loved one is her continuing to be undervalued in death by a society that should know better.
As media coverage continues to focus on who is paying for what funeral costs, whether Kansas City should have played a game the day following the murder-suicide and the "whole" person that Belcher was, perhaps we should take care to remember that Perkins was indeed a whole person prior to meeting Belcher and deserves more respect than being known just as her killer’s girlfriend.
Nsenga K. Burton is editor-at-large for The Root.