(Non)Toxic Masculinity Relationships/Family Columns

Kirk’s Call That Awakened Us All

Robert Monson

It feels like yesterday (It just happened in March. What is time anymore?!) that we were minding our own business trying to navigate the ever-changing nature of this pandemic and people who didn’t want to wear their masks and…I digress…when social media lit up with a video from Kirk Franklin’s son, Kerrion Franklin. The video was a recording of a phone conversation clearly gone wrong between the two. Kirk and Kerrion are clearly heated and the exchange is…a lot as Kirk is definitely shaken about something. I was not initially shocked because…I am Black and I get parents being heated with their children, but then a phrase went right through my being. “I will break your neck (racial slur).” What in the Now Behold the Lamb is going on? 

Social media is a very mixed bag, especially as it relates to processing incredibly complex issues. I knew that as I listened to the rest of that video that I would be in for incredibly vehement commentary. Sure enough, I immediately saw the predictable comments defending Kirk’s actions and speech. Most of it amounted to “Your parents never threatened you or cussed you out?” Many championed him and said that they respected him more. The ridicule of Kerrion started immediately. How could this grown man think that we would support him over Kirk Franklin? Memes. Jokes. The court of public opinion decided his fate rather quickly. Comparatively, there was a rather small number of people that called Kirk’s speech abusive. 

I can’t speak to all of the dynamics in Kirk and Kerrion’s family dynamics. I think it would be very short-sighted of me to even begin to judge this family. I don’t know them in the slightest. But I can say, at the very least, that there seems to be a man that has a strained relationship with his

father. I can clearly see that he had a motive for posting this video to the world. I can see that something bothered Kirk to the point of snapping and that he felt at his wits’ end. I also do know that Kirk went on a tour of sorts explaining that Kerrion has been toxic for quite some time which is…interesting. What I do know is that that call illuminated and triggered things within me that I want to unpack. 

  1.  I never want to use the language of the streets in the context of my most intimate conversations. I get that we all get angry. I also have not lived up to this ideal with the people whom I love. But as one who has been on the receiving end and the giving end of this, I want to be clear that this isn’t ok. That call shook me. Adversarial language changes the complete dynamics of your relationship. Fighting is one thing, but what I heard in that call was something that was completely different. 

2.  The rush to defend Kirk by saying that our parents said the same sorts of threatening things to us…was…not ok. Sure, I have been talked to just like that, and that is why I am in therapy and unlearning a lot of my coping mechanisms through prayer and loving community. We need the ability to be able to say that, yes, I was raised a certain way by my parents and my parents’ generation, as they taught me survival tactics, but I am willingly choosing to divest from everything that doesn’t serve me and the next generation. 

3.  When we blow it, I think it is ok to not go on tours that center someone else’s character. As I watched a few of the interviews with Kirk after the phone incident, something that bothered me was his commentary on Kerrion and his toxicity. I have no reason to believe that Kirk is lying. He could be telling the honest-to-God truth. But I also think if you’re doing interviews to speak on what we heard, something that for many people probably triggered feelings and experiences of abuse, it’s ok to just keep the conversation on your own toxicity. 

I left this phone call awakened. I don’t feel judgmental towards Kirk; rather, I feel introspective about my own life. I think about him, Kerrion, and my community. I want a community where someone like Kerrion can be believed and healed. I want a community where Kirk can get help and healing, where he isn’t pressed to the limit so that he is cussing out his kid/threatening violence, and where people don’t think doing so is ok. I have a vision for better.