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Sad lessons from the Hudson case



Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the Jennifer Hudson tragedy. Her family has been murdered. Her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew were shot to death.

All signs point to the involvement of William Balfour, Hudson's brother-in-law, a young man with a history of violent behavior. He spent seven years incarcerated for committing violent crimes -- attempted murder and vehicular hijacking. Police are unsure of whether he is the killer, but are sure that he has something to do with the crimes.

It is unreal that a crime of this magnitude has occurred. But it is even more unreal that someone would invite a man like Balfour into her home, particularly as a spouse and stepfather to a young boy.

I understand that people are not perfect and that we all make mistakes. Everyone deserves a second chance, but when we have children and even when we don't, it is best to err on the side of good judgment. And it is lousy judgment to invite a person convicted of a violent crime into your home, let alone your mother's home. What good could possibly come of aligning yourself with someone who is a violent criminal?

Perhaps Hudson's sister fell in love? Maybe she was desperate? She quite possibly may have wanted the socially constructed image of the American Dream -- man, woman and child -- at all costs. I am sure that she never thought that inviting this man into her life would result in the murders of her mother, brother and son. The ripple effects of her poor decision will live on for years to come.

Some of you probably think that I am being judgmental, snobby and cruel. Maybe I am, but you have to think about protecting yourself and your family. While you can never judge a book by its cover, sometimes you can get an idea of what lies inside of the pages. I'm not saying that all convicted felons are bad people. They are not. What I am saying is that sometimes people need to prove that they have changed before we do things like invite them into our lives and the lives of our families, particularly when they have been convicted of violent crimes.

I'm sorry, but what good could possibly come from marrying someone convicted of attempted murder and carjacking? At least give the young man an opportunity to prove that he has changed before making him a stepfather to your son. That is not the role model that a young boy who is constructing his identity needs in his life. Balfour is 27 years old and has spent seven years of his life behind bars. That is one-fourth of his time on Earth behind bars. Just what exactly is it about him that makes him an acceptable role model for your son?

I'm really tired of reading about children being murdered by parents directly or indirectly. As is the case with Hudson's nephew Julian and her brother who was only 19 years old, they need our guidance and protection. Children need adults to make good decisions.

Adults need to know when to let go of people who will not add value to their lives or to those around them. We all know too well examples of people who altered the course of their lives by simply failing to cut ties with questionable folks. Michael Vick. John Edwards. Marion Jones. Julius Caesar. Britney Spears. Sean Bell. Yes, Sean Bell. Did he deserve to be murdered by the police? Absolutely not, but what good could possibly come from being in a car with convicted felons in a shady part of town leaving a seedy strip club in the wee hours of the morning? Absolutely nothing.

The jury is out on Balfour. We do not know the extent to which he was involved in the crime or if he was even involved at all. We do know that Balfour was caught with cocaine in his car this past June, and that his parole was not revoked. We do know that Hudson's mother had put him out of the house. We do know that he was estranged from his wife. We do know that Jennifer Hudson had wanted to move the family out of the neighborhood, which is very violent, but they had refused.

This tragedy adds up to a string of bad decisions being made by adults including the "judicial" system. It highlights the necessity of letting go of people and circumstances that do not positively impact our lives -- and the tragic consequences that occur when we do not.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for

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