If you’ve braved the storms on social media over the past week, then you know about the controversy that ensued when Kirk Franklin and his adult son, Kerrion Franklin, displayed their dirty laundry online. Kerrion leaked a video with audio of a call on his Instagram account in which his father can be heard yelling colorful expletives at him before hanging up.
There was no context leading up to the threats and cursing heard in the clip, which would have been a great help in determining what made the normally composed singer so angry.
“You need to get your skinny ass out the goddamn way before I put my foot in your ass,” Kirk, 51, said in the call. “With your poor ass.”
Kerrion, 32, interrupted by saying, “I dare you. I dare you. Shut the fuck up.”
“Boy, I will break your neck, n—-a. Don’t you ever disrespect me,” Kirk said before hanging up.
Kerrion posted the video on March 13 along with a post that read: "This is why I’m done. No father should speak to their children like this. If I have any issues it’s because of this type of treatment that ii [sic] deal with behind closed doors."
"Hanging up in my face, No apology, no compassion, no effort," he also wrote.
Naturally, instances of parents yelling and arguing with their adult children don't normally make the news. What sets this family feud apart, however, is that the elder Franklin is a renowned gospel singer and, by default, held to a higher standard. Gospel singers, we learned, are direct employees of God and must live in a perpetual church, upholding Christian values at all times.
We were all thinking it: "You sing about God with that mouth?" (Editor's note: Not all of us older than 50.)
We're not gonna waste our bomb sarcasm here by defending abusive language, particularly among fathers and their children. Maybe Kirk Franklin is as horrible as his son says he is and maybe not. If we are to judge based on this one exchange, however, let us, just for fun, travel back in time to draw some comparisons with white celebrities.
Similar breaches of etiquette don’t seem to apply to, let alone tarnish, the careers of countless famous and white men. Take Alec Baldwin and his oldest daughter, for example. In 2007, the actor berated his then 11-year-old daughter Ireland on a voicemail message. After calling his daughter a “thoughtless little pig” in the leaked message, he faced some scrutiny (and certainly ridicule), but managed to keep his career going strong to this day. Baldwin was even designated as the champion of morality tasked with parodying former President Donald Trump through recurring guest appearances on Saturday Night Live.
"I felt extremely disrespected in that conversation, and I lost my temper. And I said words that are not appropriate, and I am sincerely sorry to you all.” – Kirk Franklin
Making matters worse in Baldwin's scenario was the fact that Ireland was a child, not an adult like Kirk’s son and not old enough to understand and process the context of that kind of language. Since then, Ireland has forgiven her dad and even jokes about the incident from time to time. Now, you'd think the explicit verbal abuse of a child would probably, maybe, definitely damage someone's public career, but white male celebrities often hold a different (almost magic!) pass, the power to shift public perception through a fast, conveniently selective amnesia. See Tom Cruise for proof.
The late Sean Connery admitted to domestic abuse several times throughout his career, and no one cared. First, he told Playboy that he believed in slapping women. That was in 1965. Then, he defended his stance to Barbara Walters. That was in 1987. Two years later, he was named People's "Sexiest Man Alive." He was knighted in 2000. Most of us didn't hear about the actor's hot takes on violence toward women until the actor's death in 2020.
Kirk Franklin recently apologized in a video on his social media accounts, asking his supporters for forgiveness and addressing the strained relationship with his son. He mentioned a family therapist was also present during the call.
“We have had a toxic relationship,” he said. “We’ve tried for many years — through counseling, through therapy — to try to rectify this private family matter. I felt extremely disrespected in that conversation, and I lost my temper. And I said words that are not appropriate, and I am sincerely sorry to you all.”
The singer recently doubled down on his stance in his first interview, with Tamron Hall, since the leaked call went viral. He’s now doing too much explaining for a matter that should have been kept private.
Franklin shouldn’t have had to apologize or explain himself, at least not to his followers, especially while alleged serial abuser Marilyn Manson is still denying the allegations against him by several accusers.