For Robert Champion there have been few people changing their Facebook photo identities in his image like they did for Trayvon Martin.
There have been no candlelight vigils across the country protesting Champion’s death and how long it took law enforcement to bring charges against the people who beat him to death.
Nope, not at all.
Folks just shrugged their shoulders that the Florida A&M University Marching Band member was allegedly beaten to death by other band members during ritualistic barbarism called hazing.
At least 13 FAMU band members were charged this week in connection with Champion’s beating death last year. There were no heated calls for law enforcement to charge anyone. Champion was killed by other African Americans, so the outrage in my community goes down several notches when the assailant isn’t white.
It would be easy to go on about how black-on-black crime does not get the amount of attention it deserves in the African-American community. But it makes more sense to deal with the insanity of physical hazing among African-American college marching bands and Greek organizations.
(To be clearly open and an effort of full disclosure, a couple of band members at the school where I work were injured during a hazing incident four years ago.)
A Greek-lettered friend, who experienced hazing in college, told me days after the Florida A&M tragedy that “things just got out of control.” I disagreed.
Things got out of control when the punching started! And then there was familiar refrain heard over and over “Everybody (code for white people) else hazes, too.” Sorry, that’s not a defense.
Stupidity doesn’t have to be shared or imitated.
I heard someone say that going through hazing means that the person is committed and that it will make him or her a better band member or frat brother.
So, beating me senseless will make me a better trumpet player?
Years ago, I worked on my college newspaper. Sometimes I would be there until 2 a.m., and then I would go to work at 4 a.m., and return to school at 9 a.m. I wasn’t the only one spending those long hours on the paper. We were committed. No one had to beat us to give our best.
This insanity has to stop. It has even spread to high schools. This is disgraceful, inhuman and vile.
Beating or harassing someone does not help him blow a saxophone or high step better on a football field.
If you just have to haze, here are a few hazing suggestions: Make new band or Greek-lettered organization members volunteer at homeless shelters, or serve food at a soup kitchen or read to elementary schoolchildren. Or pick up trash on their campuses or in the community or be forced to mentor a youngster.
Those things may not make them better cymbal or trombone players, but it will certainly make them better human beings.
And isn’t that what we should be striving for?
Edward Pratt is a former editor with The Advocate. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. He may be contacted at his email address: email@example.com.