The Robert Champion FAMU Case: It’s a Hate Crime Now
I don’t care what anyone says. That it was “all in fun.” That it “separates the men from the boys,” even though young women were also included in beatdowns, and possibly even worse. No, hazing is a crime.
And now, I think that Robert Champion’s death was also a hate crime, because Robert’s parents have admitted that their dead son was , and believe that his was also a factor in his .
CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann met the parents, Robert and Pam Champion, in Orlando, Fla., where they made their first visit to the hotel parking lot where their son died after a hazing ritual.
“There’s no way around it. It was wrong,” Pam Champion tells CBS News.
Champion family attorney Chris Chestnut says he has now spoken to “a lot” of the people who were there on the day, more than 10 potential witnesses.
Some of the students tell Chestnut they were also hazed that night, but none as severely as Champion. They say he was singled out, possibly because he was both a vocal opponent of hazing and a band disciplinarian, and gay.
“It may or may not have been” his sexual orientation which saw him singled out, says Chestnut, allowing only that it is a “possibility.”
Champion’s mother says her son “wasn’t defined by his sexual orientation. He was just defined as being a child going to school, trying to get an education.”
I don’t believe it; folks had better stop making excuses. Just leave open that possibility like a wound that won’t heal. Expand on that one. Get really to the root of the matter. Students and band members may have suspected that Champion was gay, and they may have resented him for that. I mean, I can imagine the rationale, just who is he to be telling me what I’m doing wrong? Then, he was older. He may have been his mom’s child, but he was an adult, way past 21. Strike two. He was also above them because he was a drum major and was charged with enforcing discipline. In other words, these guys would have to defer to him. And he’s not considered a real man, too? Bet you that they didn’t like all that.
Yvette Carnell over at Your Black World is hoping that it ain’t so, that it surely ain’t so about what happened to Robert Champion. Because the development lays open not only sexuality but homophobia within the black family, within black institutions. Nobody wants to think the worst, that an oppressed people will oppress and perhaps kill its own, just like the Klan would lynch some poor brothers for absolutely nothing, but it happens more times than people realize. And because some people are expendable within the family and the community, others will just brush off the incident’s importance or hide the deed under another name.
Just like FAMU tried to do for the sake of its reputation and that of its marching band, but really its administrators.
But just because I wasn’t on that bus doesn’t mean that I haven’t witnessed how some straight black men react when in the company of black men who they know are gay. Talk tolerance all you like, but the interaction, especially among younger men who are jockeying for position among other young lions, is frosty at best and openly hostile at worst. I’m certainly not impugning all black men, but I’ve been in the room enough times to hear the chuckles and sneers when a gay guy approaches, so the whole “you’re playing into a stereotype” line won’t work with me. I’m part of the family, in more ways than one.
I’d like to think that maybe Champion had a strong support system at FAMU which included his band members, that insulated him, at least to some degree, against that sort of thing, but that’s difficult for me to imagine considering that his fellow band members were the same folk who allegedly beat him to death (with friends like that…). It is more likely, especially considering that Champion’s sexuality is just now surfacing, that a few people knew for certain that Champion was gay while most others just suspected. Or maybe he hid it well enough that this comes as a surprise to everyone. There’s no way to be sure, but at the press conference, the attorney for the family of Robert Champion said that Champion wasn’t defined by his sexuality. I’m just hoping that turns out to be true. I’m just hoping his sexuality didn’t contribute to his death.
Get the whole lot on a witness stand, where they have to swear to the Divine, and we will see whether that is true or not.
- Parents reveal FAMU hazing victim Robert Champion was gay (thegrio.com)
- Witnesses: Gay FAMU victim also targeted because he opposed hazing (with CBS News video) (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Was a Florida A&M Student Robert Champion Jr’s Hazing Death an Anti-Gay Hate Crime? (towleroad.com)
- Drum Major Targeted Because He Opposed Hazing (abcnews.go.com)
- LGBT National Black Justice Coalition calls for hate-crime investigation in FAMU hazing death (miamiherald.typepad.com)