Examples and choices
This story troubles me.
Apparently there's a new criminal penal statute in Florida making hazing a felony if it results in serious bodily injury. It's about damn time we stopped the cycle of abuse just so you can join an on-campus gang (frats may get more legitimacy -- but I'm not sure what else to call it when the initiated undergo a series of tasks that used to be silly and embarrassing, and have increasingly become physically harmful and psychologically damaging). I am all for holding fraternity members to account for abusing pledges for no other reason than that they can.
Similarly, I understand the judge's desire to make an example of some of the first people convicted under this new statute. I truly do.
But, frankly, I have to wonder about a conviction that results in two young black males going to prison for an admittedly unnecessarily lengthy period of time, for doing something white men have been doing for decades without punishment. I understand that ex post facto laws are unconstitutional, but let's look at some facts.
According to the 2000 census, 14% of college students were black, compared with the roughly 70% who were white. Florida A&M, the university in question, is the only historically black college in the state. Interstingly, white students are more likely to engage in the binge drinking which has served as the focal point for much of the concern revolving around fraternity initiation rites in the past several years. Indeed, the Florida statute in question was inspired by a drinking-related death in 2001.
To be clear, what those boys did to the victim was atrocious. It was vile and disgusting and, frankly, I can't say I'd be against simply banning fraternities outright to prevent this sort of behavior. Treating a fellow human being that way is, well, inhuman. What these boys did was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and about five million more "wrong"s. They absolutely deserve to be punished.
But I'm troubled that Florida prosecutors and a Florida judge are deciding to make an example out of black students at a predominantly black university for problems that appear to largely stem from behavior more (statistically) commonly undertaken by whites. I would be very surprised indeed if there weren't white students engaging in behavior at least this bad. The difference, I suspect, is that those white students have rich white parents.
Labels: Fuck the Government