Where is the Trayvon-like outrage over Robert Champion’s death?

March 25, 2012

By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

Someone writing under the simple alias “Mom” just left the following thought-provoking comment on another post on the site. I think it’s worth reprinting in a more prominent way:

I’m so glad to see all the positive comments and ideas. There is one thing that is confusing me I thought you could help.

Due to the recent killing of the young man in Sanford, Fl there has been all of this protesting with Rev. Al Sharpton which is fine but when the student died from FAMU there was not all of this Black Panther and protesting going on. Both deaths were wrong but one death was caused by another African American and another was caused by a Caucasian man.

It looks like that the only time something is majorly outrageous is when a white person kills a black person but when a black person kills a black person it is not as bad. What do you think?

I replied:

Thanks for your comment! These are great points you raise.

I totally agree with what you’re saying, and I’ve really been thinking some of the same things recently. At the same time, I’ve had a difficult time putting it into words, not wanting to appear to make light of the loss of Trayvon. It’s a fine line to walk.

Ultimately, it just shows you’re a better messenger for these ideas than I am. I think what you’re saying has more power coming from someone who’s a parent herself. (Assuming here based on your commenting handle as “Mom.”)

I’d add that the one true Trayvon-like moment of community outrage in the Robert Champion situation was when Gov. Rick Scott had the audacity to suggest that James Ammons, who’s obviously been inept at combating hazing at FAMU, step aside following the death of one of his students. But even then, the outrage was directed at an “outsider” to the FAMU community (Scott), not “our own” people who killed Champion and have soft-pedaled the hazing issue over the years.

And by the way, like the Trayvon case, there’s been no arrest yet in the Champion case, even after four months since his death. Where’s the outrage at that?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to rank the value of Trayvon Martin’s life itself relative to that of Robert Champion. Both young men’s lives were of equal value, and the losses are equally tragic.

But the point here isn’t ultimately about them. It’s about us, how we deal with one another as survivors, which I think is what the commenter was getting at. Yeah, it is a lot easier to get angry at the “other” than to look in the mirror. That’s a big part of our problem in dealing with hazing.

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One Response to “Where is the Trayvon-like outrage over Robert Champion’s death?”

  1. dre' Says:

    there’s a distinct difference here, and that difference has been the cause of a lot of, “well what about…,” lately.

    the difference is that, while no one has been arrested in either case, there is no implication that anyone will be arrested in trayvon’s case. the outrage is less about this being the killing of a black child than it is about the failure of the police department to act, and act swiftly.

    we can debate why the police department didn’t act until we’re blue in the face, but that’s only one piece of the case here. the race of the two involved (rightly or wrongly) has taken the spotlight, and has allowed some in the media as well as the police department a cop-out of sorts by enabling them to say that we’re just trying to play the race card again, and it’s not warranted since zimmerman was half hispanic.

    don’t be fooled by this. there was clearly a failure on the behalf of the police department, and that is the root of the problem.

    contrasting that with robert’s situation – the police acted as soon as they were notified, interviewed over 30 witnesses, submitted their findings to the state attorney, and it looks like there will be charges levied. at this point we have no reason to believe that there has been no misconduct on the police department’s behalf, and that’s the key difference. now, if they would have left it as, “he passed out and died,” and not investigated this even after all the witnesses came forth, then it would be a different story.

    it’s not (solely) about race; it’s about procedure. if it was, we could easily say “what about…” on all the black youth that are killed by non-blacks. George Desdunes at Cornell last year is a perfect example. where was the outrage then? but that’s missing the point.

    yes, the loss of all of these young men is tragic (and we probably should rally for each case of perceived injustice), but let’s not compare these as if they’re the same situation.


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