Thousands of protesters marched in Sanford this week on behalf of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager slain in an altercation with a white Neighborhood Watch volunteer.
Civil rights leaders cried racial injustice and demanded an arrest. Professional athletes inscribed Martin’s name on their game shoes. Across the country, people rallied in support of his parents.
Meanwhile, 20 miles south of Sanford, police detectives delivered a case file to the Orange/Osceola State Attorney to consider criminal charges against members of the Florida A&M Marching 100 in the hazing death of Robert Champion, a drum major who was beaten to death on a charter bus after the Florida Classic football game in Orlando last November.
No one took to the streets in support of Champion’s family. No one yelled through megaphones or held signs denouncing hazing at one of the nation’s oldest historically black colleges. The autopsy concluded his death was a homicide, but no arrests have been made. The students involved in the beating or who encouraged the beating -- perhaps as many as 30 -- are back in class.
Where were the rallying cries, the crowds and the celebrities? It would have taken a short drive down the interstate to show support for Champion’s parents and give much-needed attention to an ongoing problem in the famous band’s history.
Champion’s parents say their son was gay and their attorney suspects the vicious beating was partly a result of his sexual orientation.
Would it have mattered if Champion were straight? Or if his attackers were white? Is the injustice against Champion any less important than that against Martin?
In both cases, a lot of unanswered questions deserve the nation’s full and undivided attention. Our concern for who receives justice should be as blind as justice itself.
Instead, our response has been ugly. We have reinforced the notions that white-on-black crime is all hate crime, that blacks don’t address black-on-black crime and that no one cares when the victim is gay. We allow these tragic circumstances to cement our prejudices and pre-conceived notions.
Instead, we should look to people we so admire – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela -- and strive to promote, teach and live their dreams.
Humanity must prevail.
As King said: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Formerly a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and Orlando Sentinel, Susan Clary is a freelance writer in Orlando. She can be reached at email@example.com
© Florida Voices