Volume 63: Haz-ing Has Become Haz-y

Posted on 12/21/2011

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I still get chills whenever they perform.

I’m back good people, and this time it’s with a heavy heart. For those of you that don’t know, I attended Florida A&M University. Yes, the now infamous school that has had both triumph and tragedy associated with its band, commonly known as the Marching 100. During my freshman year, while living on campus, I spent countless hours watching them rehearse on “The Patch”. I would hear the voice of Dr. Foster boom over the speakers like a god handing down orders. I admired the time and dedication each member devoted to their section…to the band. They ate together. They went to class together. They lived together. And, unfortunately, they died together.

I knew being in the band was tough. I knew more happened than just those long days and nights on the patch. And though, I never witnessed anything, there were rumors of late-night hazing of new members. It’s a curious word: Haze. It can mean so many things. At its mildest, it means “vagueness or obscurity, as of the mind or perception.” At its worst, it means “to subject (freshmen, newcomers, etc.) to abusive or humiliating tricks and ridicule”. But, is that really descriptive of the worst hazing can be? I mean, “tricks and ridicule” is hardly what ended the life of Robert Champion. Tricks and ridicule don’t get students in jail, university Presidents in peril, and parents in a panic. No, the vagueness and obscurity by students committing these deplorable acts is why Haz-ing Has Become Haz-y.

Rights of Passage

I had an interesting debate last night with a good friend regarding the band, the hazing, and who is ultimately responsible? That conversation got me to thinking: Is being in an extracurricular organization a right or a privilege? I mean, the band issues scholarships and accepts members as incoming freshmen; so, by right, membership is guaranteed. So what, then, are these students “pledging”? Their section? Their city? From an outsider looking in, it seems frivolous. And yet, to some degree, I understand. You see, I pledged an organization while I was at FAMU, so I understand the phrase “Rights of Passage.” There are extraordinary benefits that come with band (or organization) membership; and there are some who believe that you must earn those benefits by pledging hard. I’m not necessarily in that camp. I believe that it was a privilege to be accepted as a student at FAMU. Therefore, all memberships I garnered while I was there was an extension of said privilege. It was my privilege perspective that made me work as hard, and for as long as I did – both as a student and a member. Membership had/has its benefits. Those benefits were not gained through any hazing ritual. They were gained through work.

Blame The Victim?

It seems that whenever a situation of hazing goes awry, the public outcry is to find someone to blame. And, it seems in 2011, there’s a tendency to want to blame an institution or organization over the individual. We even saw that in politics when then-President Bush declared a war on “terror”? Terror? Really? Where is that located on the map? Anyway, I’m digressing. My point is that people make up the institutions and organizations, so people must be blamed – especially in incidents of hazing. These students were fully aware of the band, university, and state’s stance on hazing. They attended seminars and signed a document attesting to such. And yet, on the night(s) in question, these same students chose to covertly break the law and engage in illegal activities. Why don’t we hold them responsible? Why do we clamor for the dismissal of band directors and university presidents and behave as if the victim was kidnapped, beaten, then left to die? Is that harsh? Yes. It’s just as harsh as some of the vitriol I’ve seen spewed about the university and its officials. Question: When does institution liability end, and personal responsibility begin? If I willingly submit myself to be beaten, shouldn’t I share in some of the responsibility if I am injured? And I’m not “blaming the victim”. NO ONE enters those situations with thoughts that they might die. They trusted the other members and the process. That trust can sometimes be fatal.

Conclusion

I’ve often wondered why people subject themselves to hazing? It has to be more than a desire to belong. I believe it comes from a desire to test oneself: to prove to yourself and the world that while your head may be bloody, it is unbowed (metaphorically speaking, of course). The irony of most of these situations is that, many times, the hardest pledgers were the weakest members. They believed the acclaim gained by a difficult process earned them their slice of the popularity pie. I was told by several brothers that “pledging begins when you become a member”. I didn’t know what that meant until I crossed. Before you pledge, it’s all a fantasy world filled with respect and adoration. After, it’s work, work, and more work. And when you’re not working, you get asked why you’re not working. Being hazed is a facade to make you believe that you have earned the right to membership. That’s the haze of hazing. You go in expecting to gain; but you come out with inconceivable loss.

That’s just my three cents…

Sill-E

“Peep my ver-na-cular cuz I don’t know how to act…”

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