Money Jungle: The Sound and the Fury

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The Florida A&M University Marching 100 Band is something any true music fan must see at least once in their life. There are other bands, and they are excellent, but the 100 is the band. It’s not an outfit for the lazy or the slow of mind, because they exist on perfection in all aspects of their performances, from musicianship to the choreography. For every person in the band, there are ten, if not 100, who would take their spot immediately if possible. And, when the standards are that high, it’s always possible.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that the FAMU band would now find itself embroiled in a scandal rooted in the perfectionism of such a perfect band. What does shock the senses, though, is the level of violence this scandal entails. Stories of fraternity hazing, sometimes to the point of death, abound in our culture, but rarely is it this bad. Pranks, paddlings, forced-marches, water-boarding, wire hangers bent into Greek letters and used as branding irons on bare flesh (an old George W. Bush specialty, allegedly)—we’ve heard all this. In extreme cases, maybe some nude wrestling, or a raid on Geronimo’s tomb, or a fatal bender; most deaths in college hazing seem to be from alcohol poisoning and/or blunt trauma from falling off of something. Almost never do they kill each other on purpose.

That is point #1 to this whole thing: It takes significant malice, cruelty and focus to dish out a beating like that boy endured, in defiance of his screams, his crying, his bleeding. There is no possible way they did not know exactly what they were doing, and what the consequences would be. Unless he did something horrible that has not been made public yet (which is entirely possible), it appears he was executed by a group of his own peers for nothing more severe than a mistake made in performance. If that’s true, then his assailants are psychopaths, flat-out, and their defenders have enabled a low-tech lynching.

Had a black man died like that at the hands of white people, all hell might be breaking loose right now. Had some black woman gotten her femurs broken by, say, a bunch of cops, the odds of lethal blowback would hover somewhere just shy of 100%. But because the beating was done by their fellow African-Americans, it cannot be so simple, because these kids are products of a culture that, on the whole, celebrates violence while openly protecting the worst offenders as if it’s part of some collective duty.

(To be fair, note in consideration of those names epicentric to the Penn State scandal—names like McQueary, Paterno and that dirty bastard Sandusky—that all those names sound vaguely Catholic. Not that it means anything, necessarily, any more than the ethnicity of the FAMU beat-down boys. But it’s worth noting that Catholics have had a special, unseemly history of looking the other way in regard to this very specific form of systematic abuse, thousands of times all over the world—and that’s just what we know. In fact, the current Pope, through his many years a ranking church official working out of his native Germany and later the Vatican, is himself directly implicated in the very same kinds of behaviors ascribed to school officials at FAMU and Penn State, but no one’s weeping on their vestments.)

FAMU fans imply that some double-standard is in play, that this hazing scandal gets more attention because the principals are black. Well, of course, but it goes far deeper than that. The truth is that the American people worship authority and never fail to find new and creative ways to subjugate themselves. If control-structures do not exist, people will create their own. It makes perfect sense that an institution founded in the spirit of lifting black people into a higher plane of existence would come to incubate a culture of sadistic brutality that, quite frankly, is the sort of thing one usually expects of white people.

We’ll never know how many kids took beatings in that band, because most of them will never speak of it, not if they’re smart. I doubt you could get their stories for any price, because the stigma of snitching defies any upside, any pretense of justice. A long-term predator like the vile Sandusky surely knew well how to scout his victims. It should be no surprise that most of his victims have so far been described as young black males, because 1) He’s a football coach, and that’s just the demographics of it, and 2) Those kids grow up in a culture that openly declares it will not tell the cops about anything, even child-rape. And had that boy at FAMU not died from his injuries, he would have kept his mouth shut, as would everyone else involved. And that is why racial profiling exists—real talk.

sheltonhull@gmail.com; December 29, 2011

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