Hazing Victim's Parents Need to Accept His Role in His Death

marching band drumIt's a sad day in America when a 26-year-old man runs through a gauntlet of fists pushed out by his supposed "teammates" and collapses right in front of them, dead. Robert Champion had finally made it to drum major on the prestigious Florida A&M marching band, and now he's being mourned as a victim of vicious hazing, hailed as a martyr in the fighting against bullying on college campuses. Gather round, y'all. It's time for the blame game.

His parents say it's the university (they're suing). The school blames band director Julian White who was already fired. And of course the results of an autopsy will tell us whether or not those who proffered their fists were ultimately the "killers" here.

But there's one name that's mysteriously been left off the list.


Robert Champion.

Of course, how awful, how dare we blame the victim? He was a 26-year-old man who died and right in the middle of the holiday season to boot. His death is, by every definition of the word, a tragedy.

And yet, isn't it possible that someone can play a role in their own death and it still be tragic? We mourn the teenager who was driving too fast to negotiate a curve, even as we admit their lead foot played the ultimate role in their death. The same goes for the guy who decided to climb Everest, only to die in an avalanche. Hey, he put himself on that mountain! And yet, it's unbearably sad that he died.

And so it is with Robert Champion. His death is sad. My heart breaks for his mother and his father. But there's no denying that victims of hazing at most college universities signed up to be hazed.

Frat boys desperate to become part of the "in" crowd volunteer to sit in the snow wearing nothing but their skivvies. Football players let the guys stick a Sharpie up their booties because they want to show they can "take it." People are willingly pepper sprayed, drink until the point of passing out, take drugs, eat things of unknown origin. And it's all done because people have bought into some "grass is greener on the other side" myth that if they do X, their lives will be improved.

The people who orchestrate these torturous schemes are sick. But the people who submit willingly are hardly blameless victims. Their desperation is their undoing.

And such it is with a man like Robert Champion. He was a 26-year-old man who -- it seems -- ran through a gauntlet of fists. Sadly, tragically, he paid the ultimate price for doing so.


Image via bcmom/Flickr

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