As an African-American male attending one of the local universities in the District of Columbia area, it was with great interest—and dismay—that I read the article “Greek Tragedy” (6/18).
I find it simply beyond comprehension that someone could call me his brother one moment and then turn around and beat the shit out of me the next, and do so under the phony guise of “an irreplaceable bond” or some sense of “struggle and adversity that one must overcome to earn Greek Letters.” The reasons for this type of conduct proffered by Jerry Thomas and Yemi Oshinnaiye are as illegitimate as a three-dollar bill. Oshinnaiye, in an apparent attempt to wax philosophical about the days of “traditional African and Native American cultures [that] had painful rituals,” seems to believe that the sadistic maiming and debasement of young black men today is somehow linked to a cultural legacy of the decorative piercing and branding practiced in those cultures; he is sadly mistaken. Moreover, the accounts of terror and brutality encountered by today’s pledges read more like pages torn from the history of an Elizabethan-age manual for torture than they do a process for building civility, a spirit of brotherhood, and a sense of community. Can Jones or Oshinnaiye tell me how beatings, broken bones, ruptured spleens, trauma-induced kidney failure, and even death serve to strengthen the foundations and bonds of brotherhood? As a black man in America, I expect this type of treatment from any number of police departments or Ku Klux Klan chapters; I would not, however, expect to be brutalized by someone who should be a kindred spirit or someone I would call brother.
And the excuse that “it has always been done this way” simply will not wash, either! How can you take someone who has come to you seeking a sense of brotherhood and belonging, attempting to grow as a man and a person, and totally violate him? How can you, with any type of moral constitution, honestly look at a person whose body, mind, and spirit you have eagerly and sadistically debauched and physically beaten down and tell him it was all done to create an “irreplaceable bond”? Has not almost 400 years of enslavement, lynching, beatings, torture, wrongful executions, and other forms of brutality at the hands of other people been enough “struggle and adversity” for us African-Americans?
There can be no justification whatsoever for the broken bodies, crushed spirits, and destroyed lives that have been—and continue to be—left in the wake of fraternity and sorority violence. I can think of no greater detriment to the spirit and the bonds of brotherhood—and sisterhood—than the hazing process. And for Thomas and Oshinnaiye to assert, respectively, that hazing “is a weeding-out process that…create[s] an irreplaceable bond” and “represents the struggle and adversity that one must overcome” is morally and intellectually bankrupt. What is irreplaceable is the life of Michael Davis with all the promise it held—a life snuffed out by a “weeding-out process” that Thomas seems to think serves fraternities and sororities so well. African-Americans have yet to “overcome” the “struggle[s] and adversit[ies]” that have been visited upon us as a result of slavery. Unfortunately, Oshinnaiye seems more concerned with the self-created, perpetually propagating, and extremely profligate hazing process than he does with finding real solutions to the real problems facing our young brothers today. Moreover, I cannot believe that there are people who want to maintain the status quo of a brutal and barbaric practice that will, ultimately, prove to be the demise of the great fraternities and sororities that have historically served the African-American community.
When asked by God where his younger brother was, Cain, having murdered him, lied to God and said he did not know, asking contemptuously, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Perhaps those advocates of hazing should ask themselves a different question: “Am I worthy of being my brother’s—or sister’s—keeper?” The deception used by those who lure our young brothers and sisters into fraternities and sororities and then brutalize them is ominously reminiscent of the deception Cain used to lure Abel out into the field where he killed him. And just as the blood of Abel cried out from the ground to God, so does the blood of our brothers and sisters who are the victims of brutal beatings, torture, and, in some instances, death. The violence and brutality of hazing only breed more violence and brutality, and they will not stop unless the various fraternity and sorority leaders and college administrators take a stand to stop the practice of hazing. Unfortunately for victims like Michael Davis, such a stand will come far too late.
Silver Spring, Md.