Outrage over tragedy at FAMU

The senseless death of Robert Champion, a black gay male Florida A & M University (FAMU) student, strikes a somber and familiar note. Far too many students are vulnerable to violent attacks, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Champion was attacked in the presence of multiple witnesses during an alleged hazing incident. More recent coverage of the FAMU incident reports that he was gay, and that his sexual orientation may have been a factor in this heinous crime. At this point, we do not know if his death was a result of hazing, a hate crime or both. However, one thing is clear – this tragedy warrants a swift and deliberate response.

We are outraged at the level of complacency demonstrated by local officials and are joining the National Black Justice Coalition in calling for a federal investigation of the circumstances surrounding this young man’s untimely passing. For over 17 years, The Task Force and other advocacy groups fought to pass federal hate crimes legislation and now under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, federal law enforcement agencies can fully investigate incidents like the one at FAMU.

As we prepare to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday this weekend, we remember his cautionary words: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Support the call for justice by signing NBJC’s petition and sharing it with others. And let us work collectively to eradicate conditions that could lead to similar attacks in schools across the country.