Excerpt: Although few HBCU band directors deny hazing occurs, many criticized the cable network for leaving its viewers with the misperception that the problem was endemic to their programs.
â€œOf course, there are problems with HBCU bands and hazing,â€ said Julian E. White, Ph.D., band director of the famed Marching 100 from Florida A&M University (FAMU). â€œBut [HBO] made it seem like Black schools are the only places where itâ€™s happening, and that administrators are turning their backs and ignoring it. Thatâ€™s just not the case.â€
An HBO spokesman said the network was standing by its story, which included an interview with a researcher who claimed that, overall, hazing at Black schools was more accepted and more violent than at White schools.
But Eleanor M. King, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., says hazing is neither a new phenomenon nor one confined to a specific racial, ethnic or cultural group.
Instead, she said, hazing often is a dangerous perversion of more familiar â€œrites of passageâ€ that are used universally to signify an individualâ€™s transition from one social status to another.
These rites can include such ceremonies as weddings, baptisms, graduations and induction into fraternities, sororities or the military. While specific rituals vary, they tend to intensify feelings of camaraderie, and are probably rooted in our DNA. Left unchecked, however, even well-intentioned traditions can devolve into acts of sheer brutality that can leave lasting physical and emotional scarsâ€”and result in senseless tragedy.
â€œRites of passage are neither good nor bad; they are just a part of life,â€ says King. â€œIt is a human impulse to be competitive and, even in the most cooperative societies, you have to have a way to channel that aggression. But thereâ€™s a delicate balance between honoring a cultural tradition and violating someoneâ€™s civil or human rights.â€