This week, Matt Sledge reported in the New Orleans Advocate that former police officer and Phi Beta Sigma member Marcellus White has been charged with five counts of sexual battery on a victim under age 13. Two civil lawsuits also claim that White used his role as a karate instructor and mentor through his fraternity to have access to his alleged victims.
As I prepare for my own chapter retreat today, this story filled me with a sense of profound sadness.
I am a staunch supporter of the ideals of our criminal justice system–that one must be proven guilty to be guilty, not just accused of a crime. Yet, I am still saddened. This could have been my fraternity brother committing these heinous acts on children. The alleged victims could have been my students.
I already know what I would do if I discovered this in my chapter. And for what it’s worth, the Sigmas already have an established record of taking care of business when one of their own violates their trust, and the trust of the public. So it’s obvious that I, or any one of us, would call the police and ensure that the children and families are protected.
But then what?
How does a local chapter restore its name in the community? How do they rebuild that trust?
Any of us could be a child sexual predator. Any one of us. The Catholic Church was not exempt–neither are African American fraternities and sororities.
How does someone’s line brother move on from this? Their sponsor? Their neophytes?
I know what we can do before these incidents, of course. Criminal background checks. But how many men with inclinations toward boys actually even have a criminal record in the first place? I’d wager not many.
I’m sad. These boys have been broken. These families have been shattered. And the men who once trusted these predators and called them “Brother” will never be the same, either. “Not in my back yard” has now walked through the front door and put its feet on the coffee table.
So now what?
Note: Marcellus White eventually pleaded guilty and received 25 years in prison. He will be released when he is over 70 years old.