The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wilson Freed

As most of you who have followed the story probably already know, Genarlow Wilson, the student-athlete who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction for having oral sex with a 15 year old when he was 17, has been freed. The protests and legal arguments have finally succeeded in undoing a gross miscarriage of justice that followed from the mandatory sentencing. But even though Wilson is freed, the problems that led to his tragic case remain, namely, under-aged drinking and random sexual activity.

When asked on Friday where his welcome home party was being held, Wilson wisely responded that he was staying away from parties for a while. This is because the initial scene of the crime for which he was convicted was a hotel party where alcohol and drugs were consumed by Wilson and his friends. We have to face the facts that across the nation, adults are providing alcohol to teenagers who are far too young and inexperienced to drink legally or responsibly. Studies show that alcohol consumption at early ages predisposes one to alcoholism in adulthood. And high school students across social, economic, racial, and regional lines are being injured physically and emotionally by drinking and by the irresponsible adults who are providing the drinks.

That brings me to the next point. After months of hearing about the Genarlow Wilson case, it was the website What about Our Daughters that brought the full story to my attention. The full story is not a case of a boy and his girlfriend having oral sex and the boy being arrested. The full story involves several boys, at least two girls, and an orgy of sexual activity caught on video. The sexually graphic video captured images of the guys taking turns having intercourse with a 17-year-old girl who was drunk. Although Wilson was acquitted of raping the 17-year-old, his buddies pleaded guilty to sexual battery in connection with their non-consensual contact with her. There is a lesson that we must teach our sons and daughters. We have to protect our children by warning them about the dangers of drug and alcohol impairment. We have to tell them that you can get so drunk that you wake up the next morning not knowing whether you had sex or with whom. And we have to tell our children that they are too valuable to be having sex with someone who doesn't know who they are or what they are doing. Moreover, we have a responsibility to teach them what "consent" means, legally and morally.

Black people especially cannot leave it to the courts or the criminal justice system to sort out our children. We are going to have to get off the dime and begin to have the hard, honest, even graphic conversations that may prevent the kind of hard fall that Genarlow Wilson, his friends, and the two young women all took.

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