Project 21 New Visions

Marcus Dixon: A Small Example of a Greater Problem

by Lisa Fritsch

"Marcus Dixon had it all." "Marcus Dixon is being punished because he is a black man who slept with a white girl." "Georgia is a still a racist place for a black man."

Marcus Dixon was also weak. A high school student in Rome, Georgia, Marcus Dixon recently fell from a being an honor roll student and a football star with a bright future, with plans to attend Vanderbilt University, to being convicted of aggravated child moles-tation (a charge carrying a mandatory ten-year jail sentence.)

It all revolved around an incident of sexual indiscretion. Dixon was eighteen when it happened. Kristie Brown was only 15. He said it was consensual sex. She charged rape. The jury declared it consensual sex, but was forced to deliver the stiff sentence because she was three months shy of being 16. That made it a case of aggravated child molestation.

I saw Dixon's story on "Oprah Winfrey" and immediately grieved for the loss of his youth, life and a promising future. One loss I was not able to grieve for, however, was his innocence. Many think the real reason he is serving ten years is because he is a black man who had sex with a white woman in the South. Others claim it's a misuse of the statute by the prosecution. I say it's about the consequence of the character and actions of our young people.

While I do believe it's a shame this young man was robbed of his future for simply having sex, I think we are ignoring the more pertinent issue. Sex among teens has become way too casual. Sex is being mistaken by youth as a sport, not a commitment or an act to be shared with a person they truly care about.

These days, teens see nothing wrong with having sex with some-one they aren't even courting. More than this, teens view oral sex as safer sex, both emotionally and physically. I know many will say that teaching abstinence is an archaic principle that doesn't work. If not abstinence, then, can't we at least teach our children that "hit and runs" are immoral and lack the virtue that sex is meant to have?

I believe Dixon's situation may have played out differently if he'd had some type of relationship with Brown before and after this incident. But permissive attitudes may have given Dixon the idea that he could enter into a sexual relationship with Brown after just a flirtatious conversation. Had he courted her, it might have ended in a consensual relationship, saving him the stigma of both the rape and child molestation charges.

It's never okay for a man to have relations with a woman if he has no intention of future contact. For any man to believe it is all right to use a woman's body so intimately for his pleasure and discard that woman like a candy wrapper is a problem in our society from high-school kids like Dixon to grown and married men like Kobe Bryant.

Of utmost concern to me is also the fact that our young people are not respecting themselves or each other. Without the benefit of healthy morals, Dixon's troubles were simply lying in wait - there to emerge sooner rather than later. When we make choices toward a weaker path, it is not the people in our lives that cause terrible things to happen to us. Our own character usually catches up with us.

To ignore that Marcus Dixon had a hand in the cards being dealt to him is to refuse to look at the entire picture. It is my thought that, even if the statute that put him behind bars did not exist, he still had a lesson to learn. Perhaps not ten years of learning, but a lesson nevertheless.


Lisa Fritsch is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21.

Published June 2004 by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

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