There was a tragedy at Harvard last month. The tragedy wasn’t that Harvard’s bubble was tainted by violence. The tragedy wasn’t that two African American females at Harvard weren’t able to graduate.
The tragedy was that the life of a young man with a great spirit and great future was cut short by black on black violence.
Several of Justin Cosby’s friends have said what a great kid he was. Justin never had any problems or beef with anyone, they told me. He wanted to work with computers, and was saving money to go back to Salem State College. He was a momma’s boy and a dutiful boyfriend.
However, rather than focusing on the positive aspects of Justin’s life, the media has zeroed in on the fact that he sold marijuana. As a result, some have tried to label him a thug or a criminal. But in Cambridge, selling marijuana does not make you a thug. I grew up there, and have known law school students and Harvard professors’ kids who sold marijuana. Most people in Cambridge do not frown upon its distribution, despite what the laws may say. So Justin was not a gangster or a career criminal. He was just one of many young people in college who supplemented their income by selling marijuana—something that many people in Cambridge and at Harvard are happy to buy.
Apart from vilifying Cosby, most of the media coverage has focused on the “tragedy” of the two allegedly involved Harvard women, Chanequa Campbell and Brittany Smith, being barred from graduation. As much as I wanted to believe Campbell’s claim that she did not know Cosby at all and only knew the alleged killer, Jabrai Copney, through his girlfriend, Smith, everything I heard from Justin’s friends told me otherwise.
“The b*tch set him up,” said one close friend of Cosby’s who requested anonymity.
According to this friend and others sources familiar with Cosby and the drug trade in Cambridge, Cosby had previously sold marijuana to Copney. A Police source in Cambridge said that after the incident, a Harvard student came forward with information that Campbell was selling drugs to students at Harvard’s prestigious Final Clubs. Sources in Cambridge also told me that Campbell was involved in selling ecstasy, cocaine, and other drugs.
“She thought she was slick, she thought she could get away with it,” said one source who knew Campbell during her days in Prep for Prep, the program that helped her get into private school.
Based upon what I was told by my sources in Cambridge, it is clear that Campbell was lying when she said she did not know Justin.
The Middlesex County District attorney, Gerald Leone, seemed to imply as much in his recent statement on the investigation:
“Conversations that occurred between at least those four people [Campbell, Cosby, Copney, and Smith] … led Jordan Copney to believe that he could rip off Justin Cosby for money and drugs,” Leone said.
If she did in fact set Cosby up to be robbed, Campbell’s crime morphed from victimless drug dealing to murder. The attempted robbery was a heartless and stupid act that put a young man in a fatal situation. So if Chanequa wants Harvard to answer questions about why she isn’t graduating, she should answer questions about Justin.
Harvard has a policy of not publicly commenting on or releasing information related to ongoing investigations that involve students, in order to respect their privacy. So without many actual facts from Harvard to report, several racist media outlets are trying to twist this story to demonize African-Americans, specifically those from urban backgrounds. Even in the online comments of many mainstream media outlets, people are using this story to attack affirmative action and the presence of black students at prestigious private schools and colleges. But I went to school with several students from Prep For Prep, the program that helped get Campbell into private school, and they are all morally upstanding people. Many of them have even turned down lucrative jobs on Wall Street to give back to the community.
But it seems as if in the media, when a black person does something wrong they are representative of their whole community, while if a white person does something wrong it is a freak incident. If Chanequa’s black, Brooklyn background lead her to dealing drugs at Harvard, then did Julia Daco’s upper class New Jersey background lead her to become NYU’s drug-dealing “Pot Princess”? If Chanequa’s black, Brooklyn background brought violence to Harvard, then did Johanna Justin-Jinich’s upper class Jewish background bring violence to Weslyean when her ex-boyfriend came to campus and shot her in the head, earlier this year?
One police source implied that this incident would lead to increased racial profiling at Harvard and by the Cambridge police. But if that’s true, then shouldn’t they also start racially profiling white Harvard students? After all, in 2003 Harvard grad student, Alexander Pring Wilson murdered Cambridge resident, Michael Colono in 2003.
In my travels I‘ve met a lot of student-dealers and most of them are white. In fact, most African-Americans I know who have come from urban backgrounds and attended prestigious institutions stayed away from dealing drugs, since they made it to those institutions precisely because they were never involved in the drugs and violence that plague their neighborhoods. It’s no wonder that black students at Harvard aren’t standing up for Chanequa. By claiming racism, she is making it harder for the next African-American who is truly a victim of racism to be taken seriously.
Ultimately, Campbell is no more representative of the black community or students who come from poor neighborhoods than Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, was of Asian students or than Thomas Nelford, who killed his girlfriend and himself at Columbia in 2000, was of the white community. One thing is clear: If what I’ve heard is true, then Chanequa Campbell’s “background” did not set up Justin Cosby—she did.