Whether traveling, partying or just relaxing over spring break, you probably saw the fallout from a video of University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon members singing an extremely racist chant.
“There will never be a n—– in S-A-E,” the fraternity members chanted on what appeared to be a charter bus.
This disgusting show of racism took the Internet aback as the video spread rapidly after it was posted on Twitter. Within a day it went viral with civil disgust.
And if that’s not enough, they sang later in their song that one could “hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a n—– in S-A-E.”
The vulgar chant didn’t stop at just declaring African-Americans can’t be in SAE. The SAE members actually go on to condone lynching – an action that has symbolized racism at its most vile.
The National SAE chapter soon cut ties with the OU chapter, and campus administration evicted the fraternity from its campus house.
OU President David Boren said the university holds “zero tolerance” for racism and later expelled two of the members seen in the video.
“To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for,” Boren wrote in a statement on March 9.
In addition to expelling two members, Boren demanded the fraternity’s house be closed and members move out.
“Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house,” Boren said.
There was a national backlash for the racist sentiments expressed in the video. Many began questioning not only the actions of fraternities as a whole, but also those of the National SAE and the Boren administration at OU.
The university and the National SAE responded swiftly and strongly to blatant racism with blatant rejection.
Action certainly needed to be taken. Racism such as that displayed in the video must not be tolerated. Boren was correct in holding firm to what he said were university standards. OU’s decision to evict and remove hate-filled groups is commendable.
But it is worth asking if these two students are merely being made scapegoats to avoid legitimately dealing with the problem.
Expelling the students sent a clear message: Sooners will not tolerate racism. However, is racism being combated in this situation or did the students only learn they shouldn’t have gotten caught?
This question, along with the issue of free speech, has been brought up as people around the country responded to the situation on social media platforms and blogs.
While it was the SAE members’ right to speak these words, they now must deal with the consequences.
The National SAE and OU could clearly see and hear the racism members of SAE were spouting. However, not every student in the fraternity could be expelled. Searching out who was involved is necessary, but could eventually becomes a witch hunt. The two students who were expelled were obviously involved.
Other universities such as the University of Texas have begun looking into possible instances of racism within their own chapters of SAE.
These universities need to make sure that searching for racist actions does not turn into a witch hunt, which means thoroughly examining and investigating each situation. In the event the universities find instances of racism, they need to respond with the same standard of rejection – despite the fact they may not be dealing with a public relations nightmare or have a video go viral around the nation.
OU now has to look forward to its next actions.
After such flagrant racism, OU needed to have an answer for its community, the media and the members of SAE. Anytime there is a controversial situation, universities are expected to and need to respond.
Racism can’t be solved by simply expelling students. OU must consider how to take this situation and use it to teach others how to converse, not just hide their opinions for fear of being expelled.
Providing an atmosphere of discussion – much like Baylor’s This Matters Series forums – can help students understand the dangers of racism and how to respond to it.
In addition, fraternities, sororities and other organizations can create diversity initiatives with their groups that will build an atmosphere of openness to those of a different heritage from the majority.
These initiatives can come during the recruiting process for fraternities and sororities. Other organizations can also seek to create a welcoming environment, which means ensuring members feel wanted and needed.
Likewise, students of color must be willing to try new groups and create that diversity – without this, there would be no diversity at all.
Every person is responsible for combating racism. If we do not actively fight it, we are simply bystanders, allowing injustices to occur while we idly watch. People at OU, Baylor and around the country must be willing to step up and point out racism.
Acknowledging hate’s existence is the first step to getting rid of it.