So Sunday night as I was getting ready to go to bed, one of my friends tagged me in a video on Instagram. As a lover of funny memes I clicked on it thinking I would get a good laugh before a good night’s rest. Instead I saw a video of boys at the University of Oklahoma’s chapter of SAE chanting how there would never be a nigger in SAE and later how they should be hung from trees (Oh boy). I was not surprised in the least. After all it tends to be fraternities across the country that host racist Halloween parties where people dress up in black face and stereotypical black images looking like a 21st century version of minstrel show. I was not surprised because since the election of President Obama, post-racialists have been saying that racism is dead and that black people need to stop talking about slavery and the past. But most of all I was not surprised because this is America a place built on racism. We cannot ignore the fact that black people are still not seen as equals to their white counterparts or that for the majority of American history black people have been subjected to slavery, segregation, unequal educational and job opportunities.
This blow out comes within the same week that the Department of Justice released their report on Ferguson’s police practices that unfairly targeted the African American majority population. I saw that a conservative posted that “we need to speak out when real racism occurs” referring to the SAE incident. The whole “real” racism conversation is a part of reason why we are in this mess currently with SAE and Ferguson. For many, especially post-racialist, racism is only relegated to overt acts such as singing about lynching black men or explicitly calling a black person a nigger (although many try to explain this away by using the sorry excuse that black people use it so why can’t they). I can’t even include racial motivated killings of black men because as the DOJ showed with our legal system the burden of proof required to show that Mike Brown’s race played a role in his murder is too high, after all what laws can govern the heart and soul of a person? What the SAE incident shows is that many people carry around these racist sentiments about black people, just take a look at the racist emails sent within the Ferguson police department. These boys grow up still holding on to these biases and further enable the racial state to function in its racial oppression. Just because de jure racism is illegal does not mean de facto and more subtle forms of racism died, if anything racism evolved and adapted for the “new-ish” society.
Another thing that came to my mind as this entire ordeal unfolded was, how many smaller racial incidents happened that either black students refused to complain about or that the administration probably dismissed because there was no proof? I applaud OU President David Boren for being quick and decisive but these incidents don’t just happen all of a sudden (In fact this article was just published with a list of racial incidents against SAE members nationally). Take the satirical film Dear White People released last fall, smaller racial micro-aggressions were always present yet the big explosion over the party was unfortunately the catalyst needed to create change. I know what it is like to be a black face in a white space in college (It’s worse at the PhD level) so I hope that this incident is a wake up call to colleges around the nation. This is probably just wishful thinking though.This video was recorded on Saturday March 7th, 2015 which marked the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma. President Obama gave an amazing speech I hear (still have not watched it) about the progress the country has made which I understand but at the same time I’m still confused. How much progress have we really made if these incidents never disappeared but were just hidden for a season? I was so happy to see #NotJustSAE trending on Twitter last night showing how this is an institutional issue in America at large. #NotJustSAE was important as many people will be able to come to terms with one incident and say “Those boys are racist, but that is an isolated incident” to them I reply.
SAE is America, these incidents happen on college campuses, in restaurants, etc. all the time. Yet still we have the individuals who don’t show their racism at all but carry with them implicit biases that affect how they interact and treat black people. These implicit biases definitely play a role in policing and with the information that came out of the Ferguson Report it is easy to see how they were able to grow in such a fertile environment. I don’t know where to go because the legal system has proven that it cannot truly prosecute the nuanced forms of racisms even if the circumstances are suspect. So how do we change our society and being dismantling this racial state? It seems like we are just going to have wait for the people that carry these biases to die and then we need to to aggressively educate the next generation, I mean like babies because these frat boys are young and despite an apology are most likely only sorry they got caught.
This is the Frat mother who initially said she was appauled and upset at the video and to her we give.
SAE Incident Reader
A lot of great pieces came out following the SAE incident so I have included this complementary reader
Fundraiser Started for Black Chef Who Lost Job in SAE Racist-Chant Fallout, Breanna Edwards, TheRoot
Frat that Declared ‘will never be a n*gg*r in SAE’ Hazed Black Student to Death, Shaun King, Daily Kos
Oklahoma Football Recruit Jean Delance Decommits One Day After Racist Frat Video Surfaces, Matthew Strachan, The Huffington Post
Oklahoma’s Black Greek Organizations ‘Extremely Disturbed’ By Racist Frat Video, Lilly Workneh, The Huffington Post
Dozens of Students Stage Anti-Racism Protest at University of Oklahoma, Tyler Kingkade, The Huffington Post
Waka Flocka Flame Cancels University of Oklahoma Concert: ‘I am Disgusted in the Actions of SAE’, Brennan Williams, The Huffington Post
SAE Fraternity has Long Racial Past with Roots in “Dixie Land”, Allen G. Breed, The Grio
Oklahoma Linebacker Eric Striker Shares his Thoughts on Fraternity’s Racist Chant, Maxwell Strachan, The Huffington Post
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