Essay: OU's SAE Chapter 'Provided The Nation With A Mirror'

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The callous behavior of the videotaped members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma has been the epicenter of the social media firestorm during the past few days. Though the actions of the men are reprehensible, they do not shock me.

However, what did shock me was the courage of the individual who taped the chant and chose to expose the responsible parties for their glaringly racial offensive behavior.

During my matriculation at the University of Mississippi, I had firsthand experience dealing with individuals who found amusement in the degradation of African Americans. The most egregious action occurred when some fraternity men decided to hang a noose around the memorial statue of James Meredith, the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi. I digress.

Proverbs 26:26 reads, “Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” If you do not believe that this holds true, just ask the men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Oklahoma.

This piece is not about my alma mater, which has more than its fair share of media coverage dealing with racism. It is about the men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma. It is about what we do behind closed doors.

Proverbs 26:26 reads, “Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” If you do not believe that this holds true, just ask the men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Oklahoma.

A friend of mine sent me a thought provoking blog written by Dante Jordan, a recent [black] graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Though blog is rather visceral and appears to be tersely composed, Mr. Jordan intrigued me nevertheless. Mr. Jordan asks the question, “How many other frats saw that video and their first thought was “WHEW! Thank God they didn’t catch our [expletive] on video too!”?

Though the focal point has been the racist chant and more recently the usage of the N-word by the house mother, I believe the point should be about the covert racially harmful tinged thoughts that occupy people’s mind. To expound upon this point, we should consider how these thoughts manifest themselves in the everyday actions of people. Ultimately, we must consider how these thoughts inform the decisions of those who create our laws, enforce our laws, and finally judge us to determine if we have been in violation of the law.

I am not suggesting that there is a surefire method to eradicate the fallibility that exists in each of us, but I simply want to highlight the vulnerability to injustice that accompanies subconscious thought of those in power.

The Department of Justice recently published its findings from the investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. The Justice Department’s report lends credence to the aforementioned thought that I presented regarding the vulnerability to injustice that accompanies the subconscious thoughts of those in power. According to the report, “Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement both reflects and reinforces racial bias, including stereotyping.

If we want to measure progress by the fact that we are not lynching black people anymore, we are only singing about it, I suggest we use another ruler.

The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are born disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race.” I am not trying to link the two incidents, but rather highlight how the covert thoughts (and auditory affirmation) translate into reality. This harsh reality pits African Americans against the malign subconscious of those in power.

The men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon did far more than embarrass their organization, their university, and their families. They provided the nation with a mirror, one that reflects the ugliest parts of our nation. We are not in the post racial society people believe we live in because of the election of President Barack Obama. Yes, progress has been made. No one can deny that.

But if we want to measure progress by the fact that we are not lynching black people anymore, we are only singing about it, I suggest we use another ruler. The chant was offensive. The words remind us of a horrid, violent time for African Americans. In my mind, however something about the video was far scarier, with much deeper ramifications. For a moment, let us not focus on who the men are today, but what they will be one day… parents.

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