You’ve probably seen the video going around in which members of University of Oklahoma SAE yell a racist chant, the main gist of which is that “There’ll never be a n***** in SAE”
Oh. Well then. I think that we are all justifiably horrified by the video and the sentiments behind it, or at least I hope we are. Things like that have no place in our culture. The university has taken steps to deal with these individuals and I applaud their rapid and decisive action.
That’s not the end of the story. It can’t be. Like, this thing happened. We can’t just gloss over this and let it be swallowed up by the 24-hour news cycle. This highlights a huge problem that is not just confined to SAE or even OU. It’s a problem everywhere. Systematic racism is still running rampant throughout our nation and that is a sad and unfortunate reality.
As a member of the African-American community, I am angry and upset for two reasons. Firstly, the display of racism itself. Secondly, the marked absence of any response from the Greek community
One of the more disconcerting things about the video is that the whole bus was singing the chant. Like, it wasn’t just one or two random bros. Everyone knew the words. Everyone was singing along. This chant had been sung before; apparently enough times that everyone knew the words. That implies that there was a culture of racism that was propagated in that fraternity chapter. People were comfortable saying those terrible things because that was just the way things were done. And I think that should give us all pause.
A culture of disenfranchisement and “apart-ness” permeates our culture as a whole. Black people in America are differentiated not by any attribute or characteristic so much as their blackness. A sense of “otherness” tinges every day of our lives. It’s not so blatant as what is seen in that video, yet it is no less real. For example, if I were an incoming freshman into a big state school like OU or even here at UGA, I wouldn’t feel comfortable rushing a predominantly white fraternity. I don’t even feel comfortable going any sort of Greek-sponsored or Greek affiliated event. And that’s a problem. Personally, I chose not to go Greek for a variety of reasons and if people decide to go Greek or not, that’s their own decision. But a factor in that decision should not be because they felt uncomfortable or unwelcome because of their race.
I’m not trying to throw the Greek system under a bus, per se. This problem isn’t confined just to fraternities or sororities. It is prevalent in all areas of society. However, the Greek system prides itself on raising up the next leaders of our nation. Fraternities and sororities crow about how there GPA’s are higher than the average and how successful their alumni are. And that’s all fine and dandy. But as an African-American and as a person in general, I don’t want people who help perpetuate systematic racism to lead the future. Do you think I want to walk into a job interview and have the interviewer be someone who sang that he’d never let a person of color into his fraternity? Do you think I want to be coworkers with that person? Do you think I want those people to be my representatives in government? That’s a negative, corporal.
The Greek community prides itself on itself on its brotherhood and its “All-for-one-and-one-for-all” spirit. And that’s great. It really is. But you can’t just step back and wash your hands when members of your brotherhood act badly. You can’t just sit back and say, “Well, that’s those guys over there. Not us.” And while technically that is true, there doesn’t seem to be much wish to distance yourself when you’re talking about your successful alumni or about how much your fraternity gave to philanthropic efforts. And more salient to the point is the perception Greek life has. Greek organizations are heavily steeped in traditions and history. Traditions and history that can sometimes be hella racist. So when something like this happens and there’s no response, one can only assume that at best, the Greek community doesn’t care and at worst, they condone the actions taken. The Greek community as a whole doesn’t really say anything about the racism that permeates its culture but when it is brought up, a lot of times it’s in the context of something like this video.
The point I’m trying to make is that this video thing exposes a really crappy reality. While this piece has been focused on the Greek community, systematic racism is something that affects us all. So let’s not just look at this situation, shake our heads and say, “Wow, those awful frat bros.” This isn’t an SAE problem, it’s a people problem. Greek or GDI, let’s examine ourselves. Let’s have conversations about this. Maybe then, some good can come out of this.