The Most Ignorant Among Us? Sometimes It’s College Students

Commentary, Sean Shavers

Last month, a video surfaced online of University of Oklahoma fraternity members singing a racist song that joked about lynching black people. In the video, white members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity rode on a bus while chanting, “There will never be a n—– SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a n—– SAE.”

When I first saw frat brothers laughing and joking about lynching African Americans, I actually wasn’t offended. My first thought? They must be ignorant of American history.

Africans Americans were part of the founding of America. Our blood, sweat and toil helped build this nation. So when they sing, “There will never be a n—– at SAE,” it’s just ignorance, trickled down through generations. It’s just a remix of the same racism that has always existed in this country.

It’s a shame to realize that it actually exists, but I’m glad it’s exposed, and now other groups can see our struggle. I’d rather see it than have it hide in the shadows.

Social media might deter people from openly expressing racism, but it won’t change the mentality of the individual. It may just make it more secretive, with people finding more creative ways to express their racial hatred anonymously. It won’t dismantle the actual idea.

As a child, I heard the expression that to kill something, it must be killed at the source. That’s the same for an idea or opinion: we have to kill racial prejudice at the source, and that begins with the way that someone learns racism. No child is born racist; it takes someone to instill those views. So, to change that, we must influence children to look at humanity, not race — to look beyond race and gender.

In my opinion, the hate that racists have towards blacks today has a lot to do with President Barack Obama. They hated to see a black man in an office that no other group but white men have held. They were afraid of such an achievement, and maybe didn’t think it was even possible. By saying, “There will never be a n—– in SAE,” these college students were really saying: “Y’all might have let a n—– in the White House, but one will never join our fraternity.”

Just seeing how comfortable these students seemed singing this song shows the culture of leniency within that fraternity, along with the lack of authority and supervision within the national organization. After the video went viral on social media, SAE’s national headquarters closed its chapter at the school and University President David Boren expelled two of the students. I’m glad they took action, since black students on campus may have felt unsafe after seeing this video, and if the video hadn’t gone viral, something like this might have been swept under the rug. It would be interesting to see if an internal investigation of the school would show similar cases in the past.

College is about groups, and a fraternity can sometimes become just a big gang with school colors and a mascot. If you aren’t there to learn and remain cordial with other students, then what’s your purpose there? Because this is more than just a case of college kids gone wild. It seems to be more of an institutional issue of the fraternity.

Since the news of the fraternity scandal broke, two of the frat’s leaders have apologized for their role in the racist chants. They seem to realize that this kind of behavior is disrespectful and ignites violence. I think it took guts to admit to being wrong and accepting the consequences for it.

The Bible says a fool is counted wise when he holdeth his peace but a foolish man uttereth all his lips. This means if you’re quiet, then no one knows how foolish you are, unless you open your mouth. You can think whatever you want, but when you express it, you will become subject to scrutiny and backlash.

That’s something the fraternity members are now learning the hard way. I’ve read that some of them have been threatened online and are now afraid to go out in public.

Hopefully it will be a lesson learned, to leave negative stereotypes and racial prejudices in your head. But how do you dismantle the idea and stop racism at the source?

I think the first step is to have open conversations about it.

Just not at Starbucks.

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