I was not going to address the video that surfaced of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members at Oklahoma University participating in a racist chant. However, since many people have asked my opinion, I wanted to offer my take (briefly) on a few aspects of the incident that stand out to me.
First and foremost, why are we surprised? Why do we continue to be shocked and dismayed that these incidents occur not just at OU but anywhere? And sometimes within our own communities! At what point in our history (perhaps I missed it) did society issue an official referendum declaring racism no longer exists? (I doubt I missed it though…). It mystifies me when I hear people say “Man, I cannot believe we are still seeing this in 2015”. Brace yourself for further disappointment because you will likely hear about it —again in 2016, 2066…your kids will be dealing with it in 2116, you get my point. We are confusing making “progress” with eradicating the larger problem. And just because you do not personally encounter racism in your day to day, does not mean that it is not still rampant and festering throughout the world like a cancer and being heralded as necessary in some circles (See SAE video for proof of that!). It’s becoming more apparent because technology has made it difficult to avoid ignore.
Secondly, a few of my friends have shared an interview featuring the last African American member of SAE expressing his disappointment that the violate members of the SAE Fraternity (Which he pledged in 2001) did not represent his beloved frat; did not represent the values and principles and guidelines of an organization for which he worked to “cultivate a culture that would not do that”. I don’t know the young man’s whole story… but I have to ask myself: why do so many of us want to be “accepted” where we are not welcome? Why do we fight to be part of institutions that shun us? Why do we want and need the validation of those who celebrate our exclusion? I ask this not just of those who pledge fraternities or sororities (this is simply the example that is topical to this blog). I apply this reasoning to everyday life. I cannot wrap my brain around a person who says I fought to get in because they told me I could not! Why? And don’t get me wrong, I understand fighting for the promotion, the election, the wage increase that is being withheld because of race of gender. I’ve done it! However, I cannot stress enough how detrimental it is to seek the validation of others in order to feel secure, accepted and somehow vindicated when people who otherwise would have nothing to do with you say “Ok, you can be part of our group”. This is a “follower” mentality. It limits you. It holds you hostage. It keeps you from developing your own confidence, direction, armor and purpose. And then, when you are faced with the harsh reality that this “group” could take you or leave you (And would rather leave you), you are disappointed. Why set yourself up? One of my favorite quotes will sum up the thoughts I raised in this: When someone shows you who they are, believe them. ~Maya Angelou
Finally, the “apologies”. We won’t spend too much time on this. They are sorry they got caught. Let’s be real. And probably pretty angry with the person who laid their truth bare! The parents of a couple of the students have said they “know for a fact” that their sons are absolutely not racist. My response? I will leave you with this…
One day I was talking to my Granddaddy, the Honorable Judge O’Neal Hunt, a devout man of God. I was explaining that sometimes I feel badly because while I loved the Lord, I still loved rap music and I know the lyrics and the culture did not necessarily subscribe to Christian teachings! And he said “Baby, when you decide to fully commit to God, your ears won’t even hear that music! Your heart will be so focused on God, that music and lifestyle will not even register with you anymore!”. My point? If your heart, your mind, your way of thinking was focused on acceptance and brotherhood, and respect for all… your ears, your mouth your actions wouldn’t even know the hateful terms, the ill will, the racist song that talked about lynching niggers. It’s in them. They used the terms too comfortably. Let’s not make excuses.