We all have the freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean we all use it appropriately. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter of the University of Oklahoma is just the most recent example.
A video posted on YouTube March 8 shows the fraternity singing a song filled with racial slurs. The video shows a bus full of students chanting “There will never be a n****r SAE, you can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me, there will never be a n****r SAE.”
The video led to mass outrage at the university, with students dressing in all black to protest the video. Hundreds of students attended, including members of the Sooners’ football team, a number of whom are African-American.
It only took a short time for University of Oklahoma President David Boren to conclude the investigation, confirming the suspicions brought about by the video. Boren issued a statement calling the members of that fraternity “disgraceful,” adding that “real Sooners treat all people with respect.”
The University of Oklahoma cut all ties with that chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and demanded they vacate their house in a matter of days.
What that fraternity chanted is indeed reprehensible, but there’s something more significant worth mentioning.
This video, posted Sunday, came on the heels of the same weekend US President Barack Obama traveled to Selma to pay tribute at the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when racial tensions came to a violent burst in Alabama.
President Obama spoke to that crowd, saying that while racism still exists, “it’s no longer endemic…it’s no longer sanctioned by law.”
To a certain extent, the President is right. America has come a long way from its racist and segregated past.
But if this video proves anything, it’s that racism doesn’t need to be sanctioned by law to exist. Even if college, where the spread of ideas should be more open and tolerant than ever, there are still those who hold on to the hateful memories of the past.
It’s on us to call out bigots and racists for their hateful words until there are none left to say, even 50 years after Bloody Sunday.