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Racial Incidents Shut Down Oklahoma Fraternity

One of University of Oklahoma’s fraternities, Sigma Alpha Epsilon has experienced major consequences for a video gone viral. In this video, many of the fraternity brothers are enthusiastically chanting on a bus: “There will never be a n***** in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me.” This video went viral Saturday, March 7 through the school newspaper. With social media, it took no time at all for the clip to receive national attention amongst the African American community, student community, and many others.

David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma, has taken swift and appropriate actions in handling the scandal. On March 9, he stated at a press conference that the organization would be shut down, the members were to move out and the University would perform a thorough investigation. The president also tweeted:

“To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourself ‘Sooners.’”

The members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon have been suspended, and two have been expelled.

After the video gained notoriety, the Oklahoma student body gathered and protested in response to the racist chant. President Boren also joined them. 

This fraternity’s racial chant has reached a national audience, received backlash, and even received criticism against the school. Rapper, Waka Flaka Flame has cancelled his scheduled performance at the University of Oklahoma. A lawsuit has been taken against the school for the many death threats received by the SAE members and the possible violation of the First Amendment with freedom of speech.

Though this racial incident amongst a fraternity has raised much disrepute, it is one of the few stories that have received national recognition from the media. Many fraternities and sororities have been involved in other racial incidents similar to SAE’s video chant.

Sigma Phi Epsilon of the University of Mississippi was shut down because members hung a noose — a rope that was used to hang African Americans — around the neck of a statue of James Meredith, the school’s first black student. Though the chapter was shut down, the students responsible for the heinous act were merely suspended. They also tied the Confederate flag around the statue’s face. Penn State’s Chi Omega chapter appeared in a picture where the members were seen wearing sombreros and fake mustaches and holding up racist signs. These incidents happened just last year.

Apparently, according to Oklahoma alumni who were SAE brothers, the chant was nothing new as they were taught it when they were in school. In studies based upon racial structure of fraternities and sororities, racial chants and views on others are dated back to the very beginning of these organizations, when races were segregated.

It seems that Sigma Alpha Epsilon has had some history for being quite unruly, even here at home. Drexel University’s own Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter was suspended in 2010, for two years, though it was for hazing violations, not videoed racist chants.

Fraternities and sororities were organized to create a system of brotherhood and sisterhood. Some of these chapters have demonstrated that they veered off from that purpose. This racism does nothing but drive a wedge further among students in schools. Even though it is 2015, it is very clear that we have very far to go when it comes to race.

 

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5, Source 6

Simone Wiley is a freshman majoring in fashion design.
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