A video of white fraternity students has gained much media attention recently, as the students sing “There will never be a n—– in SAE. You can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me.”
While it may sound like a chant belonging to a black-and-white film clip from the 1950s, the footage was in fact taken with a cellphone Saturday. The video in question was taken when the University of Oklahoma’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon had members chant the racist song on a bus ride that night.
The racism of the members and the bliss they may feel in being their own segregated fraternity is atrocious enough, but the need to sing lyrics that involve lynching conjures up a historically violent issue that pushes their chant to another level. As a result, the fraternity’s chant has created a campuswide and national disgust for those on the bus and within the fraternity itself.
The frat has been rightfully removed from its on-campus house and the two students who appeared to be leading the chant were expelled from the university. The national SAE organization also made an effort to distance itself from the chapter, announcing no connection to the actions of the OU students.
As the New York Times reported, one frat member, Parker Rice, stated the chant was likely influenced by alcohol. Perhaps alcohol should not take the rap — it has been reported by the New York Times that former SAE members made the same chant at other colleges.
If more former members do speak out, then it could be understood that there is a national issue of racism and segregation occurring within SAE.
The members of the now-disbanded chapter have come out with apologies, and their families have admitted the consequences they must live with. However, if the video had not been posted online, the prejudices of the members would have gone unknown.
The New York Times brought up former instances of the SAE organization being involved in racial issues. For example, having racially offensive-themed parties, such as the University of Cincinnati’s SAE chapter hosting a “trash party” the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Another instance included members making derogatory remarks about the black girlfriend of a white member.
After the fact of these events there is the difficulty of seeing what side of the line these Greek students land on. Perhaps some are ignorant and get caught up in racist chants, but perhaps some are genuinely bigots that enjoy putting other races down.
Regardless of where the caught students reside on the issue of racism, there remains the concern that some of these collegiate social circles are advocating offensive stereotypes and perpetuating the imagery of violence toward other students.
Though a close-knit group of friends is vitally important for support through college, closed social groups such as OU’s chapter of SAE can often lead to closed-minded and like-minded values, a concerning problem for college students who are supposed to be in an open environment meant to expand forward thinking.
If fraternities are going to act like a second family, which much of Greek life aims to achieve, then they should strive to ensure that second family is not a bunch of racist cousins.
Though there is nothing wrong in taking pride in fraternal bonds, a group’s exclusivity does not beget a sense of supremacy and rejection toward those who are different.
Adam Mathieu is a junior majoring studio art.