Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity has been under intense speculation for the past month because of the recent video that surfaced the Internet and created another open dialogue about the malevolent effects of racism. According to the Washington Post, and other news outlets such as CNN and Huffington Post, a new statement was released by the president of Oklahoma University that demands answers to the findings that the racist chant sung in the video was taught at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon national leadership event.
Many are outraged by this report and demand immediate action toward the different members to take responsibility for such actions. The main question on everyone's mind is if this chant is limited to the OU chapter or is it widespread among one of the largest fraternities in the country—ranging to around 15,000 current members and over 200,000 alumni? One of the national members has made a statement regarding the national conference, however the ways in which this chant spread from the local level to a national scale still remains ambiguous. Some have said it was learned at the conference, and recently one of the executive directors mentioned it could have been learned through national social gatherings among the brothers.
We are outraged at teenagers for racist remarks, but we also have to direct our anger at systems that allow these racist practices to perpetuate in our larger, cultural discourse. Not all of Greek life is culpable for the actions of SAE, but as a culture we have to start a dialogue about the instruments of power and control. We have to question entire systems that are created on the roots of racisms as a means to control a constructed “other."
The OU story has gained media attention for the past month, but many were not surprised from the video or the new finding that this chant was spread at a national event. The idea that some of us find this behavior as common is disappointing. What is our responsibility in educating a part of the population about cultural and social identities? It is a moment to not only demean individuals who chanted these racist lyrics, but rather to understand its origins. It is about studying the history of marginalized individuals and shedding light on the institutionalization of racism that will help us move forward.
The president of OU made a statement, “Our purpose is to learn lessons and to be held accountable and then move forward with our lives." We hope the disciplinary actions from the university will hold current national members accountable for their language. This is a time where academia matters the most. It is a time where emphatic conversations can impact everyone who is involved."