Musician Dave Matthews once stated that, “The saddest part of the human race is we’re obsessed with the idea of ‘us and them,’ which is really a no-win situation, whether it’s racial, cultural, religious or political.”
I stumbled upon that quote several months ago, dreadfully anticipating the next time its factuality would prove to be genuine. And thanks to the University of Oklahoma’s (OU) Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, the wait is over.
On Sunday, a cell phone video recording revealed several of the fraternity’s members singing: “There will never be a n*gger ΣAE. There will never be a n*gger ΣAE. You can hang ’em in a tree, but they’ll never hang with me(?), there will never be a n*gger ΣAE.”
In just ten seconds — the length of the video — myself, and so many other African-Americans, were involuntarily drafted into that us against them war Dave Matthews spoke of. We were the “them”. We were the n*gger.
Yet, what has always perplexed me is the uncertainty of when one is and is not the aforementioned. Because I reckon the young men singing racial slurs in that video are the same young Oklahomans who leap from their seats when point guard Russell Westbrook drives to the basket for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re the same young Oklahomans who complement their Sperry loafers with Kevin Durant jersey’s, herald Blake Griffin as one of their own, and scurry for photo-ops when OU alum Adrian Peterson returns to campus. Illiterately fascinating, if you ask me.
I’d known next to nothing about the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity — better known as ΣAE — prior to the video surfacing. I specifically recalled passing by their houses on several campuses across the country, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Thus, I sought out the fraternity’s website, to gain an overall perspective of their mission as an organization. To my surprise, I was taken aback when I discovered their mantra to be “The True Gentlemen,” the creed of ΣAE.
Almost immediately, one objective of the creed jumped out at me. In essence, it detailed that the true gentleman does not make any man feel as though he is inferior — a direct contradiction of the racially-charged sentiments displayed within the video.
Therefore, it would be foolish for one to expect such a gentleman to have respect for me, as an African-American, when he doesn’t even have respect for the letters in which he bears.
Justifiably, however, those letters will no longer be displayed at the University of Oklahoma, as Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been dismantled at the university, effective immediately.
The national ΣAE elected, Sunday night, to close the OU chapter, as a result of the video. Whereas, OU President David Boren — former Governor of the state — announced that the university would sever ties with the fraternity; swiftly removing the letters from the fraternity house, and ordering residential members to vacate the premises. And although I applaud the swift reaction taken by university President Boren, I don’t put too much stock in it. What else — really — was he to do, chalk up the video to free speech?
In the aftermath, the true champions proved to be the OU student body.
On a day where OU students should have been heralded for their recent philanthropic efforts, they were shamefully robbed of the headlines by ΣAE. Over this past weekend, the student body raised over a half million dollars, according to the Oklahoma Daily student newspaper, with Soonerthon — a dance marathon similar to Penn State University’s annual THON event.
By word of mouth, and my own explorations, I found the efforts of OU students to be immensely admirable, as the whole purpose of their figurative and literal generosity is #FTK — a hashtagged acronym that illustrates that all the effort was “for the kids.” And that effort should be celebrated, as OU became the top donor for the OK Children’s Hospital over the weekend, according to an OU student.
The celebration, though, shouldn’t have ended there for OU, as junior student-athlete, Buddy Hield, was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, by the Associated Press, in college basketball. OU’s men’s basketball team is currently ranked 15th in the nation.
Nonetheless, an entire weekend of positivity was nearly erased by ten seconds of shameless ignorance and misguided entitlement. But I would argue that like the phoenix represented within the ΣAE symbol, the OU student body quickly rose to reclaim their glory, with how I witnessed a majority of OU students react to the video.
They were disgusted, and loudly roared for action to be taken, as if it was a Saturday afternoon in Gaylord Memorial Stadium — the home of their beloved Sooners football team. This was the real University of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Sooners of all backgrounds took to social media to voice their frustration; reminding us that one should never devalue the painting of life by rejecting colors. Because, in the history of humanity, never has there been a painting that wasn’t made beautiful by a mixture of many different colors and shades.