Early last week (the day after the 50th Anniversary March on The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL) a video surfaced in which members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity chapter were seen singing a racist chant. The chant was full of racial slurs and made references to lynching Blacks in addition to never allowing the admittance of Blacks in SAE. The chant was sung in the tune of the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” It went like this: “There will never be a nigger at SAE, You Can Hang Him From A Tree, but He’ll Never Sign With Me, There Will Never Be A Nigger At SAE.”
As expected the chant erupted into national anger a firestorm of controversy toward OU’s SAE. It also opened up investigations of SAE chapters around the country by the SAE national headquarters. The University of Oklahoma President, David Boren responded swiftly calling the chant “disgraceful” and expelled two of the students, Levi Pettit and Parker Rice, who led the chant. While many have applauded the president for his actions, former members of SAE are now thinking about suing both the university and the president. They have hired a high-profile attorney, Stephen Jones, known to have represented Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In the days following, there have been new developments in this case regarding the White Supremacist history of the fraternity.
SAE is now the largest fraternity in the United States and its racist history goes back as far as the Civil War. One of the founders, Noble Leslie Devotie along with 75 other members at the time died fighting for the Confederacy. After the war, the surviving members returned to find their campuses and 15 chapters lying in ruins.They spent decades rebuilding the frat’s ranks and expanding its ranks within Northern fraternities.
Over the last 30+ the fraternity has been accused of many incidents of discriminatory and racist practices and behaviors. However the frat’s “good” reputation remains intact at over 200 campuses around the country. According to Slate.com some of them are as follows:
- In 1982, the University of Cincinnati suspended its Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter after it organized a racist party around Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. According to an article in the New York Times, fliers for the event encouraged revelers to “bring such things as a canceled welfare check, ‘your father if you know who he is’ and ‘a radio bigger than your head.’ “
- In 1992, the Texas A&M University chapter hosted a “jungle fever”–themed party that, according to an online exhibit created by the university’s Cushing Library, featured “black face, grass skirts and ‘slave hunts.’ ”
- In 2000, members of SAE at Oglethorpe University were among men from four fraternities who threw bottles at black athletes and yelled racial slurs during a cross-country meet.
- In 2002, a member of the Syracuse University chapter of SAE wore black face out to local bars.
- In 2006, two SAE students were suspended at the University of Memphis after harassing another member for dating a black woman and bringing her to the chapter’s house.
- In 2009, the Valdosta State University chapter caused outrage on campus after flying a Confederate flag on its front lawn. On Sunday, the Oklahoma State University chapter also drew ire on social media when a Confederate flag could be seen through one of its windows just hours after the controversy emerged at the University of Oklahoma.
- In 2013, the Washington University in St. Louis chapter of SAE was suspended after some of its pledges were instructed to direct racial slurs at a group of black students.
- Last year, 15 SAE members at the University of Arizona broke into a historically Jewish off-campus fraternity and physically assaulted its members while yelling discriminatory comments at them.
- In December, Clemson University’s SAE chapter was suspended after the fraternity hosted a “cripmas” party at which students dressed up as gang members.
It has also been uncovered that the racist chant it popular among members of SAE chapters across the country in addition to proudly announcing their connection to the confederacy on their website. There have been social media comments made by current and former students or staff of various universities who have disclosed information that identical versions of the song is popular among SAE members on their campuses. According to slate.com a person on Reddit wrote that a similar version of the chant was a favorite among SAE members at universities across Texas. Another anonymous user on twitter tweeted that he was a SAE member at a university in Texas between 2000-2004 and the same chant was frequently sung.
OU activist group Unheard OU whom released the video exposing this racist tradition has organized a large protest which took place last Monday. Students and people around the country took to social media to express their outrage. A football recruit who was to play for OU announced on twitter that he will no longer do so and a current player called out SAE members and other frats who “cheer Black players when they’re on the field only to sing racist songs behind their backs.” Others suggested that ALL chapters across the country should be shut down due to revelations into the frat’s racist history.
Traditions are a set of behaviors and beliefs that are passed from one generation to the next. For Whites, degrading Black People through racist song and chants is one of their many WHITE SUPREMACIST traditions. The racist behavior and beliefs exhibited by members of SAE chapters around the country have been going on for decades and we should not be surprised at such revelations. The two young white men who led the chant and their fellow frat members were young late teens, early 20s. They were millennials who are supposed to be more racially tolerant than previous generations of whites. They and their parents have since issued an apology, whether it is sincere or not (I think NOT!). It has been touted throughout various news outlets for a while now that millennials (people who were born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s; some say late 1970s to early 2000s) are more racially tolerant than Gen Xers and Baby Boomer generations. Now there’s evidence to prove otherwise in the article, “Millennials Are More Racist Than They Think” (to read full article click on the first link below where the sources are listed).
As a millennial with experience with millennials of other races, I always knew that millennials ARE NOT more racially tolerant than previous generations, so the news in the aforementioned article was a big DUH! for me. Times have changed, but white people haven’t or we wouldn’t be fighting the same battles our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents fought. The nature of Racist Man and Racist Woman is cold, mean, aggressive, racist and no matter what Black people do or say white people will remain the same. No matter whether they are pre-Baby Boomers, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, post-millennials you name it, whites will be whites and keep up those good ol’ (white supremacist) traditions.
MCELWEE, S. (9 March 2015).” Millennials Are More Racist Than They Think: Just Look At The Numbers.” Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/03/millenials-race-115909_Page2.html#.VQr-sdJ9L74