Stray leaves on a tree of unconscious prejudice

Less than a week ago, a video surfaced showing students in Oklahoma University’s SAE chapter chanting a racist slogan. Two students who led the chant were almost immediately expelled, and both the national organization and the university have tried to distance themselves from what they call “a disgrace.”

But here’s what slightly bothers me. In an article, the fraternity’s national president said, “I was not only shocked and disappointed but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video.”

Today, racism has evolved into an unconscious prejudice towards minorities founded upon social and economic inequality. It may have just been a bad word choice, but the word outright seems to insinuate that as long as you can’t directly see or experience racism, then everything’s OK. (Like James Inhofe’s global warming argument.) And that’s why so many people nowadays think racism is dead, and that’s why so many are so shocked that these students recited such a despicable chant. The thing about racism is that it is taught; it’s absorbed from the environment and surroundings and adopted from a young age, no matter how subtle it is. But we don’t notice it. We don’t notice until something so dramatic and outrageous happens. Until then, it’s invisible.

Now that brings me to my next point: their punishment. I entirely support the decision to punish them, but I don’t agree with the decision to expel them. Like I said, racism is taught, but so can compassion and equality. And I feel that education would be one of the best mediums for understanding culture, race and even ourselves. Most importantly, kicking them out of the university solves nothing except save face for the campus. These kids are not the root of the problem: they’re just one of too many leaves. Their expulsion certainly brings attention to the fight against racism, and it certainly is a deterrent for other students, but these kids and most others won’t remember what they were expelled for. Yes, they’ll know that they acted stupidly and inappropriately because they may or may not have been drunk, but they’ll never think that they crushed the dignity of an entire race, a race that has already been oppressed for centuries, that they purposefully kept a group of people underneath their feet, that they laughed and joked about a practice that killed thousands of innocent people.

I know I’ve been harsh towards everyone involved, but I’d like add one more thing: These individuals’ actions do not define the rest of the fraternity members and the rest of the fraternities, and though I’m not a huge fan of these sororities and fraternities, stereotyping them would be just as bad as any racist chant.

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4 thoughts on “Stray leaves on a tree of unconscious prejudice

  1. olivjang says:

    I liked what you said about how racism is absorbed and that the kids were part of the problem not the root of it. I also think you right about America’s problem with ignoring racism and prejudices. Obviously, as recent events have demonstrated, racism is alive and well. And, yet, for most of my life, I felt that racism wasn’t a big issue any more because mainstream media never really focused on it until recently. Similarly, for years I didn’t fully understand the mistakes and atrocities that the U. S. has committed in the past (treatment of Native Americans, Philippine War, My Lai, corruption, occasionally forgetting about democracy and supporting dictatorships…..). I think a real problem with our society is that we like to just pretend that the bad things never happened and that the bad things will never happen again, and ignore the real root of most issues. Only the ignorant crazies are racist, sexist, prejudiced, and hate-filled- not people in real life. But simply closing ones eyes or quickly covering up the incident by expelling the students does very little actual change.

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    • aliz97 says:

      I’ve heard about these incidents, too, and indeed SAE has largely been a Southern organization, but that only means that we need to do more to eliminate these problems. If racism is so prevalent among these frats, then we’ve got to find the roots of these weeds. Still, though, it’s not everyone we should be punishing, but it can be everyone that we’re teaching.

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