Two college students were expelled for a racially slurred chant, but they are the least of the core issue.
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Editor in Chief
A nine-second video has effectively, and deservingly, ruined the lives of Parker Rice, 19, and Levi Pettit, 20, for the foreseeable future, as they will now cease to exist at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Now if only the fraternity they were a part of can cease to exist nationwide as well.
The two former members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity, were expelled from OU on March 10 for leading a racially charged song, caught on video and posted online by Unheard, a black student group at the university. The chant, to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” uses the “n-word” a number of times, proclaiming that a black person will never be able to join SAE, along with a verse alluding to the lynching of blacks.
The video has sparked nationwide outrage across the political spectrum as many have spoken out against the fraternity while there were protests all over OU’s campus.
“I admit it was likely fueled by alcohol,” said Rice in a statement after he was identified. “But that’s not an excuse.”
It is safe to assume that not everyone turns into a racist, leading Ku Klux Klan-like chants when alcohol is consumed. Rice might as well have stated “I am not myself when I’m hungry; I needed a Snickers.”
But frat boys will be boys, right? Maybe they were just joking around.
“Stuff they think is funny, but I have a very hard time understanding how they can be true because the references are very historically specific,” Ben Keppel, an OU history professor of 20 years, said to Oklahoma’s News 9. “When you talk about, ‘On a tree?’ Come on, we all know what that is.”
Perhaps trying to deflect blame, Rice said, “the song was taught to us.” Those words should seal SAE’s death warrant.
America’s latest viral video star had admitted the chant did not just derive from drunk 19- and 20-year-olds. This is a motto that has been passed down year after year, decade after decade, and generation after generation in this fraternity.
“This is reflective of a larger issue,” OU senior Marquis Ard, member of black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, told the New York Times. “If they’re doing that on a charter bus, what are they doing in the library, at football games?”
SAE’s rap sheet includes decades of racially charged incidents — not just in Oklahoma, but also across the nation — as well as a reputation for sexually assaulting women. At one point the frat was even being dubbed, “Sexual Assault Expected,” acting as the acronyms “SAE.”
As recently as December 2014, a chapter at Clemson University was suspended for hosting a racially themed “Cripmas” party. In 2006, the University of Memphis temporarily suspended its chapter after members made derogatory statements about the black girlfriend of a white frat member.
SAE chapters have been sanctioned and forced to participate in cultural awareness programs over frat members’ offensive racial slurs and actions, in 10 separate instances since the 1980s. In 1982, the University of Cincinnati suspended its SAE chapter for two years after the frat hosted a party on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and passed out fliers encouraging attendees to bring canceled welfare checks and “radios bigger than your head.” The flier also displayed a Ku Klux Klan hood, as well as a portrait of James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of King Jr.
Enough is enough. The two students certainly got what they deserved in expulsion for their role in the chant, but SAE must be shut down, effective immediately.