Fraternal Racism

I am not a Frat Boy, and thus have little insight to offer as to why in 2015 members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma, drunk or not, would be joyfully chanting about never letting any a them n-words in their frat. I mean, nobody who’s honest about it doubts racism is alive and well in this country. But a blatantly racist chant? In this day of everybody’s got a cellphone camera? Is the evil present in these young men really so much more powerful than common sense, not to mention decency?

I dunno. When I was in college in Atlanta a million years ago, there was one fraternity that had Confederate flags everywhere and a giant icon of Robert E. Lee just inside the front door, and most students I knew thought of them as a strange cult that probably deserved attention from anthropologists. I should hope the frat has cleaned up its act in the last four decades, but Lord, even those guys back in the early 70s wouldn’t have “joked” about lynching, or at least so I believe. What’s wrong with these people? I’d really like to know. And I’m entirely agnostic as to whether the whole Greek thing really has anything to do with it. Maybe all SAE did wrong was supplying these birds with a bus. But it’s worth knowing one way or another lest we risk finding out there’s some other fraternity somewhere else where the Horst-Wessel-Lied is a popular drinking song.

UPDATE: Jamelle Bouie has a good post on this incident, noting that yes, SAE chapters have been sanctioned for this sort of thing before, and arguing that no, expelling students rather than educating them about racism is a bad idea.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.