By now, we’ve all seen the video of University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers enthusiastically belting a disturbingly racist chant. In the 9 second clip, a bus full of fraternity men are heard singing “There will never be a nigger SAE *clap clap* there will never be a nigger SAE *clap clap* you can hang ‘em from a tree but they’ll never sign with me, there will never be a nigger SAE.”
Judging by the content, tune, and terminology of the song it’s more than likely that it is much older and more widely known than one would like to think. Twitter user MichaelEvans25 claimed that he was an SAE in Texas in the early 2000s, and that the chant was used there as well. In all fairness, many if not all national Greek organizations of the NPC and IFC have racist roots, resulting in the creation of the Divine 9 and multicultural GLOs. But many organizations and institutions have darker beginnings, and go on to blossom into something more positive. For example, the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was profoundly racist, and wanted to use abortion and sterilization as a means to exterminate blacks. Regardless of your stance on abortion, Planned Parenthood does provide helpful services like birth control and the morning after pill that help millions of people today. But anti-Greeks don’t want to hear that.
Greek Life- fraternity life in general- runs rampant with political incorrectness, and it makes them an easy target in the increasingly progressive college climate. Personally, I’m not an easily offended person. I’m not going to lose any sleep over a drunk kid singing along to Bobby Shmurda and not censoring himself or a fried chicken joke.
The issue is that to anti-Greeks, there’s no difference between the bigots gleefully singing about lynching black people and the rest of the Greek community. Are they at fault for generalizing a community of millions? Of course. But to most non-Greeks, let alone anti-Greeks, an ATΩ might as well be a ΔΔΔ. We are viewed collectively, and the poor decisions and despicable behavior of one group of people will reflect on everyone, and undoubtedly receive much more publicity than any of the many positive contributions that Greeks have made.
What’s the real solution? As the founder of a local sorority that’s the only semblance of Greek Life on my small liberal arts campus, I’m in a unique situation and surely don’t have all of the answers. However, as the sole representation of Greek Life on my campus I have done tremendous amounts of research and had to work that much harder to not only build my organization, but sustain it in the face of so much ignorant opposition with little to no support.
I was pleased at how Greeks far and wide didn’t miss a beat in condemning the practices of OU’s SAE chapter. I’m afraid to the public, though, it will just look like Greeks are trying to cover their asses and protect their own chapters by saying #NotAllGreeks. Any organization, whether the faculty of a school, a police force, a non-profit, a church, or GLO has the potential to (consciously or subconsciously) accept horrible people. But as Greeks, we have a responsibility to hold ourselves to a higher standard, because while on campus rivalries, northern vs southern, local vs national semantics divide us, in the grand scheme of things we really are all in this together because with every sorority or fraternity suspended or expelled, Greek Life as a whole is that much closer to extinction.
Everything I’m saying has been said before, and I suppose no matter how many times you tell a dumbass not to be a dumbass it will always be a dumbass, but we all have a responsibility to nip behavior that will poorly reflect on the Greek community in the bud; we can’t allow chapters to ruin themselves, and we have to back each other up when we know we’re being treated unfairly, even if they are your rival house. In essence, you are your brother’s keeper and your cousin’s keeper.