Racist Frat Boys and a Racist System: Enough Is Enough!

March 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a member of the Revolution Club, Atlanta:

Over 50 years ago, Malcolm X asked the question: What do they call somebody Black with a Ph.D.? His answer: A “nigger.”

In 2015, the answer to Malcolm’s question remains the same, literally. Earlier this week, a cell phone video emerged showing members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity at the University of Oklahoma (OU), smiling, clapping, and pumping their fists while singing:

“There will never be a nigger SAE. There will never be a nigger SAE. You can hang ‘em from a tree, but it will never start with me. There will never be a nigger SAE.”

Black and white students at OU were outraged by the nine-second video. Who with a conscience wouldn’t be? Just seeing the joy of the leader of the song, grinning ear to ear in a tuxedo while walking up and down the aisles of the bus, singing about how he would rather lynch a Black person than allow them into his fraternity. His frat brothers laugh and sing along... no one objects to the song, instead they pull out their phones, film it, and sing along.

In response to the faculty and students’ vociferous protest and indignation, the university administration responded; quickly they closed the frat house and expelled the students for creating “a hostile learning environment.”

The university president said that he hoped the students expelled “will learn ...it is wrong to use words to hurt, threaten, and exclude.” Many individuals have come forward and expressed that the song the frat boys were singing in the video is not isolated to the University of Oklahoma, it can be heard in SAE fraternities around the country.

It’s Bigger Than SAE—a Culture and Legacy of White Male Supremacy

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is one of the oldest college fraternities in the country. It is not surprising that (until recently) SAE bragged about its roots in the antebellum South (before the Civil War). Until last week, the "History" page on SAE's website boasted: "Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South ... [during] a time of intense sectional feeling ... [SAE] confined its growth to the southern states."

The fraternity claims that the racism in its Oklahoma chapter is isolated and doesn’t represent the organization as a whole—a Google search quickly refutes that bullshit. An article by Ian Millhiser on Thinkprogress.org details just a few of SAE’s most recent racist actions. The points below are quotes from that article.

  • In 2013, the frat’s Washington University in St. Louis chapter was suspended after pledges reportedly sang racial slurs to African American students. According to one description of the incident,

    One guy began to recite the lyrics to a rap song (Bitches Ain’t Shit by Dr. Dre) as if it were a slam poem. He was reading the lyrics from his phone. The majority of the group of guys he was with found it funny and some were laughing. One member of the group was videoing the event on his phone. The guys in the group asked the black people in the booth to “show some respect” for the performance. As [redacted] continued to recite the lyrics, he came across the word “nigga” and said it with no hesitation. One of the black students tossed an empty bottle at him in anger only to be told by the group that it was part of the song, so it was okay. The black student replied that it was still offensive and the group apologized half-heartedly.

    The student later apologized and admitted that this stunt was “part of an initiation for Sigma Alpha Epsilon.” The president of the Wash. U. chapter also apologized on Facebook.

  • In December of 2014, SAE’s Clemson University chapter hosted a “Cripmas” party, named after the California-based “Crips” street gang. Photos of the incident depicted attendees at this party flashing gang signs and dressed in costumes intended to make them look like gang members. Much of the chapter’s leadership resigned after this incident, and the chapter “suspended all activity indefinitely” shortly after the incident, according to a statement by SAE’s national office.
  • In 2006, an SAE member at the University of Memphis quit the fraternity after two other frat members harassed him for dating a black woman. According to an editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the former SAE member “said SAE members used the N-word to refer to his girlfriend” and that they “also suggested that he must have met [her] on the street one night and that he couldn’t possibly be interested in a real relationship with someone of another race.” The Associated Press later reported that two students were suspended by SAE’s national office after they determined that these students “made comments that were inappropriate and unbecoming.”
  • In 2006, SAE’s Baylor University chapter hosted an “E-Dawg”-themed party that the university’s NAACP chapter labeled “insensitive.” According to the Baylor Lariat, pictures “captured students wearing bandanas and holding 40-ounce bottles in brown paper during the party. One of the pictures depicted a student who covered herself in bronzer in imitation of a black person.” The pictures were discovered after they were posted to Facebook.
  • In 2000, SAE’s Oglethorpe University chapter was put on probation, along with chapters from three other fraternities, after an incident where African American students visiting from other schools faced racial harassment and assault. According to one news report uncovered on Nexis, officials at two predominantly black colleges that competed in a cross-county meet at Oglethorpe “complained that Oglethorpe students in fraternity houses threw bottles at athletes and screamed racial epithets.”
  • In 2009, Valdosta State University in Georgia hosted a community forum on “Heritage, Hate or Fear?” that was inspired by the university’s SAE chapter’s practice of flying a Confederate Flag on its front lawn. A lawyer for the fraternity’s national headquarters warned that the chapter could lose its charter if it continued to fly the flag.

Tear It Down!

Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity houses have not only served as grounds for unabashed racism; they have also served as crime scenes of gratuitous hazing and violence, including rape and sexual assault against women.

The hideous culture of racism, violence, and male entitlement extend far beyond the Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat houses and even beyond fraternities and so-called “Greek Life.” The culture of white supremacy exposed by the cellphone camera on SAE’s bus captures a concentrated reflection of a system rooted in the oppression of Black people.

Bob Avakian states concisely, “There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” (BAsics1:1) There is no denying this—this is the history of the United States, this is the legacy that birthed SAE, which they proudly admit.

The fraternity house that just one week ago housed the young men in the video sits abandoned after SAE’s eviction. The home no longer bears Greek letters, instead scrawled in spray paint on the side of the home is: TEAR IT DOWN!

The University of Oklahoma students’ refusal to allow racist frat boys spewing their “Good Ol’ Boy” vitriol on campus comes at a time where serious contradictions are facing the system and the people. Tens of thousands over the past several months have come into the streets demanding justice for Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and the many other, mostly Black and Latino youths whose lives have been snuffed out by the police. Just this week, thousands of students in Madison, Wisconsin, occupied the State Capitol in response to the police murder of Tony Robinson and hundreds of people have come out in Atlanta demanding justice for Anthony Hill, yet another unarmed Black man killed by cops. Simultaneously, revolutionaries are in the mix promoting the call by Stop Mass Incarceration Network to SHUT AMERICA DOWN ON APRIL 14!

The special issue of Revolution newspaper, The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of this System and the Revolution We Need, ends with a challenge that is very relevant to anyone longing to end the centuries-long oppression of Black people and emancipate all of humanity:


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