by Merrilee Bufkin
Recently, a video of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon members singing a racial chant on a bus surfaced, reminding those of us who don’t see it often that racism is still alive and well. The arguments surrounding the incident seem to be dodging the main point.
Most people are quick to tell me, or anyone, that the boys were outliers and that it doesn’t reflect fraternities as a whole. Yet, it does. If we take a look at what happened, each of those boys, even though they were young as far as members go, knew that song and could sing it well. Someone must have taught them the lyrics and encouraged its singing. The most obvious place for the song to have arisen is in the frat house itself, with all of its members. This was a tradition, a song of pride that reinforces SAE brothers as insiders to their own organization. So then, the freshman singing were obviously at fault, but why have those who taught the song not been held fully accountable? Oh, wait, they have been. The president of the college disbanded the chapter, punishing any possible perpetrators in one swift move.
But will that solve it? No. The Kappa Alpha fraternity—including the Millsaps chapter—has historically honored the confederate flag, which is a commonly recognized sign of bigotry. Lying in wait, in each fraternity and sorority, is the seed of supremacy. Even worse, being in the South, we are under more scrutiny, as we should be, yet we continue to try to save face. All of the fraternity men I have spoken to are quick to tell me it was only a few bad apples. Why can’t you tell me it was a tragedy? Saving face is something that is used as a necessity.
So, what then, is my call to arms? To buck up, to own up. Yes, these members at the University of Oklahoma were wrong, but there is also an underlying problem that should be addressed. Each fraternity should concern itself with how it treats outsiders, no matter their race, ethnicity, or creed. Because brotherhood should not sacrifice decency to outsiders. It is up to each fraternity man, each chapter, to hold itself accountable for the possible wrong doings it may commit.
This definitely isn’t even about how the upperclassmen should have told the boys that song was ‘only for the house.’ No, they should have recognized the horrendous nature of the song and proceeded to not pass it on. And if the argument is history, remembrance is not reenactment. Fraternities can understand their history but to relive it is to show that you have not progressed. So our frat boys need to do a little spring cleaning, maybe get rid of a few songs, some flags, and a worn- out attitude. Buck up, own up to the mistakes made by those who have come before you and resolve not to make the same ones, or else history is for its own sake, and not that of learning.