Recently the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma posted a video online where they chanted, “You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a n***** SAE.”
This story has garnered national attention and my initial reaction to this chant was that not all Greek Life is bad, so the institution should not be devalued because of this incident.
But this should NOT be okay.
Thinking like this is deeply problematic because it sets up identical intentions as reactions like “not all men” or “all lives matter”. This shifts the focus away from the experiences of the oppressed and onto the privileged who fail to recognize the privileges that they hold.
Besides, this is far from the first incident where Greeks are not only assisting a racist and misogynistic system, but where they are creating and fostering that system.
One only has to look to the movie “Dear White People,” where a major plot point of the movie is a group of white students throwing a blackface party. The movie systematically and blatantly shows the horrid nature and culture of contemporary oppression and racism.
At the end, spoilers follow, the movie shows news articles about actual parties thrown that are obviously racist. These include Penn State’s Chi Omega Mexican party, Arizona State’s Tau Kappa Epsilon MLK black party, Indiana University’s Kappa Alpha homeless party and countless more. It takes a simple internet search to find a variety of racist, sexist or classist parties or acts that Greek college students have put on.
Greek Life itself has suffered from many stigmas and stereotypes that these incidents only contribute to, such as the perception that fraternity brothers are all “bros” who are hyper-masculine and party every day.
The sad part is, this is not necessarily unfounded. I have heard from friends who go to a state university that a describing acronym of the SAE fraternity is, “Sexual Assault Expected.”
It is appalling that this could possibly be a conception surrounding a group of guys, not because they should not be ridiculed for contributing to rape culture, but because ideas like these are where dangerous and oppressive ideologies are fostered.
If these ideologies are not changed, there can be serious damage done.
If Greek Life is to remain an institution of togetherness, progress and change, then it is the duty of Greeks to fight against these systems of oppression and take stands against racism, sexism and violence.
As a member of Greek Life, I feel that if we are going to fulfill our duties to our chapters that this is a necessity. We must change the systems that exploit and damage minorities; Greek life may only be a component of the overarching problem but it must be corrected.
Go Greek, and make a difference!