There is a lot of fuss kicking up over the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity video. The video depicts fraternity members chanting anti-black lyrics. The video is gross and repulsive. See CBS news report. The President of the university shut down the fraternity and gave them just a couple of days to move out. The fraternity is being shamed in a very public way. Certainly, what they did and how they did it was a very shameful thing. But, really, don’t we all have some version of prejudice inside us? The school administrators were very quick to point the finger and essentially move the instigators away from the campus. But, could they not require the fraternity to make it up? Would those very young men agree to become big brothers to disadvantaged young, African-American boys?
Bias and prejudice can be addressed. History is full of times when bitter antagonists became cordial, if not friends, after simple exposure to each other. The University of Oklahoma could have turned a negative into a positive. Prejudice is not simply guys in white sheets and conical hats. It is more common than we realize. Some ten years ago, I was coming back from an Army Reserve exercise near Memphis. My Army buddies, about half of whom were African-American, and I were all on the same plane heading back to Texas. Dressed in civilian clothes, it was not apparent who we were, apart from short haircuts. I was sitting next to a woman who lived in Dallas, but who grew up in Memphis.
The lady told me she left Memphis because it got “too dark.” … I had to think about that. It took me awhile to catch her meaning. When I realized she was referring to black Americans, I felt pretty offended. My Army buddies were on that very plane. But, prejudice is more common than we might like to think. OU took some good steps. But, they could have turned an ugly incident into a positive incident even for some very young, uneducated white men.