When President Boren of OU decided to expel/suspend the students who participated in the racist SAE chant, social media was applauding him. And while this action is notable, it’s far from noble. The well-rehearsed nature of the chant, and the ease with which they chanted shows their comfort in being racist. After all, according Chelsea Davis, leader of the Unheard organization at OU, this is only a publicized example of otherwise unheard-of incidents. According to a recent Economist article, the difference between our generation and our parents’ generation in addressing racism, is just that we’re racially apathetic. While “not-seeing-color” may seem like the ideal, the reality is that our “post-racial” generation only reacts to racism when it’s blatant and convenient. Indubitably, the SAE chapter had no place at that school. Unfortunately, the school and society as a whole must begin to recognize the privilege white people do have on a day-to-day basis.
The evidence is in the articles themselves. In response to the incident, Eric Striker, a black linebacker at OU posted a video of himself responding to the racism. In the video, he was clearly appalled, and this expression of anger manifested itself in a series of curse-words. Shortly-thereafter, he issued an apology directly in a CNN interview, where he basically said he overreacted. This response, and the response to this response, plays into a large narrative in the United States. Blacks aren’t allowed to be upset about racism because whites perceive it as ‘violence’ when they are. The same can be said about the riots after the Ferguson ruling. Blacks are upset, and they have a right to be. People of privilege have a tendency to idealize the way others should behave and respond. While it may be easier for me to internalize racist decisions, it isn’t the same for people of color. As a white person, I understand that I don’t understand. I know that black people in America have been subject to institutionalized racism, even if I don’t experience that racism. Until white people can recognize their own guilt and participation in these institutions, race relations will never be resolved. Invisible Man shows the clear consequences of our apathy. Unlike Booker T. Washington’s plans to get all blacks to achieve economic equality, the reality isn’t possible because of people in power. We can’t place all the pressure on the oppressed; the oppressors must start changing their mindsets.
I sincerely hope that the participants in the SAE chant can fix their stupidity; unfortunately, they’re probably going to return to their pleasant suburban communities where they go preach love, but practice hate. They will return to their white families and white girlfriends, and find another white school to attend. Their racism won’t be fixed until they integrate. They won’t understand or empathize until they listen. Race relations in our society won’t be solved until we can do the same. Embracing other identities instead of trying to get them to assimilate, is a huge step. Allowing people of color to feel oppressed is a big step in recognizing and addressing that oppression.