Staff editorial: Actions taken against fraternity were right move

Duke Staff

Race relations in the Unites States continue to erode. The latest chapter in this story unfolded in Norman, Oklahoma.
On March 7, a group of white students from the University of Oklahoma, some from the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, were on a bus in formal attire when captured on Vine they proceeded to recite a racist chant. “There will never be a n—-r in SAE, there will never be a n—-r in SAE … You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me, there will never be a n—-r in SAE,” they chanted.
Unheard, a group of black activists at OU, got ahold of the video and sent it to the Daily Mail. From there the video was shared through several news sites and watched over two million times on YouTube.
The attention it brought forced the University to take action. The president of the University, David Boren, a former Democratic governor and U.S. Senator, took swift and stern action. He closed the SAE chapter on campus and expelled the two student who had a “leadership role” in the racist video.
Even a few months ago this story might not have gotten the media attention it has. Now, this story has been talked about the way something this offensive should be.
The fact remains that kids, and they are kids in college based off of their behavior, who thought they were in a moment of privacy probably didn’t believe that they could be at the center of a national controversy when they sung the chant. Oklahoma’s student body is only five percent African-American, which means these students don’t often come in contact with the subjects of their hate and bigotry. None of this is an excuse for their actions, rather the beginning to an explanation.
Privacy doesn’t make racism okay. In fact the racist conversations had between two or three people is a big part of why racism continues to thrive in our country. It spreads the idea that it’s acceptable for white people to hate black people.
These students were wrong in what they said and in the attitude with which they said it. The strong actions by the University’s president Boren, a rich white man, were a welcoming change from the indifference that was expected. Men like Boren are the route to changing the culture that bred this kind of action. Their actions were punished the same way physical abuse would be. This is the correct line of reasoning because attitudes like this towards race are what lead to violence.
The students have apologized and they have been punished. Their role in this situation is over. The focus needs to be on a shift from the culture that creates these kinds of actions.