On Saturday, March 7, a video was leaked of students from the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter singing a racist chant in unison. The chant included claims that Black students could never be a part of the fraternity, using the n-word and making a reference to lynching: “You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a ***** in SAE.”

Since the incident, the University of Oklahoma’s SAE chapter has been suspended by the university and its national chapter. Two students who were identified as leading this chant have been expelled.

The video is blatantly racist. Students lightheartedly chanted about lynching, an act that is a reminder of America’s grim white-supremacist past, making it clear that the sentiments are in no way eradicated from our present-day society. Lynching was a way to strike fear into the hearts of the Black community both during and after the post-Civil War, to make them feel weak and like they would never be equal. To bring such a gruesome image back into the minds of Black Americans is unsettling, especially in this day and age.

This incident was extremely shocking and eye-opening for many people throughout the nation, although in the eyes of many within the Black community, the only thing unique about this incident is that it was recorded. Megan Johnson, a Black student from the University of Oklahoma stated, “Personally I was outraged, I was upset, but shocked was not an emotion that I had … These racist situations happen every day and we encounter them. It took this group of students to be on camera and caught for it to get national attention.”

The incidence that was caught on tape goes beyond just the actions and beliefs of a few fraternity brothers on a bus. Rather, this was a small reflection of much of the racism that is still prevalent within the United States today. Although many Americans still deny that racism is a prevalent issue in America, racial inequality exists in education, the criminal justice system and finances, among others according to a Pew report.

Racism infringes upon the rights of Black Americans, even at a young age. Black children are more likely to be suspended for the same infringement as their white counterparts — even in preschool — and are more likely to be placed in juvenile detention throughout their schooling. This severely limits their ability to reach higher education, which is already impeded by the history of racism in America, which includes slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The hope that many rely on is the idea that the upcoming generations are more racially accepting and open-minded than people of the previous generations. Although this generation is statistically the most diverse thus far, the reality, as highlighted by this incident, is that whites within upcoming generations may not be as racially accepting as many may have previously thought.

An evaluation of racial stereotype battery in the 2012 American National Election Study shows that 61 percent of white Americans under 30 view whites as more intelligent and hardworking than Black Americans, almost as much as their older counterparts; 64 percent of those 31 and older believe white Americans are more intelligent.

As a community, it’s important to realize that racism still is very much alive today, and that the Civil Rights Movement didn’t end with a happily ever after just because we have a Black president. It includes every instance of racism that occurs in society today and it begins and ends with our actions. Many people have ignored the institutional racism and police brutality prevalent in our time. We should learn from the stories of our past and present, and ask ourselves what we want to tell our grandchildren about.

I hope to be standing on the side of history that speaks for truth and justice. Malcolm X, a once-misunderstood man, said, “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

Rabab Jafri can be reached at rfjafri@umich.edu.

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