Let’s see — how many words and phrases can we find in “Sigma Alpha Epsilon”?
It’s a timely question, now that this national college fraternity (SAE for short) is back in the news: It’s taking heat for running its parties on a “White Girls Only” basis.
This won’t help it recover from last March’s viral video of leaders teaching new members to chant “There will never be a n****r in SAE!” (The song then depicts this prohibition as enforceable by lynching.)
✦ “Ahem! Is so appalling.”
✦ “Alas! Impaling hopes.”
✦ “Oi! Appalling shames.”
✦ “Gosh! ‘Animal’ applies.”
✦ “Sham soiling appeal.”
✦ “No! A spillage mishap.”
✦ “O! Aha! Glimpses plain.”
✦ “SAE: Halo am slipping.”
Halo slipping, indeed! We must note, though, that this time SAE isn’t the sole focus of the social-media outcry. Protesters are using the Twitter hashtag #NotJustSAE to highlight similar attitudes and behavior across a wide spectrum of Greek-letter campus organizations.
Last spring, SAE’s national leaders closed their chapter at the University of Oklahoma, where the lynch-song video surfaced. They dismissed it as a local aberration.
Investigators then reported that the racist chant had been promulgated from a national leadership conference, and as a result was being widely used in other SAE chapters.
In the latest firestorm, students of color — and some campus-club insiders — are saying there’s nothing unusual about the attitudes and behavior for which SAE is under scrutiny.
SAE does have current and former members who are African-American. Some of the latter defend it, saying they never sensed ethnic hostility from their fraternity brothers.
Why do such things matter? Because many prominent leaders get social training, cultural conditioning, and lifelong friendships through such school organizations. These folks go on to become judges, politicians, top cops, business executives, media moguls, and other leaders of thought. We need (and they need even more) to care about the formative environments in which they come of age.
So maybe it’s good news that in our era of cell-phone video and viral media, there’s no place left for racism to hide.