Norman, Oklahoma has been at the center of headlines for the past week. Since Sunday, OU’s President, David Boren, cannot have had a wink of sleep.
Unless you’ve been deprived of the internet the for the last week, you already know that on Sunday night a video was leaked of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma singing a racist chant. In the chant, members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) targeted African-Americans, including a suggestion that lynching was acceptable instead of including black students in their fraternity. You can watch the video here, but fair warning, it’s as NSFW as it gets.
In the wake of protest across the nation, the SAE member seen in the video has issued an apology in a statement sent to the Dallas Morning News.
“I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same,” Rice said in the statement. “On Monday, I withdrew from the university, and sadly, at this moment our family is not able to be in our home because of threatening calls as well as frightening talk on social media.”
“For me, this is a devastating lesson and I am seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again,” Rice said.
Rice said Saturday’s incident was “likely was fueled by alcohol,” but “that’s not an excuse.”
“Yes, the song was taught to us, but that too doesn’t work as an explanation. It’s more important to acknowledge what I did and what I didn’t do. I didn’t say ‘no,'”
The university and national SAE chapters have both issued statements condemning the student’s and their actions. President Boren acted swiftly and immediately shut down the SAE chapter, and vowed that it will remain banned throughout his tenure.
“The is no room for bigots at the University of Oklahoma.” said President Boren, Monday in a nationally televised press conference.
The fraternity chapter has had its’ letters removed from the house and were forced to move out by midnight, Tuesday. While many are calling the actions of the university “swift” and “just”, and undoubtedly the right call of action, the decision did come without criticism.
Clay Travis of Fox Sports called the actions almost hypocritical. Though he did not, by any means, say in his piece that the way OU handled the situation was unfair, he just posed the question wondering why Joe Mixon’s situation wasn’t handled the same way by the university.
Just about every single person applauded his comments and actions, they were strident, powerful, and accurately reflected his distaste for the student’s opinions. The Oklahoma football team staged a protest that was well covered and adorned with praise. This was a positive sports story, Sooner athletes sending the right message about how they wouldn’t tolerate racist comments on a college campus, a place that theoretically exists to expand knowledge and eliminate closeted thinking.
Only here’s my problem with the Oklahoma football team’s stand.
Less than a month ago they allowed Joe Mixon, a talented running back videotaped punching a female student in an off-campus bar, back onto the football team after a year long suspension just from the football team. Yep, Mixon punched a female student and was never even kicked off campus. The punch was so violent that his female victim, a Sooner student, suffered a fractured jaw, a broken cheek bone, a broken nose and a fractured orbital bone near her left eye. Oh, and Mixon also began the incident, according to the complaint, by directing a gay slur at the woman’s male companion at the bar.
As you may remember, Mixon plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge for the assault of a female student last summer. He was suspended from the team for one year, and will return to the lineup this season.
Boren called the article “nonsense”, and stated that the situations were completely different, and unfair to compare.
Former coach, and Sooner legend, Barry Switzer also had his criticisms. He called the punishment of the fraternity unfair. Switzer, an honorary member of SAE, stated in an interview with KOCO News Channel 5, that though the actions were deplorable, it was not fair to punish the entire group for the actions of a few. He later released a statement addressing the issue.
While I support the University of Oklahoma and SAE’s decision to pursue swift actions, this situation is unfortunate for the many innocent people involved. As a long-time supporter of the University and member of the SAE chapter, I know the majority of our students don’t condone or participate in bigotry. These incidents are not a reflection of the true spirit of our campus.
I hope that we can begin to heal the wounds by avoiding rhetoric that fuels the fire and instead spend more time thinking about how we can collectively create positive relationships and interactions among our campus family.
Current Head Coach Bob Stoops simply called the actions “hurtful”, and the Oklahoma football team cancelled practice twice this week in protest. Monday morning the team left the OU training facility wearing all black and walked arm-in-arm as they marched in silence in response to the racist video.
Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker also made headlines when he immediately reacted to the video, and spoke out in protest against the actions of the SAE members in a profanity-laced video on the popular social network medium Snapchat. He immediately apologized for the language used in the message, but he did not stray from the point he was trying to make; that the issue of racism should be addressed at the university.
“I want to apologize if I offended anybody with my curse words. I’m just very hurt. It’s 2015, and this is still happening.” Striker said in an interview with the Daily Oklahoman. “A lot of these kids coming in here don’t know anything about other races. I’ve taken African-American courses with white people, and they’ve had their whole minds changed … I hope this message reaches all across the country, to kids coming up in Little League and on through high school ball. You’re gonna do your thing, but don’t rely on football. You are a human being. You are a person.”
“We need to straighten up and stop using the word. Period.”, Striker continued. “I feel like as a young black person, I’m always looked at as a threat. We intimidate people without them even getting to know us. We all are people. We all get sick. We all have to use the restroom. We are all human beings.”
In the wake of the aftermath, OU has already lost one commitment after four-star recruit Jean Delance told reporters that his decision to decommit came directly after the video was leaked.
“I’ve had family history in racial issues, inequality, and Jean knows these things are serious to us, and the first thing I said was what do you want to do,” Altavian Delance, Jean’s mother, told CBS DFW.
Since the video came to light though, it hasn’t been all bad news on the recruiting trail. The Sooners recently picked a commitment when Adrian Hardy announced that he’ll be taking his talents to Norman.
The full fallout has yet to be seen, but it’s yet another reminder that this country still has a long way to go to end racism for good.
– Cover Photo: OU Football Stand United | Twitter | @OU_Football