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Racist Okla. Frat Scandal Continues to Unfold, Casting More Doubt on the Progressiveness of Millennials


As the fallout from the disturbing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity video continues at the University of Oklahoma and across the country, the scandal—in addition to causing a rippling effect throughout the college’s community—also serves as a reminder that millennials may not be as progressive as they pose to be.

Following the deaths of unarmed Black men all across the nation at the hands of police officers, there was one sight that instilled hope that perhaps the next generation would lead the country to a future where racial equality was more than just rhetoric in political speeches.

In every city, the crowds of protesters were incredibly diverse.

White youth encouraged their peers to acknowledge their white privilege and come together to discuss how to disband it.

#CrimingWhileWhite allowed hundreds of social media users to reveal how they knew there were two Americas—one for white citizens who are forgiven even as they are caught breaking the law and one for Black citizens who should be fearful of even walking down the street at night.

In the midst of marching together, rallying together and even demanding justice together, however, a troubling reality lies underneath it all. Many of these millennials apparently are still far from progressive and don’t actually embrace the types of policies and changes that could result in equality.

A 2012 study by a Syracuse University professor revealed that many white millennials are “no less prejudice” than the generations that came before them. Many of them, in fact, don’t even believe racism is a serious issue in America anymore.

Many are also opposed to affirmative action, believe discrimination impacts white people just as much as it impacts Black people and believe Black people have just as many opportunities as their white counterparts, according to a report by Al Jazeera.

So as more people from the younger generation view and discuss the disturbing video, they must also realize that marching together, listening to the same music and cheering for the same athletes is not a promise that equality is on the way and diversity will be embraced.

More aggressive action clearly is needed.

In the case of the SAE fraternity members, some changes are already happening.

They may not be on a grand scale, but it’s a sign that leaders are listening to the disgruntled voices of a generation still facing the bleak realities of racism.

Two University of Oklahoma students have been expelled after it appeared that they each played a “leadership role” in the racist SAE chant that sparked widespread outrage. University President David Boren said the school has “zero tolerance for racism and bigotry,” in a message to CNN.

racist chant by OU students “We are not going to tolerate it, we simply can’t,” Boren added. “If I have to take a risk by sending kids home … I will do it.”

The risk Boren references has to do with the legalities behind the matter and defining the line between freedom of speech and attempts to prohibit racial discrimination.

In the aftermath of the scandal, the frat members and their parents have apologized for their actions but downplayed the racist chant as a “mistake” and an alcohol-fueled fiasco.

The parents of student Levi Pettit, Brody and Susan Pettit, said of their son, “He made a horrible mistake and will live with the consequences forever,” USA Today reported. 

“We were as shocked and saddened by this news as anyone,” the Pettit family statement said. “Of course, we are sad for our son, but more importantly, we apologize to the community he has hurt. We would also like to apologize to the entire African American community, University of Oklahoma student body and administration.”

The other expelled student, 19-year-old Parker Rice, offered his “deepest apologies” for his actions and said he is seeking “guidance” to make sure such an incident never happens again. He then added that his actions were “fueled by alcohol.”

When the video surfaced of the group of SAE fraternity members chanting racial slurs, people expressed shock and disappointment in the group’s actions. The fraternity’s own house mother said the scandal was “unbelievable,” and the university’s president promised to take action as the frat members were given a tight deadline to move out of the frat house on campus.

As new developments continued to emerge, however, it was revealed that racism on the OU campus and within the OU branch of the fraternity is anything but unusual. 

Shortly after the fraternity’s 78-year-old house mother spoke up about how disappointed she was seeing the language used in the video, a Vine video of Beauton Gilbow herself using that same racial slur hit the Web.

Gilbow, known as “Mom B,” was seen on video rapping along to a song and repeating the N-word over and over again.

Gilbow laughed and smiled as the camera caught her in the act.

It was a surprising twist considering Gilbow had just spoken with CBS News and insisted that the language the boys used wasn’t something that the SAE fraternity welcomed.

SAE scandalDuring Monday’s interview with CBS News, Gilbow said the chant was “unbelievable” and added “this is not SAE.”

While the OU branch of the fraternity certainly is no representation of the national fraternity as a whole, the entire organization’s troubling past makes the behavior of the OU chapter less shocking.

SAE proudly touts its connection to the Confederacy on its website, and many other branches of the fraternity have been found guilty of participating in racist rituals.

A report by Think Progress revealed that the St. Louis chapter at Washington University was suspended in 2013 after the fraternity sang racial slurs to Black students.

In December 2014, SAE’s Clemson University chapter hosted an offensive “Cripmas” party where guests were encouraged to try to depict gang members by wearing urban attire and flashing faux gang signs.

In 2009, the chapter at Valdosta State University found itself in the midst of controversy for flying a Confederate flag on its front lawn.

These were only a few of the many racially charged incidents that also don’t even mention the organization’s dark history with hazing that has resulted in several student deaths, according to a report by Time.

It is perhaps this racially charged history that kept anyone on the bus from speaking up about the racial slurs.

Based on the frat’s history, it doesn’t seem like racist chants and discrimination were out of the norm for SAE members.

“Somebody should have stood up and said, ‘Hey, we should not say this,’ ” a student by the name of JD Baker told CBS News.

Despite the fraternity’s past of racist actions and discrimination against Black students, OU’s former football coach referred to the boys as “innocent” and defended them against any claims of being racist.

“It hurts me because I got a vested interest in this,” Barry Switzer, who led the Sooners football team to National Championships in 1974, ’75 and ’85 before winning Super Bowl XXX with the Dallas Cowboys, told KWTV-9. “As I said I’m an SAE and I know the kids in this house, I spend some time over here and I know what they’re like. Hey, I wouldn’t put up with that crap either and they don’t either and they don’t believe in it.”

He also insisted that calling the students “bigots” was somehow the equivalent to the racial slurs the students chanted on the bus.

“I understand that supposedly they were called ‘bigots’ that lived in this house? That lived on this campus?… If that happened and that occurred that’s no different than what those kids said on that bus,” Switzer added. “Throw a blanket over these kids that are here and say that they’re bigots? That’s unacceptable.”

It’s yet more proof that diverse protests and other diversified efforts to fight for equality don’t change the type of mindsets that contribute to racism and a general disregard for the Black community.

One student said racial slurs on campus are the norm and that this video isn’t shocking because of its language.

Naome Kadira, the co-director of Unheard, an alliance of Black students organized for change within campus administration and atmosphere on OU’s campus, said her “jaw definitely dropped” when she saw the video because the students were so excited and passionate about the racist chant.

As for the racial slurs, however, Kadira said it’s nothing new.

“It’s not something that’s strange,” Kadira said when an NBC correspondent asked her how common racism was on campus. “So much that for some people in the Black community it’s become a norm.”

She said it’s so often that Black students are “called something you shouldn’t be called” that many of them don’t “bother with it” anymore.

“It’s not anything that’s new,” she added. “It happens. It just has never surfaced this much.”

Students at the University of Oklahoma protest racist comments made by SAE fraternity members.  (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)
Students at the University of Oklahoma protest racist comments made by SAE fraternity members. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

She added that the “fist pumping, the smiling” and the emotion of the frat members was disheartening — to see the group so cheerfully expressing such racist attitudes toward the Black community.

Now that the video has surfaced, however, more members on campus are being made aware of racial issues and are hoping to combat the negative feelings many Black students feel.

Groups of students like the OU football team came together to rally in support of the Black community with a clear message: “Real Sooners are not racist.”

Another group that was at Monday’s rally was from the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a governing body that oversees the school’s nine historically Black Greek organizations.

The president of the NPHC, Christopher Flix, said the video was “disturbing” but also served as a reminder of the “social climate” the Black community is still facing today.

“Stereotypes and discrimination should not be an acceptable part of our socialization, especially in groups that are supposed to stand for familial values,” Flix told The Huffington Post. 

In the midst of the controversy, hip-hop star Waka Flocka Flame took to Instagram to announce that he would no longer be performing at the school in the midst of the controversy.

The “No Hands” rapper said he was “disgusted” with what he saw in the video and said he will not “tolerate” racism.

“Now it’s white, black and brown people at my shows,” he said on Instagram after explaining that he only had Black listeners when he first emerged onto the music scene. “All races partying having a good time and enjoying themselves together peacefully. That’s what Waka Flocka is all about. For that reason I must say I’m disgusted and disappointed in the actions of the SAE fraternity at University of Oklahoma and I will be cancelling my scheduled performance for them next month. Racism is something I will not tolerate.”

He also acknowledged that the entire OU student body doesn’t agree with the feelings that were portrayed in the short video, but still refuses to perform for a group associated with the racial controversy.

“We can’t change history but we damn sure can create our own future #DeathToRacism,” he added.

OU students are doing their best to focus on making change as fallout continues due to the scandal. Students have been successfully raising thousands of dollars for a veteran chef at the university who lost his job because of the scandal.

A cook by the name of Howard, his last name was not provided, has served as the cook for the OU’s SAE chapter for years.

howard SAE cookUnfortunately, this means the chapter’s closing also forced him out of a job.

Students have launched two crowdsourcing campaigns to help Howard out in his time of need.

One page, launched on Indiegogo, admired the chef’s “infectious smile” and chili dogs.

The page insisted that anyone who got to know Howard quickly grew to love him.

“Well, that man is going to walk up to the SAE house tomorrow morning and hear that he no longer has a job,” the Indiegogo page explained. “He is going to learn who he has been working for. And through some cruel twist of fate, he has to lose the job he has held for over a decade. He is going to lose his job because of a bus full of racist kids.”

The Indiegogo campaign hoped to raise $50,000 for Howard and nearly reached the $60,000 mark as of Wednesday morning.

Another crowdsourcing campaign was launched on GoFundMe and is also hoping to raise $50,000 for Howard, although it isn’t having the same amount of success as the previous page with a little more than $12,000 in donations so far.

Dollars and cents aside, both campaigns have the same message for those who are considering donating — the beloved Black chef should not have to suffer because of the disturbing actions of some of the students he used to work for.

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