Paul R. Lehman, The University of Oklahoma’s SAE video offers a chance for changeMarch 11, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American Indian, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, liberty, life, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: African Americans, America, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, Civil Rights, Confronting Myths, current-events, discrimination, ethnic americans, ethnicity, European Americans, Frats, Obama and American Bigotry, Prejudice, race, Race in America, SAE, SIgma Alpha Epsilon, skin color, skin complexion, social media, social value, The University of Oklahoma, video, white
A recent video of students riding a bus enjoying themselves, laughing, and singing a song was broadcast via social and regular media. The young men singing the song were members of The University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The picture and the entire atmosphere on the bus seemed a fun-filled and joyous occasion, and it was until the words of the song were revealed. The words of the song stated that “There will never be a ‘N’ word in SAE,” and included “You can hang them from a tree.”This song was sung by these young people because they felt safe, secure, and comfortable on a bus that included no African Americans. Why did they believe that singing this song was acceptable? The answer is they were taught this by their parents, schools, and society.
America is and has always been a diverse society, not of races, but of people from different cultures and geographical locations. Generally, American parents teach or tell their children that America is a democratic society that respects the liberties, rights, and freedoms of all people. However, the actions of the parents contradict the words. Whether conscious or not, children are made to see differences among themselves and others and the focus on group identity begins. As children grow they learn to recognize the benefit of group identity, an identity usually reflected in the family relationships, with other people in school, church, neighbor, and community. So, the young people on the bus reflect a sense of community of like people.
In our schools, children are force to identity with a variety of groups that include social-economical, cultural and ethnic. Rather than focusing on the similarities of the students, emphasis is usually placed on differences which are few and minor. Students learn through social activities as well as curriculum to place social value on individuals. Although they are taught that all people should be treated fairly, the language and social practices underscore the idea of separateness. The concept of many biological races has been debunked for years; yet, teachers continue to use terms such as black, white as if they were legitimate. American history underscores the lack of value places on the lives, value, and contributions made by African Americans as well as other people of color. Teachers and professors cannot teach what they do not know or accept.
Society tells our young people that bigotry is fine as long as they can keep it hidden; just do not put themselves on the spot by blatantly saying or doing anything in public that an be interpreted as biased. The young people of the frat bus thought they were in a protected environment, so they felt as ease in singing their song. In various aspects of society young people are shown that it is fine to discriminate against people of color; they see it in our criminal justice system, our educational and political systems. They are reminded time and again that African Americans have little social value, so denigrating them is perfectly okay as long as one is not exposed. Fortunately, the use of social media has provided an opportunity for all of society to see some of the things that have been happening in private for many years.
The behavior of the young people on that bus can be attributed to their parents, schools, and society. Their actions displayed an ignorance of a democratic sense of humanity and history; a belief in the value of each human being regardless of color, ethnicity, gender, social or economic status. Their actions showed at attitude of arrogance, supremacy, and tribal characteristics such “us versus them.” The first two lines of the song underscore the idea of group or tribal separateness with the understanding that the reason for there not ever being a “n” word in SAE is because of color and social value. Their actions, displayed stupidity. Why would anyone, especially young university students want to sing a song about lynching? Along with an ignorance of history, and an arrogance of privilege and power, these young people forgot about the power of social media. Sometimes the speed of the social media is faster than a speeding bullet as many people have learned to their regret.
Placing the entire blame on the students for their action would be to excuse the parents, schools, and society for their failures in preparing the young people for life in a diverse, democratic, society. We can begin to correct many of these failures by starting with the truth—bigotry was part of the American fabric from its beginning. As a society we have allowed bigotry to continue and grow through systemic creations enforced by laws, and lies. The concept for multiple biological races is false; only one race of human beings exists. Intelligence, character, physical and mental attributes are not based on skin color. The history and struggles of African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans to gain their civil rights have been glossed over and not made relevant to days’ students, just as they were not valued by their parents. So, we arrive at ambiguity and ignorance in many young people; unfortunately, the only regret for some of these young people is the fact that their bigotry was exposed.
The concept of racism is irrelevant in today’s society since only one race actually exists. To call someone a racist is to give approval to their false concept of races. An individual can not be a racist in isolation because the term refers to a group. To ascribe responsibility to an individual accused of ethnic bias, the term is bigot. Young people as well as society in general need to learn and accept the meaning and nature of living in America. Because the changes in society have become more apparent in recent years, the challenge of change makes life difficult for those who prefer the status quo. When any American is discriminated against or denigrated because of some superficial difference, all Americans are impacted because that thinking goes against what we say we believe in and stand for as citizens— life, liberty, freedom, and justice for all.
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Dr. Paul Lehman