Sunday, October 20

Submission: SAE incident reflects culture of hatred, racism

A fraternity at the University of Oklahoma, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, is no longer welcome in the OU community after allegations arose that some of its members participated in singing a racist chant on a bus. In a leaked video students can be heard repeatedly singing, “There will never be a (n-word) SAE.”

In a press statement issued Monday, the university’s president David Boren called the participants “disgraceful.” He said that they “misused their free speech in … a reprehensible way,” and that they “violated all that (the university) stand(s) for.”

He continued, “You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves ‘Sooners.’ Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.”

This incident, along with other recent episodes of race-related conflict across the nation, blurs the line between overt and more subtle forms of discrimination. These events raise a crucial question that I believe all of us should be asking: How many incidents like the one at OU will it take before we stop being outraged?

More relevant to UCLA students is the Undergraduate Students Association Council quagmire involving allegations of anti-Semitism in light of insensitive questions raised at the USAC meeting on Feb. 10 regarding the appointment of Rachel Beyda to the USAC Judicial Board. With so much heated debate around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, why were we surprised by the disturbing conflation of Jewish identity and the policies of the state of Israel?

The cultural landscape of the U.S. reflects a rapidly diversifying mix of racial, ethnic and religious groups. Many claim that we live in a post-racial society, but recent research suggests otherwise. In an article published on March 9 in Politico Magazine, Sean McElwee cites Spencer Piston, a professor at Syracuse University, who notes that, “the racial divide dwarfs other divides in policy opinion. Age differences in public opinion are small in comparison to racial differences … (It is) consistent with a long-standing finding in political science.” McElwee summarizes Piston’s analysis of several studies by concluding that, “(white millennials) have the same level of racial stereotypes as their parents.”

This seems to be confirmed by a more dramatic analysis of the consequences of poor race relations. The Department of Justice released a scathing report on the systematic oppression of African Americans in Ferguson, Mo., by virtually every branch of the government and by multiple age groups. Michael Martinez, for CNN, reported that, “It’s only now that federal authorities have documented the institutionalized racism, as part of a civil rights investigation after (the Michael Brown shooting).”

The SAE incident should be understood for what it is – not an egregious anomaly in the daily life of an otherwise peaceful environment of “equal opportunity,” “love” and “(taking) care of each other like family members,” – rather a small but telling representation of a larger culture of hatred that has been inculcated for generations; one that will not go away just because we want it to.

Whatever the solutions to the problems of racial animosity, class antagonism and religious dissension may be, we must begin using vocabulary that accurately reflects the on-the-ground reality of our cultural moment: Racism is still very much alive in the collective unconscious of the American mind. Our surprise at incidents like the racist chanting by OU students is a disingenuous reaction that ignores the deeply rooted history of hate in our country.

Anger toward this type of bigotry should lead us to remember the cultural context that gave birth to it. At the same time, we should be inspired to continue standing with marginalized and underrepresented minorities in this time of great uncertainty.

Heydari is a second-year history student.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • M2000

    If the SAE were the UCLA student government they’d have passed a resolution against racism before they supported it. If they were only white privileged Leftists they’d have gotten away with it….

  • BklynBirny

    So to recap, OU has acted firmly, quickly and correctly to sanction the racist fraternity and the specific individuals involved. UCLA has done basically nothing–the 4 bigots still sit on the student judicial council–and by their inaction excuse such bigotry. Had the word “Jew” been replaced by “Black” or “the n-word” in the council deliberations, you can bet there would have been sanctions or forced-resignations. UCLA’s actions (lack of action) is truly despicable.

  • Tokyotempura

    You ask “How many incidents like the one at OU will it take before we stop being outraged?” Apparently, that day has already arrived in California. Oklahomans have stood up and ejected the bigots from their university, demonstrating the best impulses of American culture and creating a *real* “teaching moment.”

    In contrast, UC’s student bigots still pollute its classrooms and campus — and even more outrageously its judicial council — continuing to distort prior generations’ language of tolerance and community into code-words for hate. We can only take solace in the knowledge that Roth is Swiss-German, and that Haq and her co-conspirators may also not actually be the product of American culture. We seem to be now importing our bigots from other societies with their own much-worse histories of bigotry and genocide. That wasn’t an American problem until we made it our problem by letting them into UCLA.

  • Adam OnWeb

    From the article above: “More relevant to UCLA students is the Undergraduate Students Association Council quagmire involving ALLEGATIONS of anti-Semitism in light of INSENSITIVE QUESTIONS raised at the USAC meeting on Feb. 10 regarding the appointment of Rachel Beyda to the USAC Judicial Board.”

    Allegations??? Insensitive questions???

    Go back and watch the video again. After the question period, Rachel left the room and there was a 40 minute deliberation in which 4 members of student government agreed that though the Rachel was an ideal candidate, they didn’t feel she could be honest and unbiased because she was Jewish. Then they actually acted on their antisemitic beliefs and voted against her.

    Hadn’t a faculty member stepped in to stop what was going on, these 4 would have done damage to Rachel’s academic career. They would’ve intentionally denied her an opportunity to elevate herself and perform in a position of prestige and responsibility that would enhance her resume with future employers. They’re behavior was unethical, immoral and illegal.

    Rachel was Jewish. Those 4 members of the board believe Jews can not be honest and unbiased. Those 4 members of the board would have done damage hadn’t a faculty member stopped it.

    That’s what actually happened.

    It wasn’t merely “insensitive questions”.

    The weak insincere apologies of board members Roth and Haq, their attempts to blame the media, the writer of this article attempting to minimize what actually happened all speaks volumes about the culture of UCLA.

    The administration, faculty and all the students involved in this should be ashamed of what they are doing to the school’s reputation.

  • Adam OnWeb

    “With so much heated debate around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, why were we surprised by the disturbing conflation of Jewish identity and the policies of the state of Israel?”

    This is a truly disgusting, antisemitic comment!

    I ask the writer, with all the genocide and murder taking place in Durfur, Somilia, Libya and Nigeria – why aren’t the African-American’s students at OU conflated with the policies in Africa? Why does this double standard only apply to the Jews and Israel?

    You wouldn’t be surprised if some African-Americans in OU belonged to groups and organizations that had positions on African conflicts – BUT NO ONE WOULD EVER suggest that the racism against African-Americans in Ohio University has ANYTHING to do with Boko-Haram, Durfar or Libya.

    To make such a claim would be outrageous and dishonest. It’s a way to blaming the victim.

    And that’s precisely what you are doing here.

    The Jews in UCLA have EXACTLY as much to do with Israeli policies as the African-Americans in Ohio University have to do with policies in African countries – but the antisemitic culture in UCLA has to find some excuse to continue their discrimination against Jews.

    And wasn’t it the antisemitic canard about Jews having “dual-loyalties” that got UCLA into this mess in the first place?

    Daily Bruin and writer of this article, shame on you for printing this twisted comment!

    • Jason Westerly

      I am a Jewish African American and I will not have you speak for me. Stop. Silence. You will not speak!!! You are a racist pig for thinking that you can speak for me! PIG! YOU WILL NOT SPEAK!!!!! You are forbidden from every posting here again. I hope the university expels you. Filth!!

      • Adam OnWeb

        Relax. I’m certainly not speaking for you. If I didn’t make any sense; if I sounded like an idiot, then I would be speaking for you.

  • SeeThroughYou

    I’ve heard worse chants than that directed towards Jews in public, on campus.

    Amazing how it’s okay to be bigoted against Jews in public but not any other group even in private.

    California’s higher education system is a morally inverted looney bin where the nutters run the asylum.

  • TheIGofSA

    In Oklahoma bigots sang a song and the university acted quickly. At UCLA the bigots acted by voting against a Jew because she was a Jew. That is the only reason and number pro-Islam organization on UCLA supported the bigots….and UCLA did virtually nothing. They passed a resolution with no teeth and no actions. The bigots who attacked, and it was an attack, on the Jewish student received no condemnation and are still holding office, are still students

  • Jenny Librero

    Hey racist SAE bigots and their supporters and enablers! Tired of pesky media coverage every time you drop a racial slur or deny some loser their civil rights? Need a college diploma for that cushy job down the road but can’t resist that unbearable urge to discriminate against traditionally marginalized groups? No worries, UCLA IS the perfect academic environment for you! Take your racist rants straight to our campus where you can spew venom to your heart’s content – as long as you aim it at the Jews.

    When unloading your hostility and contempt on Jewish students at UCLA, you’ll NEVER be plagued with worries of academic consequences, because the administration here have clearly demonstrated that they are completely cool with it! Just follow a few simple rules: include the words “Jewish”, “Israel” or “Zionist” in
    your hate rant and you’re totally covered. You can even take oppressing others to the next level with one of our newest campus pastimes: Depriving Jews of their civil rights. Best part of the deal? You’ll only be paying public school tuition! That’s right – taxpayers in California will be covering part of the cost for you to fulfill your destiny to alienate, belittle and oppress others. Face it, recent events have made it clear you’ll NEVER get a deal like that in Oklahoma.

    Here’s a basic cheat sheet to get you started: Muslim > Black >Gay >Women >Jews. Aim for the bottom of the victimization chain and it’s “kosher” ;-)

    So don’t delay, haters, get to UCLA today — ‘We tolerate Hate’ and everybody is welcome! (except, of course, the Jews).