Recently, Oklahoma University closed down its campus chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon after video surfaced of members gleefully singing a violent and racist chant declaring that there will “never be a n*gger” in the fraternity and suggesting that African-Americans be lynched.
The video, originally leaked by Total Frat Move on Sunday, quickly went viral. As condemnation of the fraternity members and their actions took the internet by storm, OU President David Boren announced on Monday that members of SAE had until midnight Tuesday to vacate the campus in a scathing statement:
“To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. 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.
Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for positions shall contact the Dean of Students.”
By the time Boren made his announcement, that chapter of SAE was no more, in any case, as the national SAE suspended all OU members, vowing to permanently ban those who were responsible for the video.
“Those types of behaviors are not consistent with our values whatsoever,” SAE tweeted shortly after the video surfaced.
But is rampant racism truly inconsistent with Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s values?
Nearly a month ago, the same chant (with minor alterations) was a hot topic on Reddit — same fraternity, different campus. According to commenters, the chant was required to enter the SAE fraternity at the University of Texas:
For SAE context a few buddies of mine told me their favorite song to sing went-
“There will never be a n*gger SAE, there will never be a n*gger SAE, Abe set ‘em free but they’ll never pledge with me, there will never be a n*gger SAE.”
The fraternity boasts its Confederate ties on its national web site:
The fraternity had fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederate States and seven for the Union Army. Seventy-four members of the fraternity lost their lives in the war.
It’s fair to say that SAE is proud of its pro-slavery heritage. In fact, one of its members placed a confederate flag in his window the night after the video surfaced in defiance of the punishments handed down against the chapter.
Washington University’s SAE chapter was suspended in 2013 after members hurled racial slurs at African-American students eating at a dining hall as part of the frat’s rush event. According to one witness:
“One guy began to recite the lyrics to a rap song (Bitches Ain’t Shit by Dr. Dre) as if it were a slam poem. He was reading the lyrics from his phone. The majority of the group of guys he was with found it funny and some were laughing. One member of the group was videoing the event on his phone. The guys in the group asked the black people in the booth to “show some respect” for the performance. As [redacted] continued to recite the lyrics, he came across the word “nigga” and said it with no hesitation. One of the black students tossed an empty bottle at him in anger only to be told by the group that it was part of the song, so it was okay. The black student replied that it was still offensive and the group apologized half-heartedly.”
The student finally admitted his “performance” was “part of an initiation for Sigma Alpha Epsilon.”
In 2014, Clemson University’s chapter hosted a “Cripmas” party, in which members dressed like racial stereotypes of African-Americans. According to ThinkProgress, the majority of the chapter’s leadership resigned and the chapter “suspended all activity indefinitely” after photos surfaced.
Back to Oklahoma — A recently-surfaced video shows a SAE house mom gleefully saying “n*gger” repeatedly. The woman,identified as Beauton Gilbow, recently said she was “in shock” that the fraternity members would sing such a racist song. “I wouldn’t put up with that crap, and they don’t either, and they don’t believe in it,” she told News 9.
But, of course, this video says otherwise:
And then there was that time SAE actually killed a black man. George Desdunes, 19, was found unconscious on a couch at the Ithica chapter of SAE in 2011. Desdunes, discovered by a housekeeper, was bound with zip ties and duct tape.
The victim was reportedly taken around campus and quizzed about frat lore. When he got an answer wrong, he was forced to drink. At the time he was discovered, the teen’s blood alcohol content was more than .409 — over five times the legal limit.
Fraternity members claimed that Desdunes drank a copious amount of alcohol prior to his hazing, and that the amount he consumed later was insignificant by comparison, but his roommate disputed that assertion. “I have known George for around two years and have seen him intoxicated,” he said, “and he was not at all last night.”
Shortly after Desdunes and his roommate left the bar, he “hooked up” with a woman he met at a pizza shop. She also said he was not intoxicated when he left her at 2:15 a.m. Shortly afterward, he was “kidnapped” by the pledges.
Three former pledges were charged in Desdunes’ death, but were later acquitted. The fraternity itself was found guilty of hazing, and was forced to pay a fine of $12,000. Cornell’s SAE chapter was disbanded following the death.
While some may say that this is an indictment of hazing rather than the fraternity’s views on race, it is important to note that members of the frat were aware of Desdunes’ condition and chose not to summon medical assistance. They left him there to die. Whether or not he was “hanging from a tree” Desdunes’ death, when viewed in light of the slew of horrific racially-motivated incidents, is essentially a modern lynching. What is the difference between allowing someone to die and outright killing him? Nothing.
Clearly, the rampant racism is not limited to one single chapter of the fraternity. With these and many more incidents under its belt, SAE has no legitimate claim that racism is not national policy.