Tuesday, March 17, 2015

They Just Be Concealing It

"Racism's still alive, they just be concealing it." Pre-Kardashian Kanye West

In college, the worst insult imaginable to me was "frat boy."

Now, I may look like a typical college fraternity member, and I did my fair share of partying in college, so I get it. But the term "frat boy" encapsulates the type of person I've tried my whole life to avoid becoming or even being around: arrogant, entitled, self-important, exclusionary, condescending, and fucking clueless. 

I try not to generalize, but when it comes to fraternities, I'm okay with doing so. Frat boys are the worst.

That's the University of Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE). You've probably heard about or seen the video. Watch it again. Look and listen to the pure joy emanating from these assholes as they talk about excluding blacks from their exclusive club and even lynching them. Bruno Mars doesn't look this happy when he sings Uptown Funk.

The President of UofO immediately expelled two of the students involved, and the national headquarters of SAE closed the UofO chapter. Close the chapter, end the book on racism. Problem solved!

Anybody who thinks this was an isolated incident and doesn't represent a larger issue among SAE, fraternities, and the country as a whole needs a reality check (looking at you, mainstream media). This song was deeply ingrained in these guys. It was taught to them by older frat brothers, not Waka Flocka Flame (if it was a soft "a" instead of the hard "er", that reasoning might have made a little bit of sense).

Don't take it from me, though, take it from one of the first ever (and probably last ever) black SAE members

Or take it from these tweets:

This is the type of shit white people do when they know there are no minorities around. Eddie Murphy called it out 30 years ago on SNL and not much has changed. Thankfully, social media is exposing a lot of people.

I never experienced the level of racism seen in this video (in college anyway) but I went to UConn. Not to say racism didn't or doesn't exist in Connecticut (it most certainly does) but it ain't Oklahoma. There was a chapter of SAE at UConn, though, and they were by far the biggest douchebags of all the frats. In fact, a couple of my friends (who, I just realized, happened to be non-white) were jumped by SAE dickheads one night. A kid threw a sucker-headbutt, 10-12 of his boys jumped in, then they all ran away after 20 seconds.

All frats were dickheads, but these were the King Dicks. They were the main inspiration for EAD (Eat A Dick) the anti-frat my friends and I started. No pledging, no hazing, no fees, no rape, no discrimination; you know, the exact opposite of a typical frat. 

Besides the two kids who were expelled, most of these SAE guys will face no real consequences. They'll still graduate and take over their father's business or go to Wall Street and fuck over all the low-income people they can. They have deep roots and deep pockets, and they eventually become politicians and business leaders.

Oh, and by the way, the two expelled kids are already considering suing the school. Yup, they really learned their lesson.

As always when people say dumb, horrible shit and face consequences, there are cries of "freedom of speech!" from those who don't really understand what that means. These kids weren't arrested right? They're tongues weren't cut out? Ok then. They simply don't get to attend a particular institution because that institution has rules against discrimination and creating a hostile environment.

The one good thing about the video is that it has brought to light the abhorrent racism lying just beneath the surface of so many powerful, historic organizations. Unfortunately, because it's so blatantly racist (except to the kids' parents of course) people call it an isolated incident. This type of racism is an aberration because "racism is on it's last legs." We like to think that we have moved beyond this as a society, but really we have just moved on from talking about it in any serious manner. Racists know that outright racism isn't accepted so they have become better at hiding it. That's the only reason this was so shocking. We all know what fraternities and private clubs are like, we just usually never see it out in the open.

Racism is usually expressed in much more subtle ways these days. Plus, racists have become so adept at dodging charges of racism, that anyone who is called racist is the real victim. You are the real racist if you point out or talk about racism. Most white Americans believe reserve-racism is not only a thing that exists, but is actually worse than racism directed towards minorities. Yes, truly it is the white man who suffers most. We can't even say "n*gger" without getting shit for it!

These are thoughts of actual people. I was convinced for a while that people who say things like this only exist as online trolls or in overly sanctimonious TV specials about racism. Nobody really feels that way, or rather, only a small, very vocal percentage of old people really feel that way. That mentality is dying out with the Baby Boomers. This generation is different! We are accepting of all types! And the younger generation doesn't even have types!

Truly an enlightened generation.

I'm not naive, but I wanted to believe that. I had almost convinced myself things were better (especially in enlightened Connecticut!) when I met a young woman who reinforced my worst beliefs about race relations in America. We were talking about the Coca Cola Super Bowl commercial, in which "America the Beautiful" was performed in Spanish. I didn't give much thought to the commercial, but I was aware of the "national outrage" taking place in certain sectors of the media. I even expected that reaction when I saw the commercial. Some people make a good living off outrage, especially if they are outraged at white people losing their positions of dominance. Still, a part of me believed (or maybe just wanted to believe) that most normal young people didn't really feel that way. Jen proved otherwise. I knew I was in for a treat when she sucked her teeth and called the commercial disgraceful. How dare they have some foreigners singing America the Beautiful in spanish! Half these immigrants are illegal and live off my taxes!

I had to ask myself if I was really talking to a human being or a living parody of an out-of-touch conservative; sort of an unfunny Stephen Colbert with no self-awareness.

Unfortunately, she was all too real. And like most racists, she had no reservations about saying these things because she assumed I would agree, being white and all. The accuracy of that Eddie Murphy sketch is fucking uncanny.

Well, I decided a long time ago that I can't let that shit slide. I stated my opinion, but I'm non-confrontational, so the subject was quickly changed. I'll gladly try to change people's minds on certain issues, but only if they are ready and willing. I don't push my views on others. If you care to hear my views, I'll gladly share them, and we can have a respectful conversation about them.

Respectful is the key word. I've had plenty of encounters go the other way. Because of my views or interests or whatever the hell reasoning idiots use, I've been called wigger--excuse me--w*gger, and n*gger-lover on several occasions. No, I didn't hop in a Delorean back to the 50s, I was actually called n*gger-lover in the 90s-00s. I'm never personally offended at these terms though. They bother me because they imply that there are certain ways of acting defined as "black" that are inherently bad, or that being friends with blacks is bad. Still, these names don't irk me as much as "frat boy" because they say more about the person using the insult than the person being insulted. If a person uses n*gger lover as an insult, you never have to take that person seriously ever again.

When it's something that blatant, or something like the SAE bus chant, it is (or should be) easy to say you want no part of it. It's harder when it's something less aggressively racist, or when it's from someone close to you. Over the years, I've been told by several people close to me that I'm obsessed with race. I only wish I had the comedian Hari Kondabolu's response: "Telling me that I’m obsessed with talking about racism in America is like telling me I’m obsessed with swimming when I’m drowning."

The metaphor works better coming from a person of color, obviously, but just being aware of the realities of institutional racism and discrimination and pointing them out is exhausting. It's an uphill battle and a possible confrontation at all times. Micro-aggressions are everywhere, if you care to look. As Jon Stewart said, you don't need to be singing an "Anti-Negro Spiritual" on camera to be a racist. Maybe your pouring beer at a beerfest and you jumped at the sight of a black man approaching, then jokingly explained, "I thought you had a knife or something!" That's just one small example of a real life micro-aggression I've witnessed recently. Why should I be made to feel uncomfortable if I call out something like that? Why should I feel like I can't speak my mind when I'm the one pushing for equality? Why is it the  bigoted assholes who so openly, so assuredly express their views with no concern for others?

The answer to that question lies within the question itself: they have no concern for others.

These SAE have no concern for anybody but themselves. It's not that hard to take other people's feelings into consideration. This video should make any normal person sick. Hopefully it makes people aware of how rampant this way of thinking is in our country. For those white people who are tired of seeing videos like this (or videos of police killing unarmed minorities) and just want everybody to get over this whole race thing, imagine how minorities feel. It's easy for white people to say we have moved beyond racism, that we are post-racial, because it doesn't affect us as directly. In fact, the structures of racism often benefit us.

However, on a human level, it does affect all of us negatively. Unless we attempt to understand how our conscious and subconscious racism drags down the oppressor, the oppressed, we're never going to make any real progress as a society.

It's important to honestly address this issue. Maybe this video will lead to more open discussion. It's not an easy conversation, but that's exactly why we need to have it. At the very least, let's take the advice of Sly and The Family Stone and stop calling each other names.

I Love You All(Even You, Whitey)...Class Dismissed.

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