My fellow Americans, please forgive me for not being able to feign any anger at Parker Rice and Levi Pettit. Rice and Pettit were two of the University of Oklahoma (OU) students and members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity who were caught on video tape making racially tinged comments about Blacks and lynching.
As usual, most of the media and most Americans have reacted so emotionally to this incident that no one is having a rational conversation about what happened. The coverage by the media and the discussions by Americans have been overly simplistic and lacking of context.
As someone who lived in Tulsa, OK while attending Oral Roberts University, I am very familiar with OK and its culture. Oklahoma is a very laid back, welcoming state, with periodic issues of hostility towards Blacks in it’s past (the burning down of the Black Wall Street section of Tulsa in 1921).
Two weeks ago a video was released on the internet showing members of SAE using the “N” word (it rhymes with the word “trigger”) when referring to Blacks and making references to hanging Blacks from trees before ever allowing them to join their fraternity.
The fraternity and the students who participated in the video were roundly condemned by most and the president of Oklahoma University, David Boren, quickly suspended the fraternity and summarily expelled both Rice and Pettit from school.
Now, let’s dissect this event and the public’s response, especially within the Black community and see if we can actually have an intelligent, dispassionate discussion of what happened.
Was the video rant by the members of SAE reprehensible? Yes. Did Rice and Pettit deserve to be expelled from school? Not so fast. The video shows a busload of frat members singing the same song. So, should not all the students from the video be expelled? I say yes.
But I must admit, I do like the fact that the president of the university, David Boren made a swift, decisive response to the video; even though I think he should have gone further.
Boren comes from a long line of elected officials in Oklahoma. He served in the state house, as governor of the state, and in the U.S. Senate. He is a conservative Democrat with a reputation for seeking consensus. He is well regarded by those in both political parties and has earned enormous goodwill within the Black community.
So, in many ways, Boren is the perfect person to lead the response to the SAE controversy.
I refuse to engage in the silly arguments of whether what the students said were “racists” or whether the students are “racists.” It is totally irrelevant. We can all agree on the fact that what was said was indefensible and reprehensible. That is all that is relevant.
Black students at OU, members of the Oklahoma Black Caucus, and the state NAACP were emotionally apoplectic about the video.
Students organized all kinds of marches and protests, feigning moral outrage at their fellow Sooner classmates. But, many of these same students who were leading the marches justify their usage of the “N” word. Many have even justified it as a term of endearment when used Black to Black; but it is racist if used by a White. Either it is wrong for all or it is wrong for none. There is no circumstance in which the word should ever be used. Period!
Oklahoma state senator, chairman of the state’s Black Caucus, the only Black female lawmaker, and alumnus of OU, Anastasia Pittman (D-Oklahoma City) has been all over TV denouncing the students who were in the video.
The President of the Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP, Anthony Douglas has been all over the media shown being filled with righteous indignation over this video.
Righteous indignation over this video, really? Really? Excuse me, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
These same students, Oklahoma Black Caucus members, and the Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP has not uttered a word about how Obama is devastating Black colleges and universities with the policies coming out of his Department of Education; not a word about the high unemployment rate in the Black community; not a word about how giving amnesty to 20 million illegals will further exacerbate many of the pathologies negatively impacting the Black community.
Should we ignore what these White students did at OU? Of course not. I am happy to see students engaged in protest over an act of stupidity. But why do these groups give Obama a pass on issues that are more relevant to their lives than a silly video? It’s not an either or proposition; but rather a both and proposition. As Obama is fond of saying, “we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
As it is written, “weak people take strong positions on weak issues.”