Monday, March 09, 2015

Smile, you're on Candid Camera

(and nobody's laughing)

"Frat Boy" isn't a term used in praise or admiration or affection very often and if you went to college where fraternities flourished, you'll know why.  Perhaps you have embarrassing memories. Fortunately for us old folks, none of it is likely to have been recorded for posterity in the days when nobody had a video camera in their pocket.  Boys will be boys you know, and by "boy" I mean drunken irresponsible idiot.

I have no way of knowing whether the SAE brothers at the University of Oklahoma will look back 40 years hence with embarrassment or anger at the day when their fraternity was shut down following the surfacing of a video showing some of them on a bus chanting: “There will never be a n***** in SAE.”  Perhaps that's a self fulfilling prophecy as the University immediately closed the fraternity despite the formal apology by the fraternity.

I never pledged a fraternity although I investigated a number of them, preferring the increased freedom, or license if you prefer, in finding my own housing off campus.  I do clearly remember visiting one frat and hearing the song "There'll never be a Jew in Sigma Nu" which, as you might expect, disappointed me a bit, even though I still suspect the implied anti-semitism wasn't all that deep.  But there were no consequences back then, in the tumultuous early 60's.  There were only short term consequences when some black students ran into similar and worse attitudes in other places, but the repercussions were short lived and involved deep snow drifts and frat boys in their underwear, but I won't elaborate.  The school took no actions I'm aware of.  Of course there were plenty of  fraternities free of such retrograde nonsense and with diverse memberships as I'm sure there are at Oklahoma.

But things are not the same, despite the bizarre assertions by some that Selma changed nothing with regard to racism, our tolerance for it and the consequences of  racially motivated actions. Of course today, conversations about race and many other issues across the political spectrum are dominated by institutions, which seem to demand that we use only certain terminology, accept certain axioms and discuss things only within a certain framework before beginning.  I'm sure someone reading this will already be writing something about how I'm just an old white man and don't understand my privileges -- or copying it from some pamphlet or tract. I'm too old to care, but old enough to remember well when the consequences of  racist epithets and actions were few to none and denigrating jokes were many and frat houses mostly Caucasian.  

Face it, it's better now.  It's a lot better and if progress threatens those who prosper by protesting the lack thereof, perhaps it's time to shut down other fraternities on and off campus.

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