I am sure by now everyone has seen or at least heard of the University of Georgia Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity video of students saying racist remarks. In case you don’t know, a member of the fraternity recorded a video of two TKE member mockingly hitting another fraternity brother with a belt, saying “pick my cotton” — and then calling him a racial slur. The public’s response to the video has been disgust and utter shock, and the video was even played on several national news stations.
When I first saw the video, my first thought was, ‘Great, fraternity guys have done another ignorant and stupid thing again.’ But then, I started to wonder how often these incidents occur. Turns out that other fraternity videos regarding racist remarks have surfaced across the nation. This issue of racism is not confined to a certain geographic area, nor certain universities — It is a product of our political environment as well as our everyday interactions that shape who we are as individuals.
In 2015 at the University of Oklahoma, members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were filmed singing a racist song that involved a racial slur, lynching, slavery and the denial of people of color into that fraternity. The fraternity was suspended, and later, two students who played a ‘leadership role’ in the fraternity were expelled for creating a hostile learning environment. No details as to what the ‘hostile learning environment’ was in that fraternity.
In 2018, Syracuse University in New York suspended the fraternity Theta Tau when a video was made by members of the fraternity showing them using racist and anti-Semitic slurs, mocking gay sex and simulating sexual assault on disabled people.
These videos depict disgusting sentiments that I am sure are held my many people privately — but these were the ones caught on video. Beneath these three instances are opinions held by many people who do not openly express these ideas or who practice these ideas in their everyday actions. So where are young adults learning this?
We do not come into this world hating a certain group of people. We are not born with an inherently elitist attitude. It is a learned behavior. While many factors influence people being racist, it is our parents actions that we perceive from a young age that is later reinforced (or sometimes changed) by the music, movies, literature, politics and societal events that lead to such phenomenon–– and thus such racist fraternity videos posted online.
In response the to video, UGA President Jere Morehead issued a statement to all students expressing his profound disappoint in seeing the video and emphasized UGA’s condemnation of racism. I emailed president Morehead asking for an interview regarding the video but have yet to receive a response.
Another action was taken by the UGA Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. An event was held on Mar. 25 at the Miller Learning Center in which students gathered to have an open discussion on racism and urging others to speak for equality.
Both honest discussions about racism as well as punitive actions taken after a racist event occurs are needed to decrease these events on a massive scale. However, this is only a Band-Aid on a festering wound that needs to be treated by going to the source. We cannot, as a society, blame the family, the music we listen to, the national rhetoric in this highly politicized environment nor the institutions of fraternities singularly for this kind of sentiment.
These factors all work together to reinforce hateful speech and racist actions. We cannot isolate the factors to fix the problem when all of the factors contribute to the problem. To change the events and to change the dialogue, we must start at the sources of racism. Change begins there.