Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Oklahoma Is Not OK

Well, that escalated quickly: Oklahoma University has banned the chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon from its campus, giving them until Wednesday noon to vacate the campus dorm in which they reside. SAE National headquarters has killed the OU chapter indefinitely. Furthermore, two students have been expelled. This is all due to a video that surfaced in which members of the frat were singing a lovely song about how no African-Americans would ever be allowed in their frat, and they would rather see them hanging from trees dead than to allow them in. There were copious amounts of the N-word being used, and I’m not talking about “Nubian demigod”. I applaud the president of Oklahoma University and the president of the national chapter of SAE for their quick action in this disturbing display of flagrant racism. Thanks to them, there is no more racism in Oklahoma…If this were a vidcast, you would see me rolling my eyes to the point of inducing a coma.

SAE has a long history of racist shenanigans, so we should not be surprised at this discovery. Yes, there are now black members of the fraternity. Just look at their splash page, which now has three real live brown people on it! It is just a Cockerham that they all look like extras from Getty Images. However, SAE was born in 1856 in Antebellum University of Alabama. Of the roughly 400 members at the time, 369 of them joined the Confederate Army, and only 7 joined the Union. In 1982, the chapter at University of Cincinnati suspended members for throwing somewhat of an "anti-MLK" themed party. Throughout the nation over the past two decades, chapters have been suspended or kicked off campuses for hosting blackface/"hood" themed parties. They harassed one of their members at University of Memphis for dating a black woman in 2006, to the point that he quit the frat. Harassment is sort of their thing. They even spread their lack of love to Jewish Students at University of Arizona. Let's also not forget that this chapter in Univeristy of Oklahoma proudly flew the Confederate Flag, in tradition with many of their chapters. If they are going to fly the American Swastika on their lawns, what should one expect from its members?

Oklahoma has a long, rich, violent, shameful history of racism. Do not be fooled by the Indigenous-based name. Before it was a state, Oklahoma was a final destination for the Trail of Tears. Also before it was a state, it was the site of a few battles of the Civil War. Even after the end of the Civil War, slavery was not abolished in so-called “Indian Territory” until 1866, because Oklahoma…Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the state, since they were not actually a state when those things happened. Let’s look at their record for racial harmony AFTER 1907, when they became a state.

Oklahoma was a Jim Crow state, meaning there was established racial segregation. Despite this, a black community in Tulsa thrived on its own, so much so that it was nicknamed “Black Wall Street” due to its economic success and independence. In 1921, whites celebrated Black Wall Street’s prosperity by BURNING IT TO THE GROUND. 35 blocks were destroyed, and over 300 people were killed. They were staunchly Democrat back when the Democrats were the racists, and now they’re the special form of Republican that turns into a werebigot in the light of a full 2-term black president.

In 1995, the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed by a fertilizer bomb hidden in a truck. 168 people died, including 19 children. We all know that Timothy McVeigh was the major culprit in this crime, but we seem to forget that in the initial aftermath, images of Arab residents were flashed on the screen as persons of interest.

On the 2010 November ballot, Question 755 was put to voters for a new amendment to their constitution. It was called the Oklahoma State International and Sharia Law Amendment, and it was a measure to ban Sharia or “international law” from being used when administering court rulings. It was approved by voters. Even though our US Constitution explicitly prohibits ANY religion be considered when administering law, the question was approved with 70% of the vote. With the wording as it was, this meant NO “international” religion could not be considered, including Christianity, which is what the lawmakers claimed to be. This amendment was so racist that the racists who crafted the bill didn’t realize that they were undermining themselves, which is usually what happens with racism. The only religions that are native-born could be considered, so that leaves the beliefs of the indigenous people who were forced to walk to Oklahoma back in the day, The Church of Latter Day Saints, and…Scientology? Xenu would have been proud. Fortunately in 2012, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the amendment due to its egregious unconstitutionality.

Just this year, Oklahoma’s state representative Dan Fisher introduced a bill that would defund the AP US History program, because it did not focus enough on essential documents and figures of US history, and it had too much history on the “bad parts” of our history, like the burning of Black Wall Street, slavery, the Trail of Tears, WWII Japanese internment, etc. Though not explicitly racist, the attempt to gloss over parts of our history usually means glossing over the parts of our history that involved us doing terrible things to brown people. These are facts: a lot of our Founding Fathers, including our first and third Presidents, owned slaves. We fought an enemy that puts some of its citizens in concentration camps, all while we put some of our own citizens in concentration camps. We forced a LOT of people off of their ancestral homelands to make way for our new government, and we broke our promises to them many times. AP History explores that and gives a student a better view of our country. Denying them that opportunity because you don’t like what is said is reprehensible.

And now, over the weekend, on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, this video of OU SAE members popped up. The quick action against the perps was welcome, but let us not act like Oklahoma is now free of bigotry. It wasn’t just those 20 or so bro-dudes singing about hanging “niggers” in lieu of allowing them to join their broternity that was the problem. Oklahoma is Texas’s racist hat…which is saying something. We should not be surprised that this incident happened; we should be surprised that it wasn't documented sooner. I will grant that progress has been made. Their Question 711, which banned same-sex marriage, was struck down in 2014, paving the way for legally recognized marriage for all. Segregation is no longer the law. It is starting to become a tech hub. But like the rest of the country, it has a long way to go. Just as voting in a black president twice does not mark the end of racism, neither does expelling a fraternity of racist drunk idiots. We’ve a long way to go.

...of course, how much can we expect from a state whose license plate proudly pronounces that it’s just “OK”?

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