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A True Gentleman Is Not Racist: A Commentary on SAE at OU

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Just when progress seemed to be making some strides, a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma (OU) reminds us blatant racism continues to thrive. A video was captured showing young men on a bus making racist chants. Two have already been expelled from campus.

Over the past months, incidents in Ferguson and New York stirred an anger that’s been festering. Racism is insidious; it may not always appear in open spaces, but behind closed doors, in nonverbal actions, in disapproving glances, in offhanded remarks, in subtle jokes, racism is felt. Minorities often feel a range of “tolerated, but not accepted” to “outright rejection,” and those feelings spark each protest you watch on the news. There are still Americans who do not feel the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The 50th anniversary of Selma reminds us we all need a gut-check. We all need to search within and ask if we are honoring every single fellow human being.

As a product of fraternity culture, I’m extremely disappointed in the actions of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members at OU. This is a huge step back for an organization built on honor and gentlemanly conduct. There are many SAE brothers across the nation who hold themselves to a higher standard, and many members who are also from other races, cultures, and backgrounds. The creed states:

The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks of frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company; a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.

The true gentleman is not racist. The fraternity members who yelled the rant didn’t conduct themselves from good will, only ill. Their words and actions were divisive, and they sought to make minorities realize they were different and unaccepted because they didn’t fit their mold. There was no humbleness, and where were the men who should’ve humbled the others? The creed speaks of a gentleman not cringing before power, but where were the members who didn’t speak up when they saw an injustice? Their silence enabled racism. Who considered the rights and feelings of the many African American people in our nation who still feel shame because they are born with a different color of skin? Honor and virtue fled, the national fraternity withdrew the charter, and the campus immediately cut ties.

Racism within any organization will lead to its demise because a divided house cannot stand. I come from a chapter that has welcomed every gentleman regardless of race, and as a result, our fraternity has been nationally recognized as one of the top chapters in the nation numerous times.

A gentleman who conducts himself according to the words written above will not allow racism to hold any bearing. Let’s sum it up:

  1. A gentleman’s actions come from good will towards EVERYONE.
  2. A gentleman exhibits self-control.
  3. A gentleman is inclusive and makes sure EVERYONE feels accepted.
  4. A gentleman is humble, but is not afraid to humble another.
  5. A gentleman doesn’t cringe before power, but stands up against injustice even if it costs him.
  6. A gentleman thinks of and fights for the rights and feelings of others.
  7. A gentleman is authentic and welcoming with everyone.
  8. A gentleman honors others.

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