When a video of Oklahoma University's SAE chapter gleefully chanting racial slurs surfaced, plenty of people were shocked. Others not so much.
The actions of the brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) may have been shocking, but they aren’t an outlier. Instead, their actions mirror the very real issues surrounding young people, entitlement and racism.
It didn’t take long for the hash-tag #NotJustSAE to devastate Twitter with tales of normalized racism in Greek life and beyond on campuses across the United States.
The list of stories is seemingly endless — from micro-aggressions disguised as affection, discriminatory policies, hateful graffiti in dorms and classroom buildings, minstrel-themed parties and protests (some that were protected by administrators as "free speech.")
Supposedly, millennials are more accepting and diverse than generations before. According to MTV Look Different’s 2014 Bias survey, 89% of the subjects believed that everyone should be treated the same regardless of race.
That same study finds that the majority of millennials think their generation is post-racial, believing that racism is more of a problem for previous generations. Many claim to “not see color” and strive for a color-blind society.
But, saying that we’re post-racial society can lead to an insidious form of racism -- just because no one is proudly defending overt racist behaviors doesn't mean the problem is solved.
"We must engage all overt racist events that transpire in our campuses and in the nation at large, but we cannot afford in the process to miss the everyday, killing me softly-type of racial interactions responsible for the collective standing of people of color," Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Professor of Sociology at Duke University, said on Facebook. "The "new racism," as I have called the Post-Civil Rights Era racial regime, and its accompanying color-blind lullaby, are the main racial dragons we need to slay."
"Color-blind" logic can oversimplify racism as an action instead of a series of oppressive actions, laws, biases and attitudes that lead to inequality. It’s not just something you do, but a system you’re a part of.
According to The Atlantic, fraternity men make up a disproportionate number of United States leadership roles: with 85% of Supreme Court Justices, 63% of presidential cabinet members and 76 percent of U.S. senators belonging to some brotherhood or another. And don’t forget the 85% of fortune 500 executives who also sport Greek letters.
In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, Charles Blow wrote on how important it is to take note of this video and every ugly thing it represents.
“If this trend continues — and there is no indication that it won’t — the boys on that bus and others like them will be tomorrow’s leaders, and the attitudes they carry with them out of school and into the wider world will have a real impact on real people’s lives.”