SAEs Confront Racism/Intolerance

The reaction from my SAE brothers has been universal: Embarrassment. Disgust. Betrayal. Our fraternity, the one that graced us with camaraderie and lifelong friendships, was hijacked by a disturbing number of ignorant kids to harbor their bigotry. It is easy for us to find distance.  My brothers and I graduated years ago from Stanford.  These kids attend Oklahoma. We had African-American members. They had none. It is inconceivable to us that they hitched their racist chant to the SAE name, and we all find it deplorable. Yes, finding distance is easy. But a true gentleman does not seek distance from a wrong. We confront it.

First, on behalf of all SAEs across the nation, past and present, we apologize. The actions of our Oklahoma brothers are abhorrent and not representative of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Yet it happened under our roof, so every brother needs to reflect and double efforts to confront all forms of racism, blatant and subtle.

We thank the SAE national leadership and OU President David Boren for taking swift, decisive action to shut down this wayward SAE chapter. We only wish we could have been there to help take our letters off that house.  

The action to date is not adequate as it does nothing to address the core problem. These kids did not become racist through fraternal indoctrination, but rather arrived at the University of Oklahoma as racist kids who unfortunately found support for their views in this SAE chapter.  There is nothing that we can do to reverse what they have learned, but we must attempt to reach out and educate them to assure, at a minimum, that these attitudes do not trickle down to their children. We offer our help and counsel to any of these young SAE brothers – even with the expectation they will ultimately be expelled from the fraternity – and encourage them to reach out for guidance and support.

We also seek to raise money to donate to the University of Oklahoma that can be used in any manner their leadership deems appropriate to help stamp out racism. We suggest the possibility of renovating the former SAE house into an educational center on race-related issues – but our donation comes with no restrictions.  We ask all SAE brothers to give what you can, and to do what you can, so that collectively we can make a positive difference. Every dime collected will be donated to OU.

We know racism is not limited to the OU campus, or to this particular SAE chapter, though it primarily surfaces in subtler forms.  The conduct of these SAEs serves as a sad reminder that racism persists, and as a rallying cry to action. So in addition to our financial donation we each pledge to confront not just racism but social intolerance and chauvinism in all forms.  Certainly there was at least one brother on that bus who wanted to speak up, but a lack of courage kept his mouth zipped. We commit to unzip our mouths in the face of racism and speak our minds. That is the responsibility of any true gentleman, regardless of race, age or creed.
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Christopher Kemper
Portland, OR

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