Let’s talk about your racism problem, Oklahoma

sae-oklahoma

Honestly, you could replace “racism” in that headline with any number of topics: marriage inequality, suppressed women’s rights, regressive educational system, denial of climate change, reckless fracking. Yet while all these issues continue to plague America as a whole, Oklahoma became the country’s poster child for racism yesterday — 50 years after the civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama — after a video surfaced showing Sigma Alpha Epsilon members at the University of Oklahoma reciting a bigoted, hateful, and discriminatory chant. The saddest part? The rest of the country wasn’t at all surprised.

It can be hard to love Oklahoma sometimes. Occasionally I’ll see things that make me optimistic for the future of this state, then something happens — like the racist SAE chant, Inhofe’s snowball, or this asshole — that negates whatever hard-fought progress was made by what sensible people there are in this state, setting us back a good, oh, 100 or so years in the minds of non-Oklahomans. Justified or not, perception is reality, and the reality is that Oklahoma has a racism problem.

Of course, rarely is it as overt as the frat-bro chant. More telling is this response from OU football player Eric Striker, in which he describes how these same SAEs would welcome Striker and his teammates into their house after football games. These guys wouldn’t say such things directly to a person of color; in 2015, racism comes either thinly veiled or veiled in its entirety. And as you can see in this version of the video, a few of these chanting cowards didn’t want to be recorded, giving credence to the notion that some people actually think it’s OK to be a bigot as long as nobody outside your likeminded circle finds out. This kind of casual, insulated racism is more problematic today than the overt kind. It’s definitely more complicated and systemic.

Perhaps even more troubling were some of the responses I saw to the Striker video. “He’s as guilty as the frat morons,” they said, as if to somehow equate Striker’s (warranted) anger to a cheery little ditty about lynching. Others accused Striker of “fighting hate with hate,” because apparently white people are better equipped to tell those on the receiving end of racism how to properly respond. That’s the thing: It’s easy for those who have never been a victim of racism to oversimplify the situation, pretend it’s not really that big of a problem, or that this is really just a small minority reflecting poorly on the state as a whole, which isn’t really that racist. And all of these responses stem from a lack of empathy and understanding — a problematically broad ideal that can be applied to the entire spectrum of equal rights issues.

I hate that when Oklahoma makes national news it’s usually for something reprehensibly stupid — or, in this case, bigoted. OU President David Boren was swift in removing the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter from campus, and his stern words and forceful actions ought to be commended. As should those who voiced their dismay at this morning’s peaceful protest on campus. As should anyone who spoke out through social media or had a conversation with friends or family about the disgraceful degree of hate-fueled racism that was exhibited. Participating in dialogue is the first step toward progress.

But these responses aren’t what make the news. They won’t undo what happened and they won’t repair Oklahoma’s reputation to those who view it as backwoods, ass-backwards flyover country. As a state, we’re great at saying we hate these terrible acts of discrimination, but the discourse usually dissipates over a matter of days and nothing really ever changes. The only path to progress is to create an atmosphere less hospitable to hate and bigotry so that these things don’t happen in the first place. Because, by and large, we don’t have that atmosphere in Oklahoma. Just look at our elected officials, who are setting an example that it’s OK to discriminate, that it’s OK to view people as “others,” as people who are somehow inhuman because they make less money or they have a different sexual preference.

This is a conversation that begins with discourse and ends at the voting booth. People who say or do racist things deserve to be shamed for their words or actions, but shame itself won’t prevent these things from happening. In order to correct centuries-old prejudices, the change needs to be systemic. And unless a broader, more impactful message is communicated to those who run this state, Oklahoma will forever remain a sanctuary for the hateful and narrow-minded.

  • Ryne Kilpatrick

    I keep seeing the argument that the chant isn’t exclusive to OU and was posted to Reddit by University of Texas students a month ago. While that may be true, it excuses nothing. Such a vapid justification reflects nearly as bad as the original video.

  • With you up to a point

    Jackholes will be jackholes. The article is conflating so many things that it is impossible to focus on some kids on a bus (not the entire state, just some losers) doing something they shouldn’t. I mean, the author has taken this “all the way to the voting booth.” What does that mean? Are we to vote the racists out of the state? Vote for use of military force to silence people? What exactly is your plan, Mr. Hale? I have no racist problem, really, is it on me that somebody in a different city does? Is it on the people who run this state?

    Of course not. It is on the racist jackholes. This article is myopic, clumsy banner waving. Do you want discourse, or a convenient soapbox?

    • Matt H.

      Do you want discourse, or to merely assign blame to a tiny group of people and sweep it under the rug?

      I believe the author was making an attempt to analyze what can be done to make the state less hospitable to racists so that this type of thing is less likely to ever happen to begin with. When the official state position on marriage appears to be discriminatory and based on hatred, it’s obvious that this state has a problem. And it’s unwise to sweep it under the rug.

    • Chase

      The part about the voting booth is very important. Just this year alone, there’s something like a dozen bills against the LGBT community in the Oklahoma legislature. Those people were voted into office knowing that those representatives had those views. That bigotry reflects the people of Oklahoma. The author said that Oklahoma has a perception as being bigoted. Racism is also bigotry and it’s accepted in Oklahoma.

  • Brittany Laub

    This single incidence does not reflect on the entire state. This article is such a joke. The chant, shouted by SOME of the SAE boys, is not justification for lumping the University of Oklahoma as an entirely racist campus, or Oklahoma as an entirely racist state. I am not sure what the voting booth has to do with a group of idiot boys, but I do think your biased agenda is clear. You’re writing to shock, to enrage, to drive people–not to inform them. You are painting people as racist, bigoted, and hateful, when they are not. Get over yourself.

  • Shelley Stevenson

    You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You seem to have a need for attention.

  • Okielady

    Whoa whoa whoa! Let’s not categorize all Oklahomans because of the ignorance of a few frat boys who attend a college in Oklahoma!

    • redstukov

      I live in oklahoma. I’m white and I’m going to be a race-traitor here and say that you’re a deep racist coming from stormfront or w/e hate site found this article and posted it for its troll army and are now playing the “know-nothing” game that conservative bigots like you have always used to deflect from being accurately called out for their racism. This kind of trolling you’re doing just shows that you’re little cowards who can’t air their tightly-held racist beliefs in public because of some fauxnews-made persecution complex but will hatefully talk about minorities with your white friends when you’re in your safe white space, which conservative pigs like you are hell bent on destroying for everyone else, wanting very badly to belittle, insult, degrade, humiliate, hate, slander, condescend and bully everyone who doesn’t fit into your conservative fundamentalist christian fascist system. It is a scientific fact that you conservative fascists are more prone to authoritarianism (What on the list that is provided by the link doesn’t sound exactly like your rabid fascist conservativism?) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201502/the-mind-the-authoritarian and larger amygdalas for a fear-based way of thinking that is unreceptive to new information https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201104/conservatives-big-fear-brain-study-finds it is entirely unsurprising that you would each and every one of you go out of your way to make sure to dismiss any criticism with flagrant trollish deflection tactics. You just proved that racism is thriving in oklahoma with this obvious troll camapign of deflection. please go back to your white supremacist site of preference, troll.

  • Martha

    Wow, this article is incredibly narrow minded toward the ENTIRE state of Oklahoma. Who do you think you are to label an entire state based on the actions of a bus full of unloving college boys? Insane logic.

  • katietaylor

    Uh… Not trying to be “that guy,” and I realize native Oklahomans will get offended, but oklahoma is definitely the most racist place I’ve lived. It’s also not very diverse compared to other states, so that could be part of the problem. The first day I moved here my neighbor referred to obama using the “n” word like they used it everyday. I can agree that the writer said this in a rather rude way. It sounds more like a rant directed towards oklahoma, but goodness knows I’ve done the same thing a million times since moving here. We still have something literally called a “sin tax” when buying alcohol products here for crying out loud. We’re really far behind other states. I’m assuming most people getting angry at him haven’t lived anywhere else. I’m glad you personally aren’t racist, and I realize he was generalizing a state you see as home, but anyone who moves here from another state usually picks up on the bad vibes immediately. Regardless of you personally, Oklahoma does have a problem with racism (not saying other states don’t, by the way). It also has a problem with STDs, teen pregnancy, morbid obesity, the highest produce rate in the nation, and poor education. If you see this place as “home,” I’d suggest we focus on potential problems to fix instead of ignoring them because you’re personally offended. Caring about the wellbeing of your state and focusing on a rampant problem to fix like racism is a good thing.

  • Bryson Panas

    I have lived in Oklahoma my whole life. 30 years. I was in a frat at ou. I think it’s people like you, zach hale, and others that have commented on this article that are acting just a Ignorant as the guys in the video. You generalize everyone in Oklahoma as bigoted and inferior, just like the white supremacists do to every other race. You can’t change people by tearing them down. Horrible article. Have fun not getting a real journalism job.

    • redstukov

      I’ve known several frat boys. You are lying, bigoted, pieces of shit just like your seniors trained you to be inbetween having limp biscuits shoved down your well-deserving nazi throat. Fraternities were unanimous in support of apartheid and jim crow and they haven’t changed a day since as the unreconstructed racists you’re defending with your troll deflection have more than amply proved.

  • Adriel Demetric Reynolds

    I lived in OK for 32 years and I didn’t realize how racist and bigoted it was until I moved… TO ARIZONA. Even this state is less discriminatory than Oklahoma. I am a law-abiding citizen who follows the law to the letter (I don’t even speed) and have been pulled over at least 8 times in the last 8 years because of what turned out to be a faulty cause. There are whole sections of the state that I no longer visit alone. And that is from JUST BEING BLACK. I decided to leave when the anti-gay legislature started to be discussed. I moved away when I started feeling unsafe even in the metro areas, and things have gotten decidedly worse since August. What you may not be thinking of is the fact that these guys are the ones who GOT CAUGHT, there’s no telling how many groups and individuals don’t. I’m a strong loyalist and in spite of all of that still love my home state, but it doesn’t keep me from know the truth about it.

  • Easy2120

    Seems like the author’s hate for Oklahomans is the same as the SAE’s hate against people of color. Same song, different verse.

    • redstukov

      This is such a white supremacist troll comment that all I can say is, can you be just a little more intelligent in your deflection. That you white racists feel so emboldened to lie and say that opening a discussion about the racism that is prevalent throughout oklahoma is equivalent to your white fratbros in the video explicitly calling for the murder of blacks for their skin color is a great example of how prevalent white supremacy and its troll deflectors are in oklahoma, which had the largest ku kuck klan membership per capita in the US before their “dissolution” and reintegration into the NRA, which your racist ass undoubtedly belongs to.

      • Easy2120

        Condemning 4 million people in Oklahoma as racists from the action of an 18 year old from Dallas is always productive. Your ignorant post demonstrates quite clearly you are a fool writing incoherent babble that is best suited for the bottom of a bird cage.

        • redstukov

          again, nazi trolls like yourself take time out to deflect that you’re a dipshit racist who spends all his time online airing your bigoted bullshit because you’re too much of a bitch to do it public with your fake persecution complex you little fascist bitch.

  • Ryan

    The ignorance in this article astounded me. I think your missing a broader perspective. Racism and reverse racism isn’t just in Oklahoma, nor is hate. These actions are in all 50 states and every country in the world. Just because a state allows same sex marriage doesn’t mean the everyone in the state is okay with it. I Challenge you to search Google for any state and look for hate crimes that happened in that state, then move to different countries. These actions of the frat boys hardly set us back 100 years, they set us at par to what is happening on a global level. If any “non-Oklahoman” looks down on the state as a whole because of these actions, it doesn’t matter. The problem is with them and there blindness to see what’s happening in their local neighborhoods.

    • John Wright

      Hey dumb dumb, there’s no such thing as “reverse racism”. It’s all just racism, and if you’ve never lived anywhere else I could see how you would believe what you just said. Being someone that was raised in OK, and has lived in 4 other states since graduating high school (as liberal as Chicago, and as conservative as… well Oklahoma) I can tell you that the mentality and what is generally socially acceptable in Oklahoma is very different than more liberal places. Now, if you want to keep Oklahoma, as I like to call it the Christian Afghanistan of the US, the reddest of the red states, by all means sweep this under the rug, and pretend that everyone is doing it. However, that does not mean that it is right or true.

      P.S. These boys didn’t set OK back 100 years, we were already there.

      • Ryan

        I lived in three other state and two providences in Canada. Hate crimes and racism was everywhere. I understand the concept that reverse racism isn’t a real thing because it’s all just racism. Go to the back woods of Alabama and tell me racism doesn’t exist there. I’m sure among the select group of people you hung out with wherever you lived, you didn’t experience it. Doesn’t mean it, it’s not in a liberal place like Chicago.

        • John Wright

          I didn’t say it doesn’t exist in other places. I said that what is socially acceptable in OK is not what is socially acceptable in most other places. If you’ve lived in so many different places you understand that while racism does exist to some degree in every state, it is not as commonplace or accepted as it is in places like Oklahoma and Alabama, for instance. You can’t argue that racism, or any social problem, is just as prevalent anywhere you go. It’s just not true.

  • Aubry Huff

    Racism and Stupidity is everywhere, and especially not confined to Oklahoma. I feel offended by those boys just as much of the rest of the country, but that doesn’t mean that my entire state is a raging ball of racial hate. I’m not trying to excuse racism and stupidity by saying that it’s all over the country, I’m just want to point out that we are BY FAR not the only state that has issues with this.

  • Casey Fowler

    Just because some fraternity member decided to make some racist chant does not mean that Oklahoma is racist. I have lived here my whole life and have never experienced what I saw unfold yesterday. How dare you make that a stereotype for all Oklahomans. This is a great place to live and I, nor other Oklahomans appreciate you trashing the state we call home. What those boys did, what they said was wrong on so many levels and the deserve to be reprimanded for what they did and then some. But categorizing Oklahoma as a racist state? Shame on you.

    • D619

      People who have lived in Oklahoma their whole life do not understand that while yes, racism exists everywhere, the culture in Oklahoma tends to habor the some most hateful and discrimatory behavior. Having lived in multiple states, I find this is true. Also saying you never have experienced it doesn’t mean this is an isolated incident. Being a minority I can say that living Oklahoma was the first time I ever experienced discrimination and have not felt it anywhere else since. I like this article because these negative comments are actually a good representation to everything being said in the article. Those pretending there are no issues and taking offense and disagreement with a journalist writing about the positive steps that need to be done to make the state better are exactly the ones keeping the state back.

    • Chase

      You haven’t seen the racism because I’m assuming you’re white. There’s a lot of people here in Oklahoma who believe that making remarks about blacks or hispanics or whatever is just that, just remarks. They don’t understand that stereotyping Mexicans as drug dealers or Blacks as lazy people on welfare is racism. They don’t understand that opening the door for that white woman but being too busy to do the same for that black woman is racism. The same goes for hiring people. When a hispanic person is looking for a job for 2 years and can’t find a job but then suddenly gets hired when he accidentally made a typo so that his name was Joe instead of Jose, that’s racism. That kind of thing happens all the freaking time in Oklahoma. I know because I live here, I notice it, and I’m white. If I notice it, just how bad do you think it is for the minorities?

    • TJCrimson

      It’s okay man, I’m sure 1930’s era German’s believed the same way, simply because it wasn’t happening to them. Enjoy that blind ignorance and normality clause doe

  • Jace

    I think what a lot of people are missing is association. When you think of OU, around oklahoma at least, you will think of oklahoma. OU, home of the oklahoma sooner, I mean it’s the university of oklahoma. It would be like getting fired from a job for being a racist, or a bigot. You represent a business and get fired for saying some racist shit, it’s because you represent that company. So break it down people. He is not saying all of oklahoma is racist, what he is dying is the actions and association to the state may make people think all of oklahoma is a shithole. Now, breaking it down. OU, as big as college football is, can be considered a representation of oklahoma, so this school is representing our state. And uh..ohh, the racist come out at start saying racist shit, well that frat can be considered a representation of OU, and now that frat , who reps OU and OU reps OK is getting a national head line. So it’s easy to see that DBO kicked them out, because it’s a terrible representation of the school, and because it’s so terrible and making national news, then it’s easy to see how the whole nation can go “oh, well you fucked up oklahoma, you’re all nothing but racists”

    Seriously, if you cant grasp that concept, or what the OP is saying, then you are too dense.

    I lived in OK for 15 years now, the town I lived in had 3 or 4 black people in it, after I graduated and more moved in, people started talking shit about them. I am white, I don’t experience racism, but I can see clearly how someone can say that the perception of oklahoma now is racist, even if it was soiled by only a few ass holes who made national news.

    • Poopoundingisnasty

      You’re right, simple minded people to have a tendency to generalize and stereotype, but those of us with a brain don’t. The fact that this occurred in Oklahoma is irrelevant. There are racists in every state and on any given day, you could catch one on video saying something racist. It had nothing to do with Oklahoma….just the individuals.

  • Poopoundingisnasty

    These guys represent Oklahoma about as much as O.J. Simpson represents the black race. Stop stereotyping and expecting everyone to apologize for the actions of a few. We’re supposed to judge people on their individual actions, remember?

    • Sage

      Thank you

    • redstukov

      These “guys” are the future business and political leaders of oklahoma, with absolute evidence of their guilt. The equivalence you made is only upvoted because unthinking racists, like yourself, posted this article on some white supremacist site like foxnews or stormfront and got all their fellow racist trolls to come and play the deflection game and suggest that because a single famous black person was accused of murder (implying that you think blacks are all murderers) to absolute evidence of open, systemic, unabashed white racism amongst the future blue-blooded nepotistic good ol-boy planter elite that you and the ku kuck klan boys engage in after a few beers in your fume-filled garage. might wanna check your brain cell count there good ol’ boy, but hey, never had that many to begin with so what’s the harm, only another dead fascist 😀

  • Bobby Marcum

    I see the point, but I’d go even further. If we can equate latent, private racism among friends (a thing having a noticeable absence of advocates or proponents) and then claim invisible lines in the shape of our state contain the worst quisling violators, we might be overestimating ourselves. I’d expand “hundreds of years”, a span of time this article uses to bookend the problem of racism, to “Slavery has existed since the beginning of recorded history, and hasn’t been treated as a problem until recently.” Race is a common point of separation betwen oppressors and the oppressed, an unhappy by-product. This is because conquerors USE people they conquer, rarely humanely. Our vice of mistreating fellow humans and citizens based on their shade or speech, or “racism” is a disease of the mind and sprit, which is much worse than forcing a human to do work while thinking he is fully capable of doing it-whether it is digging or cooking, or playing music, or serving as an architect. We believe an unfortunate idea. We are tolerant of things we happen to like ourselves, and it extends beyond race. Reflect for a few minutes on the fact that our government divides us on paperwork through “ethnicity”, “sex”, “gender”, “income”, and “race” before we can even participate in a public institution. Oklahoma, by striving publicly to appear “not fly-over”, “not ignorant” reveals our recognition we do not live up to our own standards, a trait most of the nation lacks in abundance.

  • Mia

    Boy your all over the place with your editorial. Which makes it more understandable why you sound equally yoked w the stupidity you say you detest. Truly you should give more thought to your narrow minded rant and practice restraint of tongue and pen before you display your own ignorance. This isn’t junior high idiot.

  • David Bohanon

    Too simplistic. These kids were raised in Dallas. Racism isn’t defined by geography but by what exists in the hearts and minds of today’s youth.

  • Leslie E.

    The two men who were expelled from OU are from Dallas, Texas. So quit the hate on Oklahoma. There are racists everywhere and Oklahoma has done the right thing concerning these two and the frat.

  • Good lord, people. Nowhere do I say that this is just an Oklahoma problem, or that all Oklahomans are racist. Of course it isn’t, and of course they’re not. But that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.

    Maybe we should talk about your reading comprehension problem instead.

    • “Yet while all these issues continue to plague America as a whole, Oklahoma became the country’s poster child for racism yesterday.”

      “Justified or not, perception [of Oklahoma] is reality, and the reality is that Oklahoma has a racism problem.”

      Please read before commenting. Thanks.

  • Chris Harris
  • Sage

    Yes, because Oklahoma is the only state with a racism problem. /eye roll

  • Anna Wilmoth

    Oklahoma has problems, yes.. but oil compaines come in from all over causing the fracking problem-and when recession was at its worst Oklahomans suffered least bc their economy was strong.. As for the fraternity, yes that’s awful.. but large colleges attract students from all over, and being in a fraternity costs quite a lot-so blaming this on OK when the students were almost definitely from several states-I think its more just a bad look on this faternity. Also-for people from the state to come against this so strong, for so many to be upset over it seems more to say about the people there. The majority of Oklahomans are NOT OU fraternity members. This article is a poorly written piece.

  • disqus_7B2opkTCFs

    This isn’t the only racism that is coursing through the veins of an Oklahoma university, but it is the only thing being discussed. This has yet to make the rounds: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/oklahoma-federal-court-denies-summary-judgment-to-employer-professor-s-allegations-h

  • kim mcnaughton

    one bad apple…. jackass

    • Chris Harris

      Or, a chorus of bad apples, in tuxedos, on a bus. But, y’know, whatevs.

  • tyleormilleor

    http://www.pbs.org/independent

    A very important documentary about how difficult it is to address our own
    underlying prejudices. I won’t say that the psychological testing
    methods are nuanced enough to get at detailed reality, but they do
    suggest that there are biases propagated socially/culturally and then
    internalized and unconscious. These are ultimately beneficial for us not
    to see when we are in the privileged groups. It serves our narrative
    about ourselves. I think it takes a lot of strength to begin looking at
    oneself and I can feel the reactions to this post as an indicator of the emotional reactions that come when one faces these kinds of internal struggles.

  • Eugene Green

    Well!!!! Oklahoma is racist as hell…. I grew up an graduated in OKLAHOMA…. Moved away for 25 years came back married a woman that i went to school with not knowing she had a drug problem an was known for it threw out OKLAHOMA…. Filed for a divorce in CUSTER COUNTY… Woman lied saying i hit her damaged her belonging which is not true… Judge seen that three people told three different stories an still took her side…. Sad part about this is i seen 3 different judges only one was fair… I owned a tire business before i came.. Me an my so called wife went down an got my tools…. Stored them at her parents house that one good judge told her that she better return them…. Went back to the hearing in Custer County a month later with legal papers on my tools plus my D.B.A Jugde told me she didn’t want to see that….. 5000.00 worth of tools ….. Had 2 policeman in there watching me….. Shit man tell me where this shit aint racist… Boss walk up to you a say MASTER DONT BEAT ME NO MORE… OTHER SUPERVISOR CALLS YOU A MONKEY…..

    • Eugene Green

      That was in Custer County Courthouse….

  • redstukov

    thank you very much for writing this much needed article. As you can plainly see the racists gathering up in the comments thread and playing the know-nothing deflection game to hide the fact that most whites in oklahoma are deeply racist. I know, i have literally never met a white oklahoman who doesn’t love to use the n word freely and joyously and i’ve lived here all my life. Don’t be discouraged by the 20 racist trolls or w/e that came here from the daily stormer. oklahoma whites are deeply, deeply racist, even the supposed “liberal” ones. oklahoma is unique in its backwardness, open racism (we literally have a law banning sharia law) and anti-gay bigotry. the nazis attacking you in this thread are the average oklahoman and, if anything, you’re understating the problem. Some of drumpf’s biggest rallies occurred in oklahoma.