By Shaun King/ Daily Kos
Money, during a bad economy, doesn’t actually disappear, it just moves around into different hands and different accounts. If a whole segment of America all of a sudden doesn’t have money because of shifts in the economy, it just means that it has shifted to another group, but please understand—that money still exists—just not in your wallet.
Racism is like money. It changes hands. It shape-shifts and finds itself a new carrier, a new account, a new way to express itself in changing times, but it never actually disappears. Suppressed racism is no less real than money in a savings account, but rest assured, suppressed racism always has a way of telling on itself—sometimes in the most despicable, hurtful, and shocking ways.
Before I dig into why a group of white University of Oklahoma college students from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, clad in tuxedos and ball gowns, so giddily chanted about “hanging n*gg*rs from trees” let me clear—racism is dangerous. It’s not funny. It’s not just words. It’s not kids being kids. It’s not playful. This is shit is real and it’s dangerous.
Racism is the fundamental dehumanization of an entire ethnic group. This dehumanization has consequences. When college students on a bus chant about not letting n*gg*rs into their fraternity, but instead “hanging them from trees” it not only reveals the heart of those singing it, it gives us a real clue into how easy and even joyful it is for them to imagine lynching. If we choose to ignore the clues that people give us about how they feel about our humanity, we bear at least some of the weight of the consequences.
Your words reflect your heart and mind. These young people, who loved the chant so much that they committed it to memory, are telling us, in no uncertain terms, what they truly think and feel about black folk. That’s why, when it was discovered that the captain of the Ferguson police department, the sergeant, and the clerk of the courts in Ferguson all engaged in sending outrageously racist emails, that their extreme record of racist treatment of African Americans made that much more sense.
Let’s start from the beginning. No, not the beginning of racism, but let’s make sure we are all on the same page with what has happened at the University of Oklahoma.
This weekend, this video was released showing students, both men and women, excitedly chanting this:
“There will never be a n*gg*r in SAE.
There will never be a n*gg*r in SAE.
You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me
There will never be a n*gg*r in SAE.”
Here’s the same chant, but filmed from a different angle. Notice the young man in the tux telling the person filming it to stop at the end. Notice the excitement? The joy? The fun of it all? Surely you don’t believe they came up with that chant right then on the spot do you?
Of course not. In fact, 27 days ago, people on Reddit were talking about this exact same chant, and stating that it was a required chant to enter the SAE fraternity at the University of Texas. Before this controversy at the University of Oklahoma ever existed, here is how it was recounted in Texas,
For SAE context a few buddies of mine told me their favorite song to sing went-
“There will never be a n*gg*r SAE, there will never be a n*gg*r SAE, Abe set ’em free but they’ll never pledge with me, there will never be a n*gg*r SAE.”
But even before this, SAE had demonstrated a history of racism across the country.
So, what we are talking about here is not some isolated, freestyle racism made up on the go by a group of hateful Mississippi rednecks. This chant has real roots in this fraternity. These are college students, in tuxedos, on their way to corporate America, declaring not only the racial segregation of their fraternity, but their outright hatred for African Americans.
Giddy happiness, by whites, at black pain and misery isn’t a new thing. It’s old, very old. Seeing these young people, with such fun fervor, talk about “lynching n*gg*rs from trees” has roots. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find lynching photos of African Americans without smiling white faces.
The night after their sickening video of their lynching chant was released, a fraternity member defiantly put a Confederate flag in his window—in spite of the reality that Oklahoma was not in the confederacy.
This wasn’t painful for whites, it was a damn celebration. Bring the kids, bring your girlfriend, smell the death in the air, strike a pose, and take a photo of this joyous occasion. If you can stand it, you will find an overwhelmingly happy face in every one of the following photos below.
Why are they smiling? What’s making this moment so special for them? I propose to you that what made the same men and women in these photos below so damn happy is the same spirit that makes college students chanting about doing it feel so great about life.
For a moment, in the most carnal way possible, the deep misery of another reminds them of just how privileged they are—and it feels good.