Yesterday, Dr. Frances Becque posted a brief essay on her website about the Sigma Alpha Epsilon situation at Oklahoma. I had huge problems with it when I initially read it, but I decided to wait a while before I posted my response. I have immense respect for Dr. Becque’s research and promotion of fraternalism.
However, her essay is a prime example of what I spoke about yesterday on the issue of people of color being able to trust that white people won’t be racist in closed company, among other things. Yesterday, I spoke mainly about the aggressors. Today I will speak about bystanders.
What troubles me most about Dr. Becque’s post is not that she fails to use the word “racism” in the entirety of the post. (What I liked about the response of both SAE and the President of OU is that each was quite clear that the acts we saw on film were racist and bigoted.) No, it doesn’t surprise me at all–I am used to white people, well-meaning and otherwise, removing the “race card” from play even though it’s the only card that’s been dealt.
I suppose I could also be upset that she refuses to label those young men “men” and instead makes an intentional point to call them boys, as though to absolve them from the ownership of their words. (And let’s be clear that it’s not the words that hurt–it’s the environment that the young men perpetuate that hurts their chapter, their campus, and their community. Racism hurts black people, but racism also hurts white people.)
And sure, I could be upset at Dr. Becque’s appeal for calm, to remember that these “boys” are not “monsters.” (One could make a very strong argument that racists are monsters.)
What troubles me the most about her essay is that I’m not troubled at all. It’s just another symptom of white supremacy and patriarchy manifesting itself in the Greek community, perhaps where it spreads most efficiently.
To paraphrase Iyanla Vanzant, let’s call a thing a thing. White men who exist in white spaces that empower them to be racists are monsters. White women who empower those men in those spaces are bigger monsters, because they have the ability as parents to raise them right in the first place, but choose to coddle and protect them, to preserve the very patriarchy that continues to subjugate them.
I have no empathy for racists. It is not my job to fix racism. It is the job of white people to fix racism.
So fix it.
Stop empowering racists. Stop trying to appeal to a sense of calm when your “boys” are the ones in chaos. We will continue to march. We will continue to protest. And we will continue to call racism out where it happens and where it is coddled.