I try to start off each Monday morning on an "amazing and productive" foot; well every day for that matter, but I am one of those people who put extra emphasis on Mondays to start my week off "right." But this morning and -- such is life -- sometimes you are thrown a curve ball that makes you duck, but ultimately tests how quickly you can get back up and back on your way.
I was driving to work listening to my usual rotation of Atlanta morning shows attempting to dodge commercials, and landed on V103's Ryan Cameron and Wanda Smith in the Morning in the midst of discussing "some" racist event. I stopped the steering wheel channel surfing and tuned in. Through my speakers I heard the jovial chorus of men singing, "There will never be a ni*** in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a ni*** as SAE."
More contextual information was provided and confirmed this was a video uploaded to YouTube this past Saturday, March 7th 2015, depicting a group of Caucasian University of Oklahoma fraternity member and their dates enjoying themselves at the dare I say disgusting expense of millions on their way to date function.
And just to clarify where my outrage with this lies -- some reports and discussions I have read and heard focus on the use of the "n-word" as reprehensible, yet for me that one term did not stand out from the others, the entire chant is horrifying. Yes, we can have the debate on if this word should be eliminated from use by all, including African Americans, but to me it's the context as well in which the word is used. And in this context "black man, woman, child" could easily be substituted and evoke the same inflammatory response.
I recent participated in a panel discussion in which the moderator proposed a question and asked our [the panelists] thoughts on whether racism and mental health are related. Esteemed Morehouse School of Medicine professor, Dr. Le'Roy Reese accurately pointed out, "Labels affect you. Labels put you in a category and box, and affect your whole being including your mental well-being."
When we as a society allow incidents such as this to persist, we are labeling our young people, especially young African American men in this case and telling them once again you are not allowed a seat at the table and, what's worse, we heckle and laugh and attempt to destroy your dignity and ultimately your humanity.
To the boys, I use boys because I truly hope they grow into better men, I hope they each take some time to personally reflect on their extreme misunderstanding of a group of people that will inevitably interact with throughout their lives in some regard and fashion. And think about African Americans as people, not a funny chant you either started or joined because you thought it was cool; think about the young men who were recently gunned down because of the pervasive thoughts these boys spewed, the civil rights fighters and those who were honored at Selma this past weekend for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday that may question their impact and our societal progress just because of such events like this; and me think of me as I drove to work damn near crying because of what the words meant to me -- that it didn't matter what I accomplished in life, that I am nothing, nothing more than when my ancestor were savagely "strung from a tree".
As a person who normally needs to visually take everything in -- with extreme curiosity I have Googled the most outrageous audio and video clips to "see for myself" -- I chose not to watch this video or hear the audio again. Because even the brief snippet I heard on my drive this morning evoked such hatred in my heart for those who I perceive were spewing hatred toward me, and my precious family and friends, and my future children. I struggled this morning as I find myself doing more frequently of late -- I don't want to carry the burden of hatred that such incidents as this evoke.
On the part of the university and national fraternity I hope this is not a classic "hazing" scenario where the fraternity has disbanded this chapter merely because they got caught. Only time will tell over the next few days if these boys get a swat on the wrist for being video-taped and caught or truly taught a lesson that sadly should have been learned years prior; treat others, ALL others, how you want to be treated.