There Will Never Be Another BLACK S-A-E

IMG_2573There will never be another BLACK S-A-E…. I wish there had been one less. 

My former fraternity broke my heart today. A video was posted allegedly showing members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity’s Oklahoma Kappa chapter chanting a disturbing song evoking images of deep hatred and cruelty that we too often choose to ignore happened in our country. To say it was racist is not enough. It hit me in the very core of my soul when I saw the video.

 I know those bus rides well. I was a member of this chapter 14 years ago. The second BLACK MAN to be initiated in those halls. We had our own songs….different songs…but songs we sang on every bus trip to every date party for four years. We didn’t know where the songs came from or who made them up or even what some of them meant, but we sang them so often we all knew them whether we wanted to or not….

So now 14 years later, my “brothers” now sing this song. This is what gets their spirits united for a great night out with their friends and their dates (one of which, thank God exposed this …this). This is what binds them. But I remember what binded us. I remember the True Gentleman. 

The true gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe. 

Good will. Propriety. Self-Control. Honor. Virtue. Sympathy. 

I wanted to be an Omega. All my heroes from television were Omegas. My cousins are Kappas and Alphas. I went S-A-E. My mother wanted to protect her son from … everything and forbid me to pledge anything. I went through two days of rush just to see what was out there. Every house was the same, everyone looked the same, and I was very aware that no one looked like me. But a childhood friend, of mine, Ben, wanted to see the S-A-E house because his Grandfather had been an Alph and my friend hoped to honor him by extending that legacy. I walked in to what was one of the most confusing houses I’ve ever been in. I met two of the nicest, but, whitest guys of all time (still love you Geoff and Mr. Manley) who told me a lot about the house and what they wanted to provide their pledges. They told me what they expected from their pledges. 

They weren’t selling a hedonistic fantasy, and they weren’t trying to say what made them better than the other houses. It was refreshing… Then I got lost…(I said the house was confusing.) I found a room with a pool table, couches and a big screen. I had my rushee’s nametag on my chest and my National Merit/Achiever’s Scholarship, Math and Science nerd look on my face, when I met a Native American fraternity member, a Brazilian (Venezuelen. Forgive me E.P.) fraternity member, and a couple Caucasian members. They saw the look and they ripped into me and everyone else they saw, light heartedly, but they let us know they could care less if any of us there, whatever our race may be, signed with their house or not. We were in their home. Didn’t matter the color. Didn’t matter the country of origin. They were S-A-Es. Whoever you were out there is great, but once you come in here, you are one of us. Phi Alpha! 

I wanted to be an Omega. All my heroes from television are Omegas. My Cousins are Kappas and Alphas. I went S-A-E! The Pledge class had already been assembled. They had already met and gotten acquainted. They had already had official meetings as a pledge class. They were all equally pigmented. Then I showed up. The only BLACK MAN there. I’d be lying if I said race never came up there. But I wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I didn’t say that when race came up it was from a place of genuine inquiry. People wanting to understand a race they hadn’t been exposed to much. And in my own little self-sacrificing way, I wanted to be that for the house. I wanted to be the guy that shattered all those preconceived notions of BLACK MEN; those stereotypes of fear, that I think (it’s just my thought. It doesn’t have to be your truth) lead to our youth not always making it home from the store with their skittles. I knew when I joined that house, that I’d be looked at differently. Why would he want to be in that house? And I knew it would come from both sides. 

I remember hearing people saying things about S-A-E for having a black member. I remember being shoved into a wall at the school gym by some fellow BLACK MEN who swiped the letters on the front of my shirt and said, “Whose house is THAT, brother?!” 

But I held offices. I was member educator. Song chair. I led Scandals, directed U-Sing, directed Home Coming Pep Rallies (some of the Illest still!). I stood out front and said “S-A-E is different!” We can be at the Mountain Top. And we were different….

But it’s been 14 years since I walked in, and there still hasn’t been a third BLACK MAN. I thought we were different. Maybe we weren’t. Maybe I was just being hopeful. But I believed. I believed in S-A-E. I believed in the True Gentlemen. I believed my brothers were my brothers. I believed my son should be their brother if he so chose one day. 

But then I saw that video. I saw that video speaking of lynching me instead of ever letting me sign. Of killing my 4 year legacy instead of ever letting him wear their letters. And then my son saw my face. My sweet innocent sympathetic son saw the pain and anger in my eyes and I had a decision to make: A decision White America will never understand. Do I teach my innocent 4 year old son about pure hatred today, or do I save that innocence one more day? Do I let him keep going a few more days, weeks, months before I have to start preparing him for this? My mother prepared me…I thought she was wrong. I thought we’d be further by now, but look at the news. Forget this one story, just look at the news. My mother prepared me.  God Bless Her. And I will prepare my son, but not today. Today this BLACK MAN gave him a smile and finished eating dinner with him. This BLACK MAN gave him his bath and got him ready for bed in his perfect little world. I will not take that yet. But when I do, I will take S-A-E away as well. I had my time. I have my friends. 

But I can have no association with this organization as a BLACK MAN. I know these were “kids being kids” and maybe they aren’t the hateful ignorant lost little boys I think they are, but I will not stand behind anything that allowed this to happen. They are not just kids being kids. Those boys are sons. Sons of men who failed them, and they failed my son. You Failed ME! Member 261-057. Your boys sang in unison. They may not know where the song came from or who made it up or even what all the words really mean, but they sing it so often they know all the words whether they want to or not. 

I wanted to be an Omega. My heroes from television were all Omegas. My cousins are Kappas and Alphas….I went..S-A-E? Shame on me. But hopefully, there will never be another BLACK S-A-E. 

-William Bruce James, II

161 comments

  1. I have no sympathy for you. There are 5 perfectly good fraternities that were created for YOU. Yet you chose SAE??? And I’ve got news for you. They didn’t just start singing that song. I’m sure they sang it 14 years ago as well. I’m not surprised or shocked by this video at all. You sir are delusional. Save your anger and the pity party.

    1. I’m not sure what the value is in attacking this gentleman. He didn’t sing this song. He is a Black man who they know exists in their ranks and who they disregarded. He is the same as the rest of the Black folks they were targeting in this song. He has every right to be saddened by this and to be angry. And he is a human being deserving of compassion. The sentiment you expressed is plain mean and illogical. That would be like saying, “There are more than 100 HBCUS and you chose OU?” So, if a Black student experiences racism at a predominately White University and they are angry and upset about it, do we say “save your anger and the pity party?” I am glad that he wrote this article to give perspective on the choice he and other people of color make when they pledge these organizations. And I am glad to know that he didn’t explain it away like some other “phony, post-racial, I don’t see color” types.

      1. Thank you for not offering an offensive comeback and choose one based on education and understanding. We need more communication like this. Its not us against the world .

    2. You “Queen B” are definitely someone that has no logic; let alone should call themselves a “Queen”. A queen does NOT step on a KING to prove a point and a Queen must possess the qualities of such title. To add insult to injury and recommend other choices, “good fraternities”, is pointless. Who’s to say that there aren’t questionable practices in the others as well. What if one of these other 5 good fraternities had a hateful song specifically targeted at you “B”? Would that not then make your recommendation look idiotic. Choices are made from a place of good (when in consideration of Fraternity choice). What he found was good at his time and in that place. You can’t take that away.
      I myself am in a Fraternity and believe it is one of the greatest in the world; but unfortunately the young and ignorant have had their share of questionable and stupid practices that has made my dear Fraternity suffer in negative light. But, for you to attack an open womb says a lot about your character “B”. If this is an attitude of one that is in a Sorority, I would never recommend joining because of your poor choice of words and negativity. We should be building one another not beating one another down with zero compassion.

    3. And this is why as he said, he would get it from both sides. How can we expect to be respected by other races when we are still so disrespectful of other’s choices? This man clearly articulated his (logical and well thought out, imo) reasons for choosing the way he did. Yet instead of supporting his right to choose, his black Greek “cousins” can think of nothing to say but “I told you so?” Because segregating ourselves has worked so well for us, up till now!

    4. Wow queen B…its actually really sad reading your comment but its not you thats saddening, its knowing that there is a system in place that perpetuates divide and that its embedded in all the aspects of our lives…like the author of the original post, i hope we are past this when my daughter goes to university…but unlike him i know this is fantasy.

    5. Yikes, my goodness what a harsh response. This man is baring his soul and offering to us his private thoughts so that we may have a look into a the life of a black man at a white frat. I can honestly say I am still open to learning and understanding. You should get some of dat! And this is from a Black Greek woman.

      William Bruce James, thank you. Get a copyright on your story, sounds like it could be a good one. A lot of slings and arrows will come your way, esp. from the Divine Nine community, let it roll right off your back and shake it off.

      Keep ya head up!

    6. So just cuz he’s black he should have joined a black org? Black orgs have major flaws too. MAJOR. And they are not as accepting from campus to campus. Who knows. Maybe he was in comfortable, because we can do that sometimes. Maybe he just wanted to be different. You see he said his mom forbid him to pledge. But he still wanted to belong somewhere. I really wish people would stop it. Tearing him down because he didn’t join a black org is not fair and I wonder if you are Greek Queen B. If so, I am sure you have non blacks in your org. Should they “stick to their own” too?

    7. He’s not asking for sympathy. He’s pouring his heart out and explaining just how much this event has hurt him. So what, there were “five” frats created “for” him. His chose SAE because the brothers there showed him that they were different.

    8. Real classy “Queen B”. Real classy. And yeah, keep up that self-segregation and self-limitation to organizations and activities that are “for black people”. That is some weak a** self-defeating logic but you obviously deem yourself, in your own mind, to be of superior wisdom and insight. Sad that people like you cling to small-minded beliefs and try to tear others down when they do. I’ve gone to predominantly white, private schools since 7th grade, I love snow-boarding, and I love and play ice-hockey among other things, yet I’m comfortable in ALL environments, and more knowledgeable, respectful, and genuinely proud of my black heritage than many black counterparts who stick the black world and and make the most noise over black issues. And in my time, I’ve seen my share of your self-limiting ‘be 2nd class, stay 2nd class’ attitude. And to be clear, its no specific organization (greek or otherwise) that I am saying is 2nd class…it’s the mindset that would wall off the majority of the world and the experiences it holds because they aren’t ‘black activities or organizations’ sanctioned by the self-appointed holders of ‘black culture’ like yourself. Grow up and venture out for a change. It may be less comfortable and, God forbid, you may even run across people of questionable racial outlook or tolerance…regardless you should not allow that possibility to limit your experiences or suggest that others limit theirs. Conversely doing so will reap both personal and collective progress. Perhaps President Obama should have kept it black and stayed in black-only or predominasntly black social circles, gone to an HBCU, limited his exposure and career choices to organizations, professions, and activities created “FOR” him, as you say. And we’d likely still be wondering how many decades or centuries till we see a Black President.

      1. I think moreso she was trying to say dont shun your own people and then when you find out there are racist people out there you come back crying foul. No logical black person ever just calls another black person a sellout because they like skiing or snowboarding or choosing a white fraternity. Its when your mindset becomes that of a white supremacist, knowing full well your blackness is what they hate and you begin to stereotype your own people.

        Why is it that we are the only race who tries to think that if we jusy keep doing what everyone says then they will like us. Sadly its not the case, have you ever listened to the illiterate and ignorant ideologies of racist people. We as black people will never be able to do anything in which people like that will change their views about us. And FYI we are not the only race who does any of these things either, people with a certain agenda just like to broadcast it.

        Should we be hateful? No. Should we be willfully ignorant?No. Should we call eachother out on our double standards and bullshit? Yes. Should we call out “uncle toms” who perpetuate the victimization of our people for their personal gain and are abnormally inclined to cater to white american egos and comfort? Yes. Any real black person can easily understand these things. No Queen B might have been a bit harsh and inconsiderate but she was speaking realities and many times those are hard pills to swallow. Not to say this man was or is any of these things but come on how many times to we as black people have to be shown a certain trait that seems to be inherent in white culture before we distance ourselves and really demand some commentary and conversation in this country regarding race? Thats the place from which Queen B is speaking, we mus take the anger out or our voices wont be heard.

      2. Dwa Har,

        You make a lot of assumptions. You say Queen B was trying to say “don’t shun your own people” yet the writer said nothing of the sort. You say no logical black person calls another a sellout because they like skiing, or snowboarding, or choosing a white fraternity, yet that is ALL the writer did…chose a white fraternity…with no shunning of blacks whatsoever, and her response was what? One of utter rejection and a**holedness. And, BTW, yes, likewise, I’ve experienced first-hand black people who call other blacks sellouts just because of those things activities or associations you list. See those types fill in the blanks with their assumptions…just like Queen B did. The writer was never ever condescending or shunned black people…if anything, he repeated multiple times quite the opposite…yet that was totally ignored by her…and it seems even by you.

        Queen B was not only a bit harsh, she was totally inappropriate and those are not realities that she was speaking to. She was speaking to some imaginary image in her own mind. I understand all the points you raise…about blacks shunning blacks and holding on to hands that hold them down…but the other problem that Queen B is guilty of and which you are being an apologist for is this logic of self-limitation. I’ve seen it too much.

        So what’s it going to be Dwa Har? Are you going to contradict yourself in suggesting that Queen B has a point in her reaction to stuff the author never said or even intimated in any way? If you want to start calling each other out on double standard and bullshit, as you claim, you can start here…instead half-heartedly defending it.

        I’m 43 BTW, though I referenced my school days I’ve seen quite a bit since then…and I still play ice hockey. I in no way wish to tear down Queen B…but I also have no desire to let her bullshit (and that of so many like her) slide.

    9. Excuse me? How dare you say that to him. You clearly do not know the first thing about fraternities. They’re all about brotherhood. You develop a trust in them, a second home. The fact that this happened to him was totally out of his control. And what do you mean by there were other fraternities created “for YOU”? Wake up. This is 2015. Black people shouldn’t only join black fraternities. The simple fact that you have no sympathy at all just shows how delusional you are, yourself. The chant shouldn’t have happened. Take your racist self elsewhere, the world could use a lot less of people like you.

    10. I have no sympathy, no “pity” for Mr. James, either. Mostly because I saw nothing in his remarks that solicited “pity” from anyone, on any count. What I read was a man expressing disappointment in a fraternal organization that he formerly held in esteem, formerly considered his association with that organization to be an honor and a privilege, and now laments all of his earlier judgments of and affiliations with that fraternal organization – due to the their dishonorable, undignified, and downright ignorant behavior. Seems to me he is disappointed. Seems to me he has good reason. Seems to me that any member of that fraternity who is not profoundly disappointed has something profoundly wrong with their value system. That’s just me talkin’.

      What I see in Mr. James is a dignified man making a reasonable statement about where he stands. That action merits respect. He has mine. I wonder, QB, what your disrespect of and contempt for Mr. James says about your value system. Whatever it says, I’m certain it is in no way flattering. However, it’s your problem, not mine. You can have all of it; far be it from me to talk you out of it.

      My “sympathies” are for the University of Oklahoma, that had this dishonor publicly laid at their doorstep, and for the any of the membership of S-A-E that does not stand with those in the video – but instead share Mr. James’ disappointment and embarrassment. My sympathies are for the parents of those kids in the video – sympathy for whatever shame and embarrassment they feel, and for the profound sense of failure they must be experiencing. If, however, they feel none of that, then they are most pitiable, most pitiful. If they feel no shame, then clearly, the apple did not fall far from the tree. My sympathies are for they fraternal “brothers” in the video, for their own blindness to how pitiful they are, and for the difficulty of the lessons they are now learning – the lesson that privileges and rights are not the same, the lesson that rights come with attendant responsibilities, the lesson that privileges may be revoked for cause, the lesson that society has a reasonable expectation of accountability, and the lesson of incurring a large debt that will be difficult to repay. Being kicked to the curb by University of Oklahoma in this instance is a life lesson that money cannot buy. But most of all, QB, my sympathy if for you, for your anger, your jaded point of view, for your experiences in life that gave rise to both, and for your prejudice, your bigotry. The most insidious of prejudices are those that we think we are justified in having. Those “righteous” prejudices are the kind that people take to their graves. Those prejudices are like kerosene. My mother once admonished me to never pour kerosene on a fire. I was six years old, but I needed no explanation. She was talking about adding my anger to someone else’s, until it burned out of control. Nothing good can come from righteous anger, or righteous prejudice – nothing good, not now, not ever. It’s a pity you can’t see that.

      As a White Man, I would like to stand with the Black Man who penned the essay above. My grandchildren and his children will be peers in this country. Hopefully, together, Mr. James and I and like-minded people of reason can stand together and give our children and grandchildren the wisdom necessary to weather the storms that approach. It’s important to clarify where we stand, and why. I’d be honored to stand with a person of Mr. James’ insight and reason. If I don’t stand with him, there’s a chance someone might think I stand with those other folks. Society mistakenly thinking that I stand with bigots is something this White Man won’t tolerate – not ever.

    11. You mean like the buses, counters, and schools created just for “us?”
      Hiding from racism isn’t the way to make it go away.
      Separation just breeds fear, ignorance and contempt.

    12. “There are 5 perfectly good fraternities that were created for YOU.”

      Queen B, so now we have a place?!? A cap? A ceiling? I can remember a time when there were neighborhoods/areas that were “created” for us because legally, we couldn’t live in the same communities as white people. Our children were relegated to black-only schools because white people didn’t want our kids learning alongside there. Those schools that were “created” for us were substandard and books years behind those found in white schools. Should we have been happy with the ones that were “created” for us.

      I’m not saying this to imply that white is better because that would be a falsehood. What I am saying is we’ve come to a point in our shared American history where we have more choices in virtually everything, including selecting a fraternity/sorority if you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford college. William made a choice that was the best for him based on what he thought/felt SAE represented and he can’t be faulted for that no more than white/Latino/Asian members of black fraternities/sororities.

      I attended a predominately white university and went to a SAE rush. Those men were some of the BEST and noble men I met on that campus. I decided not to pledge because I wanted to join an organization where community service was the primary objective and the fraternities that were “created” for me just didn’t fit the bill so I pledged Alpha Phi Omega.

      That was a deliberate choice. Another deliberate choice was moving to the same community where the two young men caught on the video chanting this crap live. Former President Bush lives in the same community. While the news these two young men were from our community bugged me, it didn’t surprise me AT ALL because I know my community.

      But I’m not going to move to the “black sections” of Dallas because those are the areas “created” for me. Why? Economics. The black sections have poor schools, less than adequate public infrastructure, high crime, and a ridiculously lack of retail establishments. I know this because I have lived in ALL of them at some point and made a deliberate choice to move where I could actually build the life I felt I deserved. I didn’t have to settle.

      So rather than unleashing this so-called “righteous anger” against William, whose intentions were good and now everything is cloudy, you might want to try a little compassion and empathy for OUR brotha…IJS…

  2. I have empathy for you because although there were fraternities made for you, you chose to venture outside the comforts of the “black world” and that is how progress is made! Your only delusion is that the world is ready to live colorblind as so many claim to be. Sadly most of those kids would boldly claim, “I’m not racist!” Sadly, most of them come from a deep and impenetrable legacy of racism that’s become so commonplace its unrecognizable. I applaud you for venturing out. I applaud you more for denouncing SAE.

    1. Thank you. That fits my sentiments exactly. Someone had to be that first brother to be a brother, and he put his neck out there. I just feel for him.

      1. Phi Alpha brother. I am an alum of Oklahoma Mu at OSU. I have never had such a horrible feeling in my soul as I did when I saw the video. Please don’t let the actions of a few ruin your relationship with all GREAT brothers you have from membership. As you said, you are the man you are today partly because of what you gained as a member. I have a framed copy of the True Gentleman and refer to it daily to help me react accordingly to the issues of life, and I can tell from your writings it is deeply rooted in your life also.
        I just wanted to let you know that there are many brothers out there who do wonderful things in our communities, state and Nation.
        Please don’t allow the wonderful things to be taken from you by an ignorant few.
        Tim Matthews #203-859

  3. This is exactly what I thought about when I first heard about this bus incident. The conversations that Black parents will be forced to have with their children, be it today or some day in the future, after these kids see and hear about these kinds of things. That is what pisses me off this most.

    In everything I’ve seen, heard and read that relates to this whole fiasco, to me what you’ve written here resonates the most. Your new anger and the resulting perspective that you will instill in your son are just additional repercussions of the actions of those pathetic losers on that bus. Your wisdom and integrity are inspiring. Your denunciation of SAE is of course spot on but please don’t lose completely what it was that made you want to venture out and strive for progress.

  4. I am so sorry. I am a Pi Beta Phi alumna and I am an African American. I was the only one in my chapter too. I pledged nearly 20 years ago and I LOVE my Pi Phi sisters. But, Pi Phi was part of the fallout at the University of Alabama a few years ago. I watched as other Pi Phi Alumna successfully kept women of color out. And it was so sad.

    Godly values were the foundation of our fraternities. Many of our traditions are steeped in the Bible. It’s hard to reconcile when our Founders values are not exemplified in our chapters today.

    My comfort is that God knows. He knows our hearts. He will be the final judge. Our job is to be salt and light and to press on. I know your fraternity brothers will not forget you and the path you paved. The men you lived with are different because they met you and grew to love you. And their sons will be better because of it. So, all has not been lost.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective. Thank you for being honest. I’m so sorry your heart is broken.

    1. “Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South…………………………
      ……..The fraternity had fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederate States and seven for the Union Army. Seventy-four members of the fraternity lost their lives in the war.”
      http://www.sae.net/page.aspx?pid=756

      This was taken straight from the History section of SAE’s website…

      Seriously William ???

  5. So proud to read your words. I thought of you as soon as this all surfaced and my heart broke. I hope you find healing through your writing. You are so brave. You probably don’t remember me, I was a goofy Gamma Phi who was a high school friend of “Chief’s”. I thought highly of the SAE’s I knew in the early 2000 classes and still call many my friends. I definitely think of you as one as well. Sorry for your loss. Take care. -L Woods

  6. I am of mother of an OU graduate. I discouraged my son from joining a fraternity because of just this sort of behavior. I am greatful he took my advice. I read today where Barry Switzer more or less excused the bus behavior as a bunch of stupid freshman. I then researched what it is supposed to mean to be a SAE. These men were not stupid freshmen. These men can all read and write and no doubt can define racism. It’s time to take a serious look at ALL fraternities on public school campuses. I mean a real look at them. If it takes undercover pledges, then so be it. I believe this behavior is rampant among college fraternities (and sororities).

    Mr. James, I apologize. I apologize as a mother of an OU graduate. I apologize as a mother of an OU graduate who is as white as white can possibly be. 🙏

  7. Thank you for sharing your story and your anger. I am so sad that the ignorance of some young men at OU has given you second thoughts about your decision 14 years ago. At that time, with those young men, you were making the right choice. In distancing yourself from your fraternity now, you are making the right choice – for you. It’s unfortunate that the SAEs at OU didn’t have the opportunity to meet and learn from you. Learn brotherhood, tolerance of differences, interest in the lives of others and the true meaning of being a man. I hope they learn something from this, but I have the fear it will only feed their ignorance and intolerance. Blame will likely be laid at the feet of the same people who they were so disgustingly critical of. Thank you for raising your son to feel safe and loved a little longer. And I hope in years to come, he doesn’t have to feel the same sadness and anger you are experiencing. Each generation needs to learn from the bad behavior and faults of the previous one and rise above.

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  9. William, I saw you on CNN tonight and my heart broke. I can’t even imagine or wrap my head around such a song as that. It makes me so sad that I think progress is made and then something like this happens. No excuse and I hope you do know that the majority of people would never sing such a song. I know you must love “mom B” but it was extremely insensitive for her to even vocalize those words, even if she was singing a song. I can’t utter that word and I hate to hear the black community use it as well. I’m a 51 year old white woman raised in the South and this whole incident is repulsive to me. Your words of empathy for Rice were an example of a decent, thoughtful young man. I hope he is truly sorry.

  10. I am a white man that was raised by a racist father. My friends have and always been comprised of people who earn my friendship and who I deserve by being a good friend. Race and religion have been acknowledged but never seen. My wife and I have raised him to see the person.

    I am saddened by this event and I feel for you. I could see in your CNN interview that you are deeply saddened by this as you should be.

    I feel worse for our children who should be free from our ignorance. My hope was that my son would never have to experience what I did.

    My only solace is that his introduction into hatred and ignorance was an alien concept that he heard outside of his home.

    Joseph Montanile

  11. William,

    A few questions:
    1) Did you pledge as a freshman, then? If so, you were at OU for 4 years as an SAE member?
    2) Were you treated with respect by your brethren while you were there, or made to feel “tokenized”?
    3) You mentioned that you rode the buses and sang the songs … If the songs were different, did this particular “chant” just go into hiding while you were there, or do you think it crept in afterwards?
    4) How much contact did you have with the chapter after your graduation? By the tone of your article, it feels like you were surprised and disappointed by how much it had changed.

    I’ve been following this story on several levels, and I’m interested to hear more about your perspective on this.

    Thanks for the feedback,
    Sp

  12. Good God William- where to start? After discovering this incident along with the rest of the world, I was dumbstruck- literally flabbergasted. The wind was knocked out of me. Your response has left me in dejected and numb. I too am a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and was also a National Merit student who was drawn to OU by its vision of creating a community of such scholars that would rival the nation’s greatest colleges and universities. Like you I also explored the possibility of joining one of the University’s fraternity organizations and like you, join I did (a house located in South Greek). I was willing and enthusiastic. I too became a leader in my fraternity and graduated with those I will remain friends with for the rest of my life. I too sang songs- mostly degrading other fraternities- on the road to date parties while laughing all the way there and back.

    The difference: I am white.

    I still find it hard to believe the source of this particular stream of hate and ignorance is flowing from any person or group at OU. I am sad, angry and perhaps more embarrassed than I have ever been in my adult life. I graduated some 10 years ago. Our years at OU likely overlapped. While I was a member, our house never had fewer than 2 African American men counted as our members- a number I now realize was pitifully small. We hosted parties with fraternities from the NPHC and the MGC on a regular basis. It felt so diverse even if only by comparison! I always (and proudly) attributed any second thoughts towards my fraternity by others to the fact that we were likely the least affluent on Greek Row. Were there also quiet whispers of our “diversity”? Were our brothers also encountering the same harassment from other “Black Men” and simply kept it hidden from the rest of us? Were they similarly torn? Was I blind? Did I subconsciously ignore bigotry festering before my own eyes? Were we simply fooling ourselves? Soothing small voices buried deep in the back of our conscience so we could sleep at night. One of my closest friends in those days shared my major and happened to be black. Seeing as there were some 50 of us in the graduating class, we were all close but he, I and 3 others formed a very tight nit group. Why did he not speak up? Why did he or my fraternity brothers not say something…anything? I swear, on all that is good and to God I did not know and yet here we are.

    The troubles of my parent’s era were long past. I thought theirs was a time of lessons learned and passed down to a generation (my generation) that saw the ignorance of our forefathers thanks to the light of both history and parents that did not want old pains to curse their children. Yet once again, here we are.

    I feel like I owe you an apology…for what I am not sure. Perhaps for being blind. For not taking into consideration the lack of diversity in the universe the fraternities had created and what that really meant. For not realizing how such isolation could warp its members and make it so easy to impress any idea or act upon the thought process of its participants. For thinking that ethnicity, as a definition, had no place in my young (naïve) world where I thought character, passion and perseverance were the qualities that gave a person their form. For believing that all was right and just, if not in the world or nation, at least in that time at that university- our university. I am so sorry. As so many have stated about this deplorable act, “sorry” is just a word. For now that is all I can actually offer personally to you. I am not the victim here as you are. I cannot imagine the level of personal deception and anger this must instill in you. I pray for you and your son, for my infant daughter, for our families and for their future. For whatever it might be worth, and I by no means believe it can even remotely compare to your experience and that of so many others through this act, I feel as if something has been taken from me. OU has been greatly injured by the act of these few and my experiences at OU continue to define me as an adult. This has tarnished a truly bright and wonderful period of my life and now I question the values and worth of that experience during those years. Was it a paradise built on a foundation of ignorance?

  13. This must have taken you so much to write this about your own organization. I give you all the praise for doing what you did 14 years ago, and doing what you just did. I am a fellow fraternity gentleman myself, I am not SAE, but of a different organization. It hurts me to see other organizations doing this and being so dumb. I would be completely hurt if my organization were to do this 15 years down the line, and we are diverse as they come. Nowadays, you need to be strong and look past and move on. Thank you for your reminder of what a gentleman is supposed to be. Good luck.

  14. Thank you for writing and sharing this. I saw their behavior on the news (where it belongs, exposed and shamed) and a quick Google search using the word Black “instead” brought me here. It perfectly expresses the feelings I–and hopefully many others–have about this kind of malicious hatred and its effects on society, families and individuals. That there -have- been Black SAEs (albeit only two) somehow adds yet another disgusting edge to their words and intentions.

  15. Very powerful message indeed. And for all of those lashing out at ‘Queen B’ and using her ignorant comment as a reason for our race not being respected…please pause for a moment and consider the possibility that the commenter is not even black. White people pose as different races on these type of forums all of the time and their sole purpose is to cause dissent amongst us. There are many individuals within our race who lack respect for one another, but let’s refrain from citing ‘lack of respect’ as a hindrance to the race as a whole. I attend a PWI and get asked all the time why I didn’t choose an HBCU…these questions are not meant to be disrespectful, so we should not jump to conclusions. There is nothing wrong with an inquiring mind wanting to know why he (or anyone) else chose the school, frat, friends, etc. that he did. We all need to relax and focus on the real issue here, which is definitely NOT black people’s lack of respect.

  16. William, I am so sorry for how this group of kids has affected you. But they are not your real brothers. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you. Your brothers are the guys who were with you and knew you at SAE while you were at OU. You know their hearts, and you know they love you. Don’t let these punks who have no connection to you poison your feelings toward your real brothers.

  17. Dear Mr. James II –

    I just happened to catch a few moments of you on CNN and must say I totally agree with you (and Ben Ferguson, too, on this) that the n-word needs to die. I later found my way to your blog and read your testimony. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m glad that most posters here have been supportive; I think you may have indicated elsewhere some former members have also been very supportive. All the best to you and your family.

    Would be honored if you and/or any readers here would check out my poem at:
    http://observergal.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-n-word-needs-to-die.html

  18. Well stated, and I respect the courage it took for you to come forward. I can’t imagine the betrayal you must feel from an organization that calls you “Brother.” But in your piece you stated that by pledging SAE you were able to enlighten your frat brothers about black men, in particular, and help dispel racial stereotypes. You should feel very proud because your decision to pledge into this fraternity was not in vain. No one man can eradicate racism but with more people like yourself, we can continue to make great progress.

  19. William,

    I am sorry that your fraternity has broken your heart and let you down. Something you believed in and loved betrayed you. That is a hurtful thing. Protect your son’s innocence as long as you can, as long as it prudent, but as you know, he too must one day be removed from that innocence byyou telling him, warning him of the hatred and bigotry he will inevitably encounter as a Black Man (person) in America. You must teach him like your mother did, like my parents did for me, in order to strengthen and protect his mind, heart, spirit and his very life. Hopefully, as he becomes a man, these awful truths will be something that no longer persists in the land that we love.

    To Mary Ellen, the event you attended sounds very much like the Old South Weekend or Old South Parade, whatever it is called by respective KA chapters. You see I too went to” a large, southern, football-worshiping school” where this particular order held Old South parades to celebrate the antebellum south and their founders. Where, for many years, they paid little black children from the inner city of our small college town to dress as slaves and cotton pickers and march or ride in wagons behind order members dressed in the regalia of fine Confederate soldiers. Just like UNHEARD is for OU, I was a member and officer of BSU (Black Student Union) at my university and we protested and interrupted their parade. We pulled the children out of the parade. The University banned the parade from ever being held again and sanctioned the organization. We, the black students who protested, refused to let our dignity and that of those poor black children, be crushed by racism and bigotry.

    William and Phillip G., I too went to rush my freshman year at my “large, southern, football-worshiping school” with my white roommate, who didn’t want to go alone.I too was curious at the opportunity of seeing what these organizations were all about.. Oh I was welcomed to some houses (even at SAE), received dirty looks from others, heard hate words from others, given the spill of brotherhood from intake committees, but when it came to time to receive invitations…my roommate receive a few offers..i received none. Not surprising, it was the late 80s..yet it would have been flattering. But.you see William I wanted to be an Alpha. All my heroes from television (and the civil rights movement) were Alphas. My cousins, who i looked up to and admired, are Alphas and Kappas. I went.. I didnt. I never pledged. Sometimes regretfully so, but I am ok with that. Life goes on.

    God bless you my friend. You and the brother,Johnathan Davis, made history and made in-roads at OU in the lives of people you touched as a member of SAE. Be proud of that. Hold on to that. As the Alpha brother above said before…your worked for your letters, they cant take that away from you.

    1. It sounds like we went to a very similar, if not the same school. KA has since stopped the Confederate uniforms, the exploitation of black children, etc at my school, but I’m not sure if the parade is still going on altogether or not – I haven’t been back to the school in the spring to see. While I understand the desire to connect with certain parts of one’s heritage, I feel like unfortunately, the KA’s and SAE’s of the world have done nothing to step forward and say “even if the men who founded our chapter were right about conducting themselves as gentlemen in some respects, bottom line, it was WRONG to own another person. It was WRONG to treat humans as property, to rape women, to separate families, and force said human beings to live in squalor whilst building their own massive fortunes, many of which are still being passed down to heirs today.” If they had truly learned from the evil parts of their history, they’d be partnering with organizations to improve educational opportunities to black students, they’d be working to further diversity beyond a token member or two. As far as I know, SAE’s philanthropy is Children’s Miracle Network, and KA’s is Muscular Dystrophy. I mean, yeah, it’s better than if they had picked an organization benefitting sufferers of sunburns or diseases like Cystic Fibrosis that are predominantly seen in Caucasians, but I see no real learning from the mistakes of the founders and the 369/400 members who fought for the Confederacy. If one seeks to honor their heritage, it seems pretty stupid to ignore the blatant, obvious and glaring dark spots and simply glorify those historical figures. And when one shows off said history as this glittering, magical time, they should be ready to have some backlash.

    2. Wow, thanks for the info on the southern college atmosphere. Parades celebrating the white terrorism??? This country really does have a long way to go. History really needs to be taught about what the antebellum south was all about and this notion of southern “gentlemanly” behavior and southern “delicate” femininity needs to be contrasted with the rape of black slaves (girls as young as 9), 16 hour workdays in the fields and the mass lynching and whipping.

  20. Hold your head up. You have nothing to be ashamed, embarrassed or uncomfortable with. You as a human being tried to put some intelligence into a society rooted in ignorance! All change starts with one brave soul. You did your best and that is what you will tell your family and friends. Never feel anything but pride in your willingness to be that one. If you changed the thinking of only one person there you achieved something important. Focus on that and take pride in it.

  21. This piece rips my heart to shreds. I’ve been a member of a historically black sorority for almost 20 years. The idea of joining a historically white greek-lettered organization never appealed to me but I’ve often marveled at and admired those black men and women who joined HWGLOs. It takes a certain amount of courage and hopefulness to go against the grain. I once spoke with a black member of ZTA who was born and raised in a mostly black, mostly downtrodden inner city. She said she joined ZTA because she felt loved by the sisters, and that the experience would help EVERYBODY grow. Not just her. Everybody. The one black member of ΠKA at my school said the same thing. Growth, fraternal bonds – isn’t that what we all sought in greek life? So to see this video, this trash, this venom is just… Heartbreaking. BUT MANY OF US ARE NOT SURPRISED. This chant wasn’t formulated in 2015,most likely. It stems from GENERATIONS of fear and hatred and reflects what drove many blacks (and Latinos, etc) to create their own orgs. This is 2015; imagine what it was like in the late 1800s and early 1900s. So the next time anyone asks, “Why do you have to have a ‘black’ so-and-so?”, remember this incident. Remember this blog post. My heart goes out to this man, and all like him. Any American who is not enraged by this behavior, should be ashamed.

  22. William,

    I am a Caucasian. I don’t know about Greek life as I never pledged at TCU, but I do know about human compassion. I still hold dear the idea that people should be judged by the content of their hearts – and not the color of their skin, or which gender they are attracted to, or where they came from, or where they’re going. After reading your well-styled, tasteful, and emotional post, I was moved. You are a man among men… As a father myself, I dread the day when my son is exposed to rampant racism which he could use to build walls around him and exclude others. He ‘could’ … but he won’t. I won’t let that happen. I thank you for your words as they have inspired me to be a better human and a better father. From one Dad to another, that’s about as high a compliment as I can give you, my friend. Lots of love from the Hollanders in Texas.

    Garrett

  23. Honestly, I am at a loss for words. I feel sick and disgusted by this entire news story. But sadly, it took someone filming it and sharing it to bring light to something that is there – there for all to see and no one to stand up and say ENOUGH! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! I think watching that video broke my heart because they were celebrating and singing with joy… imagine if the words had been muted. We would have all assumed they were just being kids having a great time and we would have all smiled, thinking about our own college days – yet instead, the words were clear and piercing – racially hate filled words that kill hearts and destroy lives. Hate that makes progress seem fleeting and humanity seem broken.

    Thank you for your courage in speaking up about your experience, but also for being a father that will teach his son that while there is ignorance, racism and sadness in the world – there is still hope and many teachable moments for us all. I am a white Hispanic mother with a daughter in college and this experience has reminded me that we have a long way to go in race relations and the conversations must continue… and pray God that this hurtful experience will result in positive change.

  24. I too found my way here from CNN and applaud you for sharing your reaction to all of this, hard as it must be to talk about. As a fraternity member at Washington State (ATO, ’87) my experience was amazing and went a long way to shaping me as a man. I can tell yours did too. Eastern Washington is a pretty white place but I never experienced any of the kind of racist, bigoted nonsense exhibited in this video. My brothers would have pledged anyone whose attitude we respected and who was doing something good with his life, regardless of skin color. I have no doubt of that. I’m so disappointed in these guys for buying into something that should have repulsed them. You have to wonder how that song got started. It is hard to picture it. It is particularly hard to imagine it being taught as part of pledge education. What kind of a man passes that sort of thing along? There must be a subset of society in general who holds these views against all reason. It is just a shame that this is going to deter some good men and women from joining fraternities and sororities, because of the way this kind of thing makes us all look. Stay strong and please see if you can find a way to continue to tell others about this. We learn from our experiences and many people can learn from you.

  25. Brother William,

    It has been an interesting weekend with the flag lunacy at UC Irvine and the bigoted remarks made from the now closed SAE chapter at University of Oklahoma. I am a proud member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. I was a Founder at UC Irvine and served as Chapter Advisor at both UC Irvine and now UC Riverside. Through my interactions with SAE I met some amazing people and most important my lovely bride of 24 years.

    I think it hard for those that have never experienced Greek life to have any understand the bonds that exist in a Fraternity not a “frat”. They hear and now see only the negative. A day before our national Founders Day a group of ignorant, racists …. have not only hurt SAE but all of those in Greek organizations.

    But this of course hurts at a personal level. I know things have improved since I rushed back in 1985 as the first but fortunately not the last African American in our Chapter. Things have definitely improved since that time because I have been fortunate enough to a variety of Chapters throughout the Country. But we still have a long way to go. I am pleased that our National leadership took such swift action to condemn these actions not only closing the Chapter but expelling the members. However, as a School Board member I participate in expulsion hearings. One thing I often ask students “Was this your first time?” Most often they say YES. My response is that we must be remarkable at our job since almost everyone we catch it was their first time. I don’t believe this is rampant but it is not an isolated incident. As with hazing, sexual abuse, drug/alcohol abuse we must look this evil in the eye and address it as well.

    I saw your interview and what we shared in common is the belief that these words are what SAE is all about:
    “The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

    Clearly every member and every chapter has not achieved the words in this noble prose and the bigots at U of Ok are not even qualified to speak the words. I am sure the pain is greater for you than those of us that are African Americans and SAEs from other Chapters. However I too have been criticized or questioned because of our membership in SAE. I hope that one day instead of denouncing you will be part of making SAE across the Country- True Gentlemen

    Phi Alpha,

    Ben

  26. This is a good dude. I understand the loss that he feels. The bond and love between the brothers of a fraternity is normally unbreakable. I feel as if he obviously didn’t know the history of the fraternity that he pledged to. Which makes it partially his fault. The fact that he obviously shunned predominantly black fraternities in order to join this fraternity has to play on his psyche. But from what I see,;he turned out to be a very good man and that in part is due to his resilience and acceptance of others and the great group of guys that he served with. He shouldn’t be embarrassed nor feel as if he made a mistake. As long as he didn’t join because of negative views towards the black race, I think he made a good decision. And it seems that his brothers were big enough during his time with him to look pass the color of his skin, which is to be commended. During my years at UCF, my fraternity KAY, a predominantly black fraternity was close and held an annual get together with SAE. It was a good time with some great guys. No regrets at all. Stay positive brother.

  27. Thank you for your heartfelt words, Will. You can keep the true values that resonated for you as an undergrad SAE, while you leave behind that institution.

    This is an important conversation, and people in Okla need to keep the conversation going, demanding systemic solutions for systemic racism. We need people of color in faculty and administrative positions at OU and in leadership positions in many (most?) other large organizations throughout this country. Culture change can happen, if people currently in positions of authority will step up and recognize that we ALL benefit from diversity, and we ALL suffer when diversity is given only lip service.

  28. Will, thanks for your words. Very thoughtful, sincere, and moving.

    I won’t dare tell you want you should or should not feel as you are probably feel exactly what you should feel at this point in time and everyone works through that in their own way. While black, I have grown up in predominantly white schools and have had mostly white friends most of my adult life. I never pledged a frat because my school didn’t have any, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up taking a similar path though it’s not 100% guaranteed. Nonetheless, I do know the betrayal of people who are supposed to be your friends…and more often than outright betrayal, I’ve seen the subtle cuts of condescension toward black people with me regarded as “an exception” when the only exception is their stereotypical view of black people. Though over 20 years ago, there are some things that, to this day, embarrasses and angers me to recall. Yet these were supposed to be friends…and sometimes, especially in a predominantly white private school in the 80’s, it seemed like there was not other choice. Either have no white friends or friends who respect you but with an asterisk or qualifier. While I navigated this then, I have seen that over time, things have changed substantially even from the 80’s even if far from perfect. More people, even white people, are more open minded and accepting and there are some that I feel are truly egalitarian.

    More so, I see that there are regional and campus-specific differences and even, as in your case, time-frame differences where this one had the unfortunate situation of regressing since the time you were there. And given the politics of our era (e.g. large racist undercurrent in the Tea Party) combined with regional overlays (e.g. deep red status of OK) I can kind of understand how it may have actually regressed in this case. But I urge you to remember, after your anger subsides, in the same way you have a tapestry of different mindsets thoughts and perspectives among black people on several different issues, I’m sure you know as well, that you have that among white people. I say all that to say that, while you may feel betrayed by SAE and rightfully so, I have seen other articles of black SAE members who were reached out to by their white brothers to express solidarity, respect, and hopefully offer some consolation. I’m not sure if you’ve been on the receiving end of this, but I would hope so eventually. And while there is this resurgence of more overt racism with the election of our nation’s first Black President, the open-mindedness of many white people also enable the election of our first Black President. I would imagine that, statistically, some of those were even SAE members, national or chapter.

    I’m sure you understand these complexities as you intimated them in your original post and I also understand that they can get lost in raw anger. But as you proceed I would respectfully encourage you to remember that as much progress as there is to make, we have made quite a bit of progress. And while you absolutely should teach your kids about hate and evil, please be careful not to saddle them with it to such a degree that they hesitate to branch out as you did and truly explore this great big world that is theirs. Hate will always be there to some degree and branching out and navigating it can provide that much more dexterity in dealing with it in the future. So there are reasons to be angry and reasons to warn your children, but please don’t saddle them with fear-based or comfort-seeking self-limitation. The world is as much their’s (you could argue more so) as it is those guys in the video and nothing…even such ignorant, hateful, or careless attitudes of others…should prevent them from doing whatever they want to do and experiencing whatever they want to experience. If you can resist becoming bitter and self-limiting (admittedly very hard to do) you, your children, or anyone else will be better people for it…far better than the crass people who would have such disregard exemplified by that video. And resist the people who only focus on the negative (every potential article about any potential racial event at any chapter of SAE or any other fraternity) and who employ double standards by not putting things in perspective and by hyping any and every possible racial component. Having had all the experiences I’ve had, while sometimes tempting, I wouldn’t trade any of them for the comforts of a fully-accepting black environment as I’ve benefited from (1) challenging exposure, exploration, and perspective and (2) with these types of issues, I have seen that I can also be much more effective than many other people when “checking” a white person on a race-based subject. As an analogy, it’s the cultural equivalent of being fluently bilingual in a dual language country.

    In my case, this has, been aided by having some white friends who, while not tied by a fraternity, are truly like brothers (and sisters) and whom I’ve witnessed be adamant about not tolerating condescending racial attitudes in their presence even when they did not know I was aware of it. I still on rare occasion have had to cut some friends and affiliates off…the most recent being just about a year ago…but I pick my friends, black, white and otherwise, carefully so those situations are gladly few and far between

    I will add a Facebook message posted by my cousin who was an SAE pledge and ultimately a Sigma Nu brother at a school in California:

    Jimmy: “I was elected a pledge captain of SA£ Fraternity at Cal State LA in 1988. After a brief stint, I resigned due to my commitment with the theater department. The brothers and Alumni were very demanding of excellence but very good to brothers who were leaders in their respective majors. I was drawn to that. I think the incident in Oklahoma is an isolated incident. There were blacks, whites, Mexicans and Asians and we had one hell of a good time together. I subsequently pledged to Sigma Nu.”

    Subsequently, his other friends – black and white – chimed in to fondly recall those SAE parties and their good times.

    I hope this helps blunt and control our anger and I wish you the best in working through this as your anger is totally understandable. I hope this message is received not as me telling you how to live your life or what to teach your kids but in the kind, healing spirit in which it was intended.

    Best,
    Ken P.

  29. Here’s my position on the issue having spent time within the organization. Although I would rather be judged by the content of my character and not as a person of color, society has not always afforded me that opportunity; therefore, as a person of color, I remain a proud member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Today, as I do every day, stand in support my National Fraternity and our valued principles of “The True Gentleman.”

    These actions and unenlightened opinions of the chapter at the center of this National controversy, do not reflect, nor are they representative of those noble virtues bestowed upon me and the over 300,000 members of ΣΑΕ.

    Our southern heritage is not one of racism or racist ideology, but that of a group of like minded intellectuals looking to enhance their college experience via a common bond. This common bond is what we refer to as the ritual and it binds all brothers of ΣΑΕ regardless of race, color or creed.

    I could have pledged one of the divine nine, as they are often referred to but that would not have afforded me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and break down those barriers that continue to facilitate a misunderstanding of other races. Joining one of the divine would amount to separate but equal and I felt integration was the path for me, so ΣΑΕ was the path I chose. Who wouldn’t want to be a True Gentleman? My tenure in ΣΑΕ is an essential element of who I am today and I will forever be indebted to honorable men I will forever call BROTHERS.

    I find the actions of those young individuals to be repulsive, and theirs alone, and in no way should these actions and or opinions be construed as reflective of such a distinguished organization. Shame on them, but remember these individuals are young, easily influenced men who lack the experience and understanding afforded more seasoned adults. This does not in any way excuse their behavior but does shed a little light into how some of them arrived at this disastrous juncture. Universities should be a place where young adult are afforded the opportunity learn and make mistakes without the fear of ending a career before it starts. Let us remember that we are by nature imperfect beings and have all made mistakes in our lives. I’ve made more than my share of them and luckily, I wasn’t executed in the media for these potentially life altering events. As it has been stated, let he who lives without sin cast the first stone.

    Don’t abandon these young individuals completely as that would not be in line with the ideals of the True Gentleman. Some of the loudest voices being heard during this tragic event have, if we examined their lives, have made potentially life altering mistakes, but escaped the prying eye of social media and court of public opinion. We should use this a means to bridge those racial gaps that continue to widen and learn.

    I remain proud of ΣΑΕ and refuse to allow this incident or the shortsighted backlash in the media to tarnish my experience or that of the other honorable members of ΣΑΕ. We, the brothers of ΣΑΕ are proud group and any attempt to state otherwise is an uninformed opinion.

    Today I will proudly wear my ΣΑΕ badge and it won’t be hard to notice as it’s slightly larger than the normal member badge, as I wear the larger badge reserved for the Chapter President or as we call him, Eminent Archon. Yes, I as a person of color, was elected president of my ΣΑΕ chapter in this distinguished national organization, that so many are quick to label as racist.

    How could this be if ΣΑΕ is such a racist fraternity?

    Lastly, to all of those who are now experts on the ΣΑΕ experience and have resorted to calling an entire organization racist, talk to a few real members so that you may understand what the True Gentleman Experience is all about and you just might be surprised.

    Phi Alpha
    Pete
    NMAL92

    1. William Bruce James, God bless you and your family. Keep trying to delay that talk with your son.

      Suga7562, I commend your loyalty and I congratulate you on your position in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization. When you speak of southern heritage, you paint a wonderful image with broad generalizing strokes. Also, the definition of a true gentlemen is a thing of beauty. The problem with this is you’ve white-washed (puns intended) a turbulent time from your southern heritage. SAE was founded in 1856, and it is said that of the nearly 400 members at the start of the Civil War, 369 of them went to fight for the Confederate Army. Alabama, SAE’s birth state boasted that the first of it’s Confederate army personnel killed was a founding member of SAE. This means that at the time SAE decided to become “true gentlemen”, at least 369 like-minded individuals didn’t think you measured up to the three-fifths of a whole person the constitution begrudgingly assigned as your worth.

      Yes, that was all in the past, but there is always something unhealthy about ignoring your past. I would like to see SAE embrace their past and make efforts to repair the present. Take Germany for instance, they did the unthinkable and then some. Instead of white-washing their atrocities, they still continue to profusely apologize every chance they get. They paid reparations to victims. They hold a yearly ceremony to pay tribute to all the victims of WWII. They’ve instituted mechanisms in their government to prevent certain events from happening again. For decades kids were required read a book called, “A Burden of Guilt, A Short German History”. There is just no mistaking an organization that is truly trying to atone. As the saying goes, “If you forget your past, you are doomed to repeat it” . . . and so it goes for SAE. A racist chant to get pumped for a party, A house mom using the N-word, a whole lot of black-face, Confederate flags in rooms, attacking a Jewish fraternity, cripmas (a predominantly black Crips street gang mixed with Christmas), having pledges sing rap songs with racial slurs in public and photographing black student’s reactions, jungle/voodoo parties, . . . all over this country SAE has made one racist mistake after the another.

      If you truly believe in SAE, I challenge you in Daryl Davis fashion, look him up. My challenge is for you to start an SAE charter in a recognized predominantly black university. I could not find one SAE charter in a school recognized as predominantly black. If you can’t do something on that level, then you are the one back dude in a horror flick. Right now you’re in a car full of white folk and your driving out into the middle of nowhere. So naturally you’ll be first one to go and you’ll have no impact on the outcome of the movie.

      The horror movie analogy was a joke, but the challenge is real.

  30. This was a great, touching article and I truly appreciate you baring your soul so openly.Thank you….I am a 62y.o. AKA and I certainly understand your basic human need for belongingness, and your self described nerdiness that perhaps resulted in you feeling more comfortable in that particular setting than in a group of your own. As others have stated African-American Greek orgs have had their fill of issues, including being expelled for abuse of THEIR OWN. At the end of the day those with whom you became friends are and will always be your friends and you don’t have to be active in a group you joined years ago to maintain this friendships and I am living proof of that because I haven’t been active since 1974 but have maintained my friendships with many of my sorors over these many years.

  31. Question: Were you the only black person in this chapter or ever? How did you know that you were only the second? Do you happen to know who was the first black man to pledge?

    I am writing an article on this for my school newsletter and would love some feedback. Thank you so much!

    1. sorry, I just now saw this, so this response is probably too late. I was the second black person in that chapter. I knew I was the second because the first was still a member when I joined. He’s a good friend, Jon Davis. He did a lot of interviews so you can find stuff on him too. There was never a black chapter president at OK Kappa as the other guy replied though. Anyway, I’m sure this is all way too late, but there you go.

  32. Your blog posting has gone viral, my friend. Congratulations. It should only happen to the best of us. This was extremely well written and the power and the sorrow in your prose shines through to the reader. Good luck to you and your family. And, please, allow your son to be as innocent for as long as possible. Because he will be forced to learn about the real world someday, just as you were forced to learn.

  33. Wow. Great message and I loved seeing a REAL perspective on it. The previous (black) president seemed so forgiving when he was on TV. I’m a white female SOONER and the thought that those boys’ act didn’t enrage everyone who saw it sickens me.

    I was an OU Chi-O 14 years ago. I think we did Homecoming with you guys.

  34. My name is Lawrence Ross, author of The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities, and I’m writing a new book about African Americans and college. Could you do me a favor and email me: alpha1906@gmail.com, as I’d like to interview you. Thanks!

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