U of Oklahoma's stark reminder


Imagine you're the parent of a college-age child. Your son or daughter managed to get accepted into a respectable school and you've pulled together enough money to help pay for it. You’re a proud parent, thinking that years of nurturing and guidance paid off.

Then you turn on the television only to find an image of your child grinning like a fool and chanting horribly racist lyrics. There aren't words to describe the shock and shame.

The video of the fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at University of Oklahoma is another reminder of how racism continues to play a cancerous role in American society. Still, many people see the SAE incident as isolated and unrelated. 

Is there a connection between the flagrant disrespect shown toward the nation’s first African-American president and the barrage of voter identification laws that followed? Is there a connection between the police shooting of an unarmed African-American youth in Ferguson and the recent uproar over the Urban-Suburban program in Spencerport?

These events aren't directly related, but there’s more of a connection than most of us care to admit. Let’s face it, America remains deeply divided when it comes to race. But what makes the frat boys’ 10-second video so compelling is seeing the idealism of American college life so corrupted by hate. How could young people with so many privileges and opportunities behave with so little humanity?

Many people quickly blamed the parents — these views were simply handed down. Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and conservative commentator Bill Kristol blamed the students’ behavior on rap music.

A better explanation can be found in the hateful anonymous online comments we all see on various websites, and the attitudes expressed in coded language around the water cooler. 

When it comes to race, the US isn’t the same country it was 50 years ago. But we also haven’t advanced as far as we sometimes think.