Friday, March 20, 2015

Not just a song

   David Boren was right, of course.  Everybody agrees. 
   At least, that’s what everybody says.  Or we hear everybody saying.
   Yes, Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma and former Oklahoma governor, did the right thing when the video of the members of the campus chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity singing a racist song went online, going viral, of course.  He took immediate action, expelling the students and the chapter from the university.  What’s more, he literally sent the students packing, ordering them out in something like 24 hours and with no assistance in finding other housing.  He also said that he hoped the students would “think long and hard” while vacating the premises about what they did.
   Such swift action, with no days of delay and dawdling, no hemming and hawing, is all too rare these days.  One could practically hear cheering across the nation. 
   But did Boren really do the right thing?  Or did it just make the rest of us feel good? 
   Some lawyers and legal experts are saying the he would have a weak case in court if there was a suit over this termination.  After all, most speech, no matter how vile – yes, even “You can hang him from a tree… There will never be a nigger SAE” sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” as on the video – is protected and lawful in this country. 
   And thank God for that.  It means I can write about how wonderful gay sex is and say that those who oppose gay marriage are hateful bigots, not to mention ignorant.  Sure, some are terribly offended when I do this, but, also, I’m hurt when they say I’ll rot in Hell for
Being turned on by guys.
   But it’s too easy to say that these things shouldn’t be said and that this song shouldn’t be sung.  Just as it’s too easy for the national fraternity office and the students in the video to say they are sorry.  (Or maybe not so easy; the parents of one of the students did the apologizing for him. 
   But the video is not the problem.  The video just means these people got caught.  It just means that that the rest of us can say it shows something bad and also that we’re not in it. Especially when it came out the same weekend that the March on Selma, a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement 50 years ago, was commemorated.   
   The real problem here – and one that is exponentially harder – is that presumably well-educated students at a reputable university were happily singing a song with the N-word and advocating lynching.  The real problem is that there are no doubt people who liked and advocate what the students sang and say that Boren is now the bad guy.  We – everyone, the rest of us – just aren’t hearing them in all the noise we’re making. 
   Why is this song still being sung?  Why are there white people in this country who still hate black people?  That’s the question.   That’s the problem. 
   And this isn’t just some Oklahoma thing.  It isn’t just back-country yokels, even if they got into college.  There was an article in the Los Angeles Times about police officers in San Francisco, that mecca of liberalism, sending each other texts about “niggers” and “faggots.”

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