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The Tainted 'Gentlemen' of Sigma Alpha Epsilon


Sometimes you can't be sure which face is being shown to you. (Photo
by Pikawil)
By Danielle Moodie-Mills
There will never be a n***** SAE", those were the words so cheerfully sang by members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon's University of Oklahoma chapter on their way to "date night." That hateful and scripted chant came from SAE, a fraternity whose creed is the True Gentleman written by John Walter Wayland in 1899:

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…

Yet, there these men are on a bus, singing a song about lynching, to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It." It wasn't just one person singing it, but an entire bus of people, as if it were a dress rehearsal for a KKK retreat.

Contrary to what the Supreme Court may think by gutting the voting rights act -- 'cause you know, we don't really need it anymore -- post-racial we are not. Nope, racism is alive and well and thanks to social media no longer hidden. In just nine-seconds we received that reminder and William Bruce James II, a black member of the fraternity, a sucker punch.

There may not have been a n***** at SAE, but there was indeed at least one black man.

Having grown up in a small town in Oklahoma, Will was used to being the "only one." He may have been used to it but it wasn't something that he wanted. So, then how did he end up pledging SAE?

"A friend of mine had a grandfather that pledged Sigma Alpha Epsilon and he wanted me to go to the house with him to check it out, so I went. I may have been the only black person in the room, but they didn't make me feel that way. There was a feeling of inclusion."

That sense of inclusion faded away yesterday as he watched his fellow SAE brothers sing about lynching. The sadness in his voice was palpable as he talked about the good times he had being Song Chair of the fraternity. "I never heard that song before yesterday. We used to sing songs about symbolism and drinking, it was corny and spirited, this was something else."

He had hoped that his presence would have changed something. Made his brothers think about diversity and stereotypes. "I wouldn't say I was an ambassador, but I did think my presence would shift something, clearly I was wrong."

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