One of the reasons I love technology is because it truly levels the playing field in a lot of ways. Yes, access is an issue, but as more people gain access, the ability for people to tell their stories has increased exponentially. There are positives and negatives to that and all of them are being dealt with in some way.
More people telling their stories means that more perspectives are being shared and more people are learning about the diversity that exists within the world and the universality of the human experience. And this is amazing. It’s so wonderful to experience the lives and thoughts of different people being as they are being brought to light.
But with any situation where the light is being shined, darker things can be shown as well as the wonderful things. In this day and age of the 24 hour news cycle, citizen journalism has become an important part of the news equation, much to the chagrin of some trained journalists. But without citizen journalism, we wouldn’t have stories like the ones I’m going to be sharing in my new feature: The Side Eye Report.
Essentially, this is a report that I will put together designed to draw further attention to situations, people and moments that deserve the side eye. Some of them may be funny moments. Others won’t.
The first thing I want to discuss is this video that came out showing members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon singing a song about the type of members that won’t be allowed in their organization. Take a look:
There are a few reasons why this deserves the side eye. Yes, the obvious racism and ignorance are fully deserving of the side eye. Another thing that deserves the side eye is some of the reactions that I’ve heard to this video so far. The national fraternity quickly swooped in and suspended this chapter and the members involved. It also threatened to remove some of the members from the fraternity for good.
That’s great. But I don’t want to be confused about why that happened. This is obviously a song that the members of this particular chapter sing often. It’s not like one guy made it up and the others joined in. The lyrics were being clearly sung with gusto by many people on that bus. So the racism isn’t the why here. The public embarrassment is the why. No one likes their dirty laundry aired, especially on social media. But I get that and still appreciate the swift action of the fraternity.
However, what I think warrants a major side eye is the people saying things like, “We [black people] need to stop using the word, nigger so much so that other [non black people] won’t think they can use it too.”
If that’s not the worse form of ignorance misdirection, I don’t know what is. (Oh, wait, the mention of “black-on-black” crime in response to when a non-black police officer kills an unarmed black person. That’s actually worse.) But this is bad too.
Those frat guys singing a song with the word nigger in it has absolutely nothing to do with black people using it in any form. Abolishing the word nigger isn’t going to stop people from using it. It was already buried in 2007.
So apparently, this current iteration of the word is a zombie. It’s shown that the word can’t simply be killed. Plus, is that really the issue at hand?
If black people want to call themselves this word, they can. There are a lot of black people who don’t use the word. I’m one of them. I believe language has power, and I don’t like how that word feels when I say it. I don’t like the way I felt just typing it in this post but shying away from it isn’t going to lessen it’s existence. So I chose to type it. But, I digress.
The answer to this video is not a campaign to stop black people from using the word, nigger. It’s not black people’s fault that these people have an ignorant, racist song. It’s not black people’s fault that these young, white men felt comfortable singing a song that talked about hanging black people before letting them into their fraternity. It’s the fault of the members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (the University of Oklahoma chapter). Yes, they’re being punished for the song but the issue goes much deeper than that.