This past week, a few Sigma Tau members were subject to a disciplinary hearing by the Interfraternity Council for shouting racial slurs at members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity during an intramural basketball game.
It is commendable that the IFC had a hearing and, furthermore, charged the Sigma Tau members with violating the Student Handbook.
According to Denn-Warren Tafah’s article on the matter in this edition, the offenses are “subject to disciplinary action.” One member of Sigma Tau was reportedly suspended and barred from using the HPER, but there is no clear information about what other disciplinary actions other members of the fraternity may face.
Although the Council handled this matter responsibly, it is troubling that the incident happened in the first place, and that the referees on duty at the time reportedly did little to nothing about the behavior.
UCA takes pride in being a diverse campus. The university even has an Office of Diversity and Community, which helps underrepresented groups on campus educationally and through cultural programs.
The slurs shouted by Sigma Tau members were reported to have referenced a Phi Gamma Delta member’s Hispanic heritage. According to the Office of Diversity and Community, the Hispanic population at UCA as of fall 2015 was 4.6 percent. This basically means that the Sigma Tau members who shouted these racial slurs decided to take out their frustration or “excitement” on a community that is woefully underrepresented on campus.
It doesn’t matter how heated a game gets or how rowdy boys can be in college – there is no excuse for using this kind of language in any context, let alone an intramural basketball game.
There are several problems at play here. First, we treat young men in college as if they can’t be expected to restrain themselves, especially when around their peers.
Of course, this treatment is usually reserved for white young men – a mostly white fraternity can generally get away with a racial slur here, a drunken party there. So we are training young men to believe that their behavior is okay, or at least that they can get away with it.
Second, we act like there is no racism problem until it rears its ugly head at times like this. By the time we get to college, people assume that we are adult enough, educated enough and cultured enough to get along with everyone, and to understand that everyone should be equal. And for the most part, white people get along with their black, Hispanic and Asian peers.
However, when in the heat of a game or at a moment of anger a person reacts with violent or offensive racial slurs, there is obviously an underlying issue regarding race.
This doesn’t mean that Sigma Tau members are racist. This just means that we live in a culture that lets these things slide. Casual racism is generally forgiven or accepted, especially in the south but generally everywhere in the United States. And when racism is casual, people don’t tend to see it until it is literally yelled in their faces.
There is a race problem on campus, but it didn’t start here. It started in the homes and on the televisions of most white and some minority families, and no one ever looked back and said, yeah, that’s wrong.
We are all products of our upbringings, but we need to step outside of ourselves and really take a look at who we are, and what we believe. It’s easier to keep the same convictions and prejudices you’ve always had, but it is better to try to end the cycle of racism starting with yourself.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 24, 2016 print edition of The Echo.
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