Over Spring Break, a video was released of SAE brothers at the University of Oklahoma singing a racially hateful, bigoted fraternity song aboard a booze-filled charter bus. Within a day, responses to the video had taken over the news as pundits from across the spectrum weighed in on the scandal.
In typical fashion, partisans picked up their rhetorical arms and bunkered down in their political corners. Some (including too many conservatives) argued that the incident was irrelevant or that the boys’ actions were just a bi-product of a society that induces reckless behavior. Liberals fumed that the video was another manifestation of America’s deeply-ingrained tradition of racial discrimination. In a slow news cycle, this story has consumed a surprising amount of oxygen in the media. But more than that, it has exposed some troubling dividing lines in society.
The depressing truth is that discussions of race relations in the United States have seemingly abandoned any effort to solve the fundamental issues at hand. Rather, they have become shouting matches waged over social media and cable news — each side smugly convinced of their own rectitude and the disingenuousness of their opponents — that fail to arrive at even the slightest level of progress.
Liberals seem hell-bent on leading a witch-hunt: Identifying, prosecuting, and crucifying – for all to see – those whose views fall outside the spectrum of political correctness. Paula Deen, Cliven Bundy, and the Oklahoma SAEs all fit snugly into this category, which is not to say that their hands are clean. To varying degrees, all have been participants in a racist subculture that preaches ignorance and hatred. Still, their sins do not justify the patronizing, holier-than-thou attitude donned by so many — especially when that attitude serves counterproductive aims. The actions of these boys were wrong. But show me the person who wouldn’t be thrust into ignominy if their worst moments were caught on tape, and I’ll show you a liar. Such an accusatory culture doesn’t build bridges or mend broken relationships; it pits us against each other. It doesn’t help race relations, only the racism accusers.
By no means is racial divisiveness solely a vice of the Left. Conservatives are wrong to say that racism isn’t still present in America — it is. Sure, it has changed. Overt racism is less common; it has retreated to dark corners, like Oklahoma SAE charter buses. We all too often look at those of other races with an air skepticism. We move into certain neighborhoods to avoid those who don’t look like us, and we mumble hateful word under our breath more often than we’d like to admit. The sobering reality is that racism will always be with us. Through the whole of documented history, we’ve seen racism. Just as we will never fully eradicate murder, theft, lying, or cheating, we will never fully stamp out racism’s fire.
Quite simply, a handful of drunk, juvenile frat boys singing a chant that they think will make them look cool in front of their boneheaded pledge brothers is not what holds back racial progress. The real barriers to racial harmony are the racial and economic inequalities that pervade our educational system, a justice system that disproportionately punishes African Americans, and a seeming unwillingness of people on both sides of the fence to lay down their weapons and humble themselves. Of course, casual racism exacerbates these problems, and each of us should strive to eliminate these tendencies in our personal lives. But blame games accomplish little in either the individual or societal realm.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a handful of racially charged events capture the public’s imagination. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner have become household names, but on the balance the events associated with these names have overwhelmingly divided the American people. The media has a responsibility to find and prosecute systematic racial abusers (e.g., perhaps, the Ferguson Police Department), but it is doing the American public a disservice by portraying every crime between races as solely the byproduct of hate and racial profiling. After all, far more crimes take place within racial lines.
Ultimately, the racial problems of this country will not be solved by the ego-inflated monologues of Al Sharpton or Bill O’Reilly. They will be solved day by day as we build relationships with our black and white co-workers, neighbors, and classmates. They will be solved as we increasingly focus on the things that we have in common, not the things that divide us. It is my hope that people across the country — specifically those in Athens, GA — begin to withstand the attempts to divide. Instead of ranting on Facebook about the newest racial inflammation, let us take time to listen and learn from those who don’t look like we do, let us have the humility to recognize that our perceptions and experiences are not the only ones that matter, and let us move forward in our journey to racial reconciliation.
—Davis Parker is Manager of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE
(Like what you see? Support THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE!)