Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 14, 2015
University of Oklahoma (Sigma Alpha Epsilon)
Trigger warning: This post details the use of racial slurs.
On March 14th, 2015, a video surfaced of Oklahoma University students, mostly from the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, dressed in formal attire, headed to an event. In the video, SAE members are seen reciting a racist chant, part of which went:
“There will never be a nigg*r in SAE.
There will never be a nigg*r in SAE.
You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me
There will never be a nigg*r in SAE.”
The OU chapter of SAE said, “[it] likely learned a racist chant while attending a national leadership school about four years ago.” The fraternity invites hundreds of leaders to a six-day conference every year. Executive Director Blaine Ayers said it is likely that during one of these social gatherings, some members shared the racist song that was recorded on video at the University of Oklahoma and spread through social media earlier this month. Yet Ayers also said the organization has no evidence the chant is widespread across the fraternity’s 237 groups (SAE is the largest fraternity in North America): “Our investigation to date shows no evidence the song was widely shared across the broader organization…the song is horrific and does not at all reflect our values as an organization.”
Despite these statements, Oklahoma University President David Boren claimed that the chant was an integral part of life in the local chapter. “Over time the chant was formalized in the local SAE chapter and was taught to pledges as part of the formal and informal leadership process,” he said. “It is clear that during the four years since the chant was brought to the university campus, its existence was known by recent members and … it became part of the institutionalized culture of the chapter.”
While the horror of this fraternity’s practice may seem like an indictment on just one institution, it is symptomatic of the broader realities of lynching in our country’s history.
The practice of lynching became so commonplace in the U.S. that the Tuskegee Institute, a predominately black institution in Alabama which later became Tuskegee University, decided in 1881 to begin issuing annual reports on lynchings occurring nationwide. Astonishingly, it was not until 1952 that the institution was able to report a year where there were no lynchings nationwide.
While popular belief still holds that lynchings only occurred in the South, this is not true. Lynching was a national sin; the South alone cannot be condemned for this grotesque practice. Lynchings were enacted as far North as Minnesota and Illinois, and as far West as California and Oregon. In fact, one of the largest spectacle lynchings to ever occur took place in Duluth Minnesota in 1920, where some accounts say as many as 10,000 people served as spectators at this lynching.[vii]
Moreover, this was not an anomaly for the North, we see virtually the same exact thing ten years later in Marion Indiana, on August 7th 1930. Reports estimate that as many as 15,000 people gathered at this lynching, to watch two African American teenagers be tortured, mutilated, and ultimately executed.[viii] In both cases, African American men were killed for allegedly raping white women–not to downplay the seriousness of this charge– but this is not surprising because this usually served as the justification for most lynchings.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: PROVERBS 6:16-19
“There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day14
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: PRAYER AGAINST RACISM (Sisters of Mercy)
“Good and gracious God, who loves and delights in all people, we stand in awe before You, knowing that the spark of life within each person on earth is the spark of your divine life.
Differences among cultures and races are multicolored manifestations of Your Light. May our hearts and minds be open to celebrate similarities and differences among our sisters and brothers.
We place our hopes for racial harmony in our committed action and in Your Presence in our Neighbor.
May all peoples live in Peace.”