The white privilege bus

The problem with the now-infamous SAE fraternity chapter at the University of Oklahoma isn’t exactly that it’s racist. That’s part of the problem, and the racism of that chant on the bus was so over-the-top that it was inevitably going to cause a raging controversy if credible allegations of it emerged, let alone a videotape, but there’s a much deeper problem with the mindset of the boys on that tape. There are countless millions of Americans who are racially prejudiced, many of them to the extent of desiring or maintaining their own segregation from people of other races, who would never use language like that. They would consider that sort of language utterly uncivilized, even immoral. They might curse racial slurs in the heat of fear or anger, but never would they join in a lighthearted chant about how they’d rather lynch a man than allow him to break a color barrier.

This SAE chant was a frontal assault on common manners. These fuckheads sang it to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” It was absurd. Its implications are rather grotesque. The behavior of these sophomoric chaps wasn’t privileged in the normal mealymouthed sense of “white privilege” as a nebulous, unquantifiable suite of minor and major advantages in life. The privilege on display there was one of being allowed to openly desecrate fundamental norms of public civility with impunity. It was the privilege of being allowed to express their racism in whatever vile way they could think up without being challenged by decent peers. It was the privilege of knowing that they would not be confronted with a demand that, regardless of their ill will towards black people as individuals or as a race, they have a moral responsibility to be at least minimally civil in their public comments on race, to allow space for racial goodwill to take root, to reciprocate some measure of the goodwill shown them by individual members of the races they dislike.

These are young gentlemen who take pride in shitting on civilized norms. They’re well-dressed barbarians within the gates. They enjoy dropping trou and taking a big steaming dump on the social graces that hold a society together, like not openly advocating communal violence. There’s indignation on the alt-right that these guys weren’t actually going to hurt anyone and that they’re being scapegoated just because they got drunk and a bit obnoxious, but the manifestation of their drunken disinhibition was the deliberate performance of a song featuring the lines “Nigger SAE” and “You can hang him from a tree.” This behavior was belligerently antisocial and probative of serious sickness within their organization. A morally healthy organization shuts down that kind of behavior on the spot.

The decision to leak the video of this chant was probably motivated by a lot more than the chant itself. There’s at least one other video of racial invective from the same chapter, this one featuring an impromptu rap recital by its septuagenarian house mother at a party on the subject of “nigga nigga nigga nigga”: not good, but a far cry from the chant on the bus. I’d be very surprised, however, if there weren’t other, much more serious, reasons to lower the boom on the OU chapter. SAE has a troubled, violent history, including a number of pledge deaths. The violence and lawlessness got bad enough that the national parent organization’s president banned pledging last year, a move that provoked whiny, devious bellyaching from current members. Bear in mind, though, that this is an organization whose affiliates have packed pledges in ice in a cool throwback to Dachau and subjected them to prolonged Guantanamo-style torture by loud music. It’s foolish to expect to reform such an institution with half-measures.

It’s easy to imagine the OU chapter falling under the sway of toxic leaders whose immoral behavior was hard to explain to outsiders but produced an undeniable bad gut feeling in decent observers. Anyone with inchoate concern about the moral tenor of the chapter would be vindicated by video evidence of unabashed, deliberate racism under organizational auspices. It’s a bombshell in a way that a high baseline level of vaguely antisocial behavior is not.

SAE’s prominence on Wall Street is unsettling in light of its history of hazing and racial revanchism. One of SAE’s main purposes is to preferentially fill positions in high finance with young men who either engaged in or assented to violence, intimidation, and gross moral turpitude under color of non-state authority. It’s a recruiting pipeline for psychopaths and sadists. The Business Insider article above quotes a number of SAE members wringing their hands about how banning pledging will endanger sacred institutional traditions. New members have literally been dying on their organization’s watch, and what they’re concerned about is the prospect of laxity in initiation, resentment on the part of members initiated under the old regime, and positional jockeying between entitled upstarts and defensive senior members. No morally grounded person would consider these concerns legitimate reasons to bodily endanger or accidentally kill people during fraternity events.

Consider again that men of this low moral character, or at the very least men who willingly associate with peers of such low character, are using back channels to stuff positions of great economic influence with their own kind. This goes far to explain the moral disorder and degradation of American finance. It’s yet another indication that much more vigorous and unyielding regulatory enforcement is needed on Wall Street. SAE is an organization where men have used methods of military torture on their “brothers,” so it should come as no surprise if its members commit acts of financial depravity on anonymous strangers. It’s an excellent candidate for a RICO investigation. Practically all of its graduates to date were initiated under the old pledging regime, which in many chapters had the morals of the Gotti family. SAE alumni are still openly trying to bribe host universities into allowing the fraternity to remain a law unto itself.

The emergence of the bus chant video has chimed in the hour of cheap political posturing and mutual recrimination. University of Oklahoma President David Boren has used the incident as an opportunity to grandstand about his own revulsion and his institution’s revulsion at the chant. The chant has served as a rallying point for minority activists on campus, some of whom have made their own tendentious remarks about the underlying racism and the need for tolerance. The problem here is that the reform side is going overboard in a spirit of self-righteousness. Boren summarily expelled the leaders of the chant, in an action that Mike Cernovich claims violates 42 USC § 1983. As a stealth legal scholar who has written extensively on § 1983, he probably has a defensible enough point. It isn’t just the dipshit leaders of the chant who got into trouble with the school, either: the entire chapter has been summarily ordered out of its house on something like 24 hours’ notice and offered no assistance with relocation. The university is presuming guilt by association here, not a legally defensible position, let alone a morally defensible one. Plaintiffs’ attorneys will be descending on Norman shortly; I suggest taking the Heartland Flyer in order to Enjoy the Journey (TM). I also suggest making a joyful noise in the garden for the first fruits that are about to be offered unto the trial bar by the University of Oklahoma.

Yes, in case you were wondering, due process applies to racist shitheads, too. It could be your rights at stake next time, fool. OU just poked a big hard cock into a prosperous, well-defended hornet’s nest. We will continue to live in interesting times, just as the Chinese wished for us. Confucius say, man who go through airport turnstyle sideways surely going to Bangkok.

What? That wasn’t all skin-crawling like the cock-in-the-nest analogy.

The OU SAE chapter is not an admirable organization, but it is already outflanking the university in important matters of public opinion, and it’s doing so merely by letting the university administration make rash moves that cause immediate collateral damage. The house mother, Beauton Gilbow, is now unemployed and evicted in her late seventies after more than a decade living with SAE brothers. The house chef, a 52-year-old black man named Howard Dixon, has been thrown out of a job that he loves and has held for fifteen years: “There won’t be another job like this. This was one of a kind.”

I have to wonder, though, whether SAE didn’t purposely bring Gilbow, Dixon, and the other house staff into the fray as poison pills. They’re certainly serving in that capacity now that the OU administration is lowering the boom on their chapter. Putting people like them out of work in the interest of political correctness just looks bad. There’s simply no way to make the sudden adverse fate of these people look good. The administration has just thrown a middle-aged black guy out of a job that he loves after fifteen years in order to make a point about the racial invective used by a group of boys whose dues pay his salary, and it has shown its willingness to leave a 78-year-old grandmother out on the curb with last week’s garbage for the same reason. If even a sliver of the motivation to put her out of a job is to punish her for saying “nigga nigga” on tape, Gilbow will have grounds to sue the school for a house of her own in the neighborhood, paid for in full for the duration of her life, as well as a generous portion of walking-around money.

You see, the OU SAE chapter has a sort of feudal arrangement with its house staff, and mostly in a morally grounded, mutually cordial way. The point is that there’s no sticking it to Lord Grantham without also sticking it to Mr. Carson and Mrs. Patmore. I can only speculate as to whether this was by design or by accident, but that chapter had its household affairs structured in such a way that a hail of rubble would automatically rain down on the OU administration if it tried to bring down the house. They effectively had their house booby-trapped; once they did something to get the administration into a lather, all they had to do was to wait for grandstanding administrators to charge in, fumble around, and trip the wrong wire.

There’s something untoward about the amount of out-of-state attention that this whole donnybrook is getting. It’s hard to believe that a nasty song on a chartered bus is the worst outburst of racism in Oklahoma when not two months earlier a white guy was released without charges after shooting his town’s black police chief four times when the chief led a team into his house during the investigation of a fresh bomb threat. (The chief, Louis Ross, was saved because he had borrowed a bullet-proof vest from a deputy before entering the house.) This case has gotten much less national attention than the SAE bus chant, even though the shooter is said to be something of a trigger-happy kook and is known to have posted shrill anti-government rhetoric online, and despite the eerie racial angle and unheard-of reticence by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in charging a cop shooter. The lesson seems to be that the way to get raked over the coals for racism is to get caught on video singing a vile cadence about lynching and segregation, and the way to get away with racism is to move to some cow town, assemble a home armory, compare the US government to Nazi Germany, and, when a suitable opportunity arises, shoot a black cop multiple times in the chest without hitting any of the sheriff’s deputies on the scene with him.

Christopher Dorner, pray for us.

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