Editor’s note: Christopher J. Flix is a senior at the University of Oklahoma majoring in mechanical engineering. He is also the vice president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. He is on Twitter.
As a self-proclaimed student leader who, by affiliation with a number of organizations, finds purpose in advocacy on behalf of marginalized communities, I would like to begin by validating the plethora of emotions that are being felt by those privy to the incident of gross racial intolerance that has recently occurred at the University of Oklahoma.
Watch more: Oklahoma frat shut down over racist chant
You have the right to be saddened, angry, disappointed, numb.
What I would like to caution, as I transition, is that we ascribe to a paradigm of open-mindedness as we begin to think about how we as a society are to progress on issues of equality and equity, especially in regards to race, gender, class and other social asymptotes that inherently divide. I want to encourage against allowing our sensations to give way to sensationalism.
With a fraternal organization -- their ritualistic teachings being called into question -- as a focal point of the incident, there have been many from all walks of life who have placed blame solely on the collegiate fraternal system and have called for its complete eradication from colleges worldwide. While this action would undoubtedly prevent the discovery of fraternity men and women rhythmically proclaiming their distaste for diverse groups via video, these organizations wouldn’t exist, this action would do nothing to address the issue of intolerance.
It would be exceptionally naïve to ignore the fact that our nation was largely built on a foundation of intolerance (among all the other wholesome things we conveniently focus on in secondary education course). Columbus, to my knowledge, did not belong to a three-letter Greek organization when he “discovered” a country while encountering indigenous people. Yes, our country has a rich heritage of intolerance considering the breadth and depth of slavery. This heritage was so deeply engrained that there were those willing to die to see that this institution of dehumanizing control might live.
It seems apparent that racial intolerance pre-dates the establishment of fraternal organizations. With that being so, why have we allowed ourselves to brand these groups as the cause of arbitrary dissonance?
Social organizations mirror society through which we are conditioned to accept cultural palates. To ignore the larger systemic institutions and structures that uphold intolerant ideas and behaviors and instead focus on the byproducts of these constructs is to focus on the symptom and ignore the central sickness.
Intolerance has permeated deeper into American culture than we may be comfortable with admitting and it has proliferated, paradoxically, through silence.
The collegiate fraternal system is at best flawed and at worst broken but, much like the issues we face in society, not so beyond repair. If we are to heal and to grow, we must break the code of silence on issues of intolerance of diverse groups and how this intolerance leads to marginalization.
Only through dialogue can we seek to expose fallacious dispositions, arbitrarily built on ambiguity and harbored ignorance. We are going to have to muster the courage to become uncomfortable and to engage. Engage in discussion. Engage in discovery. Engage in deconstruction.
Until we do so, we can only hope to retroactively and inadequately address issues with temporary fixes. For long-term sustainable development and growth of a tolerant society, we must rewrite the narrative of diversity and difference. We can do this through holding each other and ourselves accountable for our thoughts and actions and by having the courage to declare dissension when intolerance surfaces in lieu of inclusion on the part of insensitivity and ignorance. Wake up -- listen to the whispers in the wind.