College students are openly, carelessly, and publicly racist so often I’m almost tempted to call it a rite of passage for the black students whose days, weeks, or semesters they’re inevitably ruining.
But we don’t tend to think about them when stories like this one crop up: A University of Oklahoma student was caught on Snapchat with black paint all over her face and hands and saying to the camera what sounds like “I am a nigger.”
In a move I can only really call shrewd, the president of OU’s chapter of her sorority, Delta Delta Delta—not to be confused with rival sorority Marsha Marsha Marsha—kicked her out, censuring the “senseless act of racism,” per The Hill. (It’s unclear how many of the girls involved with the video were removed from the sorority). The action would mean something to me if I weren’t deeply skeptical that this was the first time this girl did something wildly racist. Blackface and dropping “nigger” on a video would be a bold first step into MAGA-hood, after all. Maybe they were perfect angels before this and were suddenly possessed by the spirit of Quentin Tarantino. We’d need an investigation on whether they also put the paint on their feet to confirm.
In a classic white-man move, University of Oklahoma President James L. Gallogly issued a statement about the incident, complete with MLK quote, which...I mean, I guess. I always feel weird responding to cases in which colleges react like this. It’s the bare minimum, but there are so many schools that do less, or worse, I feel weird pointing out that it’s not doing shit for anybody. But point it out I must—a statement alone isn’t doing shit for anybody.
From the statement:
We are saddened and offended that even on the eve of such an important holiday for our nation we are reminded how far we have yet to come in the conversation about treating everyone with respect and dignity. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Diversity and inclusivity are and will continue to be the hallmarks of our great university.…
We were made aware of an inappropriate and derogatory video circulating on social media of two OU students. The University of Oklahoma abhors such conduct and condemns the students’ actions and behavior in the strongest terms possible. While students have the freedom of expression, the negative impact of such conduct cannot be underestimated. The students have offered to apologize in order to reflect their regret.
It is unclear if “strongest terms possible” actually means “strongest terms possible” because the letter “did not mention any disciplinary action,” per The Hill, but hey, if there’s anything that can teach a teenager a lesson, it’s a strongly worded letter.
This is what sort of gets me every time we have a bad-faith cultural crisis over what to do with teenagers who participate in sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, etc. If we keep doling out slaps on the wrist while worrying about futures that—let’s be honest—will probably be fucking fine (unless all the racists with hiring power in the world have disappeared and I didn’t realize it), we’re creating a culture where “just being a teenager” means doing wildly racist shit with no real repercussions. Because how many college-students-in-blackface stories have we already written about, and how many times do we have to publicly condemn it before it becomes unacceptable behavior for everyone instead of something young white adults can just do and young black students just have to suffer, a constant threat of hostility in their learning environment?
Adults will be adults, I guess.