Monday, October 3, 2022

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

Steffanie Rivers
Steffanie Rivers

*When I was four years old my pre-school teacher called my mother to a meeting, because I had said a curse word!

Apparently the class was playing a game: Each student was asked to think of a word that begins with the first letter of your first name, spell it aloud then pronounce it. My answer: S-H-I-T, Shit! That’s the trouble with children: They repeat what they hear and see. My mother owned up to her role in that incident. The parents of Levi Pettit should do the same.

Even though Pettit was caught on video leading a bus full of white people in a chant calling black people “niggers” who “can hang from a tree, but will never “ be allowed to pledge his fraternity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA_CTHZn0Xg), his parents insist he’s not a racist. Newsflash, Brody and Susan Pettit: If those aren’t the words of a racist I don’t know what is.

While apologies are good to hear – Petitt and Parker Rice, the other now expelled University of Oklahoma student who blamed it on alcohol – I’m sick of people apologizing for behavior they lacked the foresight to see should never have taken place to begin with. Still, the more important issue is how do 19-year old boys feels it’s acceptable in any setting to say out loud the things that were said without fear of reprisal. I’ll tell you why: Because they’ve heard it and said it before. Racism is a learned behavior (mom and dad)!

In an era where the tanning of America means more white teens purchase rap music than any other group in their generation, emulate hip hop fashion and culture and where the majority of Americans will be of Hispanic decent by the year 2044, Pettit and Rice’s future bosses are more likely to be brown and black. They should practice acceptance instead of prejudice. And for those who want to blame rap lyrics for their brazen behavior, reciting a rap song is way different than the video we saw. If these boys don’t know that they ain’t ready for college, let alone real life.

I commend University of Oklahoma’s president for his swift action again those students identified as ringleaders on the bus and the closing of their on-campus Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house. Had it not been dealt with, OU could have been charged with violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race, color and national origin in programs that receive federal financial assistance. Even if the administration saved itself from a Dept. of Justice lawsuit, OU might have to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by the expelled students who say their freedom of speech was violated. Never-mind they already admitted wrong doing and apologized. Apparently it’s a last-ditch effort to save face. Too late.

When issues such as these are ignored boys with bad behavior graduate to become racist police officers who will take the life of a black man without cause or pause then rely on their good ‘ole boys back at the station, who pass racist emails around the office, to protect them. And just in case citizen protests become too much to ignore, there’s always that judge in their back pocket. You know, the one who is found by the U.S. Justice Department to be more concerned with raising the price of court fines and fees to balance the city’s budget than he is with upholding blind justice.

According to the SAE website, alumni notables of the fraternity include Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, NBA coaches, military leaders and politicians in all levels of government. Because of their affiliation, these are the people who Pettit, Rice and those other cheerleaders on the bus plan to seek out for jobs, million dollar government contracts and financial support for their political campaigns not necessarily because they are better suited for the favor but because of the brotherhood or “common goals (wink, wink).”

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the courage it took for the (apparently) white person on the bus who recorded the video and took it to the group of students who posted it on YouTube. Instead of going along with the crowd, that person had the guts to shed light on an obvious wrong. In the words of Tavis Smiley, ‘everybody that is your skin folk is not your kin folk.’ Still, just like the one or two roaches you see when you shine a light in the dark, it’s only a sign of a bigger problem. There’s more where they came from.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at info@SteffanieRivers.com for questions, comments and speaking inquiries.

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