Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

WARNING: There is a certain ugly term that society has universally decided can no longer be quoted in print and must be bleeped from sound recordings. The term is commonly referred to now as “The N-word.” I am going to use that word in this little essay. If you feel your head will explode from seeing the word, you should stop reading right here.

A few days ago a busload of fraternity boys from Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma were recorded singing a song to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” with new lyrics. It went like this:

There will never be a nigger in the SAE!
There will never be a nigger in the SAE!
You can hang him from a tree
But he’ll never sign with me!
There will never be a nigger in the SAE!

I’m sorry to say that it did not shock me to find that there is such consensual racism in a fraternity. I mean, it sounded like the whole bus was singing along. What did shock me, a little, was the stupidity. It was one of those “What were they thinking?” moments.

As it happened, there were at least two white boys on that bus who were recording the moment on their ubiquitous cell phones. A black student group obtained the videos, and posted them for all to see.

What I want to know is … how? I doubt the guys sent the videos to the student group because they thought black people might be amused by them. No one has yet told me how the videos got out there, but I have a good guess, and I’ll bet you do, too. Those two geniuses must have posted them on the Internet.

Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Imgur, any of a dozen possible sources that you would think, by now, even the least tech-savvy social networker in cyberspace (like myself) would realize puts it out there for all the world to see. But people keep doing it, don’t they? Self-incrimination.

So far only two of this lynch-happy glee club have come forward, probably because their faces were easily identifiable in the videos. One of them, Parker Rice, 19, says the song was taught to him by other members. He also says:

“I am deeply sorry for what I did …”

“It was wrong and reckless …” Blah blah blah.

The other, Levi Pettit, let his parents speak for him:

“ … shocked and saddened …”

“He made a horrible mistake …” Blah blah blah.

I would have thought that maybe one or two others on the bus might have come forward by now with a plea something like this:

“I was there on the bus and heard the racist song, but I didn’t sing it. I thought about coming forward and telling the others how wrong it was, but I did not, and I am deeply ashamed …” Blah blah blah. But no one has.

Musing further, I wondered … could there be some other explanation for that song? Something that didn’t involve racism? Any defense lawyer will tell you that there is always another side to every story, all you have to do is look for it, or make one up and sell it to a jury. Thus did Dan White get off easy for assassinating Harvey Milk and George Moscone because he ate too many Twinkies. Thus did O.J. Simpson get off completely for butchering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman because a fucking glove didn’t easily fit.

So I thought and thought, just as a mental exercise, you understand, to see if I could come up with a way to exonerate these future-KKK assholes. And I came up with an excuse they could try out.

They were re-enactors.

I guess you know that, most weekends back East, hordes of fat guys go out into the woods on or near a battlefield of the War Between the States (or as we called it in Texas, the War of Northern Aggression) and drag their tents out of their Super-Duty extended cab pick-ups. Then they dress up in Union or Confederate uniforms and blaze away at each other, pretending that charging into a battery of cannons firing chain shot was a lot of fun.

This bus trip was like that. These guys were re-enacting the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. This happens to be the 50th anniversary of the police riot in Selma, Alabama. These guys had intended to go to Selma and pretend to be the racist white folks who watched the cops break heads and chanted “Niggers go home!” Then they planned to move on to the University of Alabama. They had a George Wallace impersonator ready to stand in the doorway of the auditorium and prevent two black students from entering. That is where they planned to sing their little racist ditty. I mean, you can’t have a re-enactment with just one side showing up. You have to have the Johnny Rebs out there on the battlefield with the Union troops. So, in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit that this was all a misunderstanding.

You think it will fly? No, I don’t, either.

March 11, 2015
Vancouver, WA