I feel the need to share a few things that have been burning in my chest since Monday. I am afraid to post anything, but I don’t consider that a good reason to withhold vulnerability. In terms of feeling at home in the world around me, this has been one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in a long time.
Despite being an SAE from OU, my father is neither a racist nor a bigot. That’s certainly not the opinion of the internet this week, but it is the truth. Anyone who knows him would tell you he is a man of great character. A gentle giant, a kind man, loyal to the core. The repulsive events of last weekend have hit many of us hard- everyone I know in fact- my father and his fellow SAE alums included. My father and his classmates had never heard that horrific chant before the video. I have cried over my laptop again and again this week at the things my “friends” are inferring about my father. If those friends knew him, they would never suggest that about him.
I am a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and I am neither a racist nor a bigot, nor an elitist snob. My experience in the Greek system was a very positive one, and I learned so much from the diverse group of women who came from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. I left my time in the Kappa house a better person.
During my time at IU, the university had a fundraiser where campus organizations performed musical numbers and competed against each other. It was called IU Sing. The groups would perform 3 numbers that encompassed a brief storyline. My sophomore year, the plot of our IU Sing skit involved a drycleaners where the clothes came alive after hours. It was kind of a silly idea but fun. In order to make it look like the clothes were dancing in mid-air without people in them, all the performers wore black underneath, black gloves and yes, you see it coming… black make-up. I was the female lead in our show, and we placed high in the competition. The day after the performance, we found out we were disqualified. The African-American Student Association had lodged a complaint against us. To them, we were performing in blackface, a horribly offensive thing to do. At the time, I felt misunderstood and accused of something I never intended. I literally didn’t know any better. As part of our learning process from the events, it was mandated that we get together for dinners with the students who had been hurt. We were educated about the history of blackface and we came to understand why what we did was so offensive. The students shared how they felt and how we had wounded them. It was awkward at first, and I felt so ashamed that I hurt them that way. But the fact that they were willing to come to our house, break bread at our table, and start a dialogue changed everything. We learned from each other, we looked each other in the eyes. We found we had more in common as human beings than we had differences. Forgiveness happened. Reconciliation occurred. The next fall semester, I auditioned for the Afro-American Choral Ensemble and was accepted. The professor who had led our reconciliation dinners was the director of the group. I took my place as one of seven non-African American students in a chorus of a hundred. The community accepted me as a human just like them. Me, that girl who had unknowingly, ignorantly performed in blackface and hurt them all- they accepted me.
That experience forever changed my view of race in our world, and my place in it. And it’s all because of the way the aftermath was handled. We cannot fight hate with hate. Violence met with violence cannot lead us to peace. Humanity coming face to face with our shared humanity changes us. Hate greeted with love, kindness and education can change a person, a community. What hope do we have of reconciliation as the human race who are all in this together if instead of unity we keep fueling the fire with deep razor-sharp polarization? We heap shame on shame thinking we’re helping, when we’re only making it worse. We cannot fight hate with hate.
In the spirit of championing kindness, I’m not open to entertaining mean comments here. Say what you wish on your own threads. I did not share this vulnerable part of myself to be trampled on by hateful rants or debates. If you have something kind or supportive to share, I would welcome it. I wish you all good things, and the kindness you each deserve.