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Very Real

5 Times Greek Life Racism Was Exposed On Social Media

Blackface, gangster outfits have us asking: when will Greek organizations ever learn that blackface is never okay?

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

College campuses aren’t always beacons of wisdom and sensitivity.

While diversity in higher education is on the rise, racism on campuses — particularly within insular communities like sororities and fraternities — seems to be still a problem.

From blackface to sickening chants, here are 5 times sororities and fraternities members got in trouble for racism ...  all thanks to social media.

1. A “multicultural weekend” at Cal Poly.

California Polytechnic State University’s Lambda Chi Alpha chapter sparked outrage after a number of their members engaged in racially insensitive behavior last weekend, which also happened to be the college’s annual multicultural weekend, USA Today reports. One pic that began to spread online showed a member of the fraternity wearing blackface, while another photo, posted alongside a caption referencing gangsters, featured a number of Lambda Chi Alpha members posing in baggy jeans and gold chains.

At a town hall meeting on Monday, hundreds of students voiced their concerns and outrage over what had happened. For the time being, Cal Poly has suspended the fraternity, pending an investigation. Following the news, a number of students have resigned their Lambda Chi Alpha memberships, while some have given up their leadership positions within the frat while keeping their membership. In a show of support, Cal Poly fraternities have voluntarily placed themselves on probation following the incident.

"We want to acknowledge our role in contributing to an environment that perpetuates racism, and are making a commitment from this day forward to hold our community more responsible and hold them accountable to the values we strive to live by," read a statement released on Thursday by the Interfraternity Council.

2. A banana peel and a strange message on Snapchat.

What happens on Snapchat, does not stay on Snapchat — as it shouldn’t. Earlier this year, three members of George Washington University’s Alpha Phi sorority were kicked out of their organization after behaving badly on social media.

A screenshot of the offensive Snapchat pic shows two white Alpha Phi members, with one of them holding a banana peel. The caption of the photo, posted by a third sorority member, read, "I'm 1/16 black."

Provost Forrest Maltzman called the incident "disturbing, hurtful, and not reflective of who I know we are as a community," USA Today reports. The university's Alpha Phi chapter also issued a public apology on their Facebook page and announced that all three students responsible for the photo would have their membership terminated.

3. Racist videos on MLK day.

MLK day seems to trigger the racist. Earlier this year, one sorority sister from the University of Alabama spent the day spewing hate on social media.

Harley Barber, a 19-year-old Alpha Phi member, posted a number of videos of herself using the n-word and speaking outrageously about black people, even saying in one video, “I don’t care if it’s Martin Luther King Day. I’m in the South now, b****.” As a group of girls around her laughed, she continued, commenting, “So everyone can f*** off. I’m from New Jersey, so I can say n***** as much as I want.”

The video quickly began to spread online, prompting University of Alabama president, Stuart Bell, to comment, stating, “I find the videos highly offensive and deeply hurtful, not only to our students and our entire University community, but to everyone who viewed them.”

Repercussions were swift for Barber; she was expelled from the University of Alabama and kicked out of her sorority. Alpha Phi condemned her actions in a statement to NJ.com, calling Barber’s tirade “offensive and hateful.”

Barber later apologized to The New York Post, commenting, “I did something really, really bad. I don’t know what to do and I feel horrible. I’m wrong and there’s just no excuse for what I did. [...] I feel so, so bad, and I am so sorry.”

4. A very racist chant.

Members of the University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter were filmed singing a racist chant in 2015, sparking outrage and protests among the campus community. The song, set to the tune of “If You're Happy and You Know It,” boasted about never allowing black people to become members of SAE and referenced lynching.

“There will never be a n***** at SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he'll never sign with me. There will never be a n*****  at SAE,” students sang as they rode a bus together, en route to an event celebrating the organization’s Founders Day.

The videos quickly spread online, prompting university president David L. Boren and the fraternity’s national headquarters shut down the university’s SAE chapter, The New York Times reports. The fraternity explained in a statement, “The chant is in no way endorsed by the organization nor part of any education whatsoever.”

Two students, Parker Rice and Levi Pettit, were expelled because of the videos, with Boren commenting that both had played a leading role in the chants being sung on the bus and had thus created a “hostile learning environment for others.” Rice and Pettit later issued public apologies.

Troublingly enough, an investigation by the fraternity’s national office found that at least five other SAE chapters knew of the chant, though the students polled reported that, aside from the University of Oklahoma incident, they had not heard it more recently than 2012.

5. A distasteful Halloween outfit.

Trying to come up with a unique Halloween costume? Here’s a tip — steer clear of blackface.

Brock Denton, a white University of Central Arkansas student and Sigma Tau Gamma member, was expelled from his fraternity in October 2016 after posting photos of himself dressed as Bill Cosby, complete with blackface, The New York Daily News reports.

“It was a bold night,” he wrote in the caption.

The university suspended activities for the frat, with university President Tom Courtway explaining in a statement, “This picture is highly offensive and repugnant, and this representation goes against all we, at UCA believe in and stand for.” Sigma Tau Gamma’s national headquarters condemned Denton’s actions according to The Echo, the school newspaper, suspending the school’s chapter.

In an Instagram post, Denton claimed that he’d received death threats and was afraid for his life. He also apologized, writing, “Please except my apology not because of me but because of the sake of this great nation.”

Word of advice? If you want to dress up as Bill Cosby, just stick to the ugly sweater look.

(Photo: Facebook, Instagram)