The Crimson White

Oklahoma's SAE provides Alabama lesson on empathy

Patrick Crowley

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Well, I never thought some other university’s greek system would manage to make national headlines for racial issues the same way the University did in Fall 2013. But The University of Oklahoma’s SAE fraternity did just that. For those who haven’t yet seen the video of the party-bound students, I tell you to do so. Not to provide you with comfort that other schools face the same issues and got caught in a far more horrible manner, but so we can all realize some issues are not behind us; some issues are very much alive and shape the state and country we live in. If we do not come to understand the surroundings in which we live our life, we won’t develop the proper agency to shape our lives and the lives of those around us.

Too often we tend to view the University as a bubble, insulated from the bad things in the world as we pursue the loftier things in life. Far too many students think what they do now in college won’t carry ramifications later in life. To me, that’s what makes the SAE video so bad. They honestly thought they could get away with being blatantly racist. They laughed as they sang racial profanity. They even cheered. They did not realize the words they were using had a dark history; that entire generations of people were fettered because the color of their skin was different. They did not even possess the moral faculty to understand that that word should never be used. They did not possess the empathy to think, “What if I was black and someone said that to me?” They did not consider how their fellow students would feel if the video was leaked. Ultimately, they lacked respect for the basic human dignity in us all.

We all grew up hearing expressions that implored us to develop empathy. Remember “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?” Society told us these things for a reason. That’s why volunteering your time is so important. (Philanthropy is not service, it’s donating money. Don’t ever confuse the two.) Time is the one resource we all have finite amount of and once we expend it on an activity, we are never getting it back. Volunteering demands that we think of someone else before ourselves and place someone else’s needs and wants before our own. When we volunteer we have the privilege to partially live in someone else’s life, which helps us develop awareness of our actions and our own lives.

Volunteering is just one of many ways to develop empathy and a strong moral faculty. Like all other human abilities, we have to practice it, grow it and develop it. I encourage you all to volunteer your time, to read a great fiction book and to read the news. This week it was OU’s SAE; next week it might be the University. But I truly believe if we all take some time to think about things outside the bubble of the University, we can learn from the bad things that unfortunately happen and stop them from 
occurring in the future.

Patrick Crowley is the Opinions Editor of The Crimson White. He is a senior majoring in mathematics, finance and economics.

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Oklahoma's SAE provides Alabama lesson on empathy