-- It is a vile, ugly scene that seems to have captivated social media: The surreptitious video of fraternity brothers jauntily singing a practiced chant about how "n------" can never join S-A-E and should be hanging from a tree.
Though I had grown up in the segregated South, just a couple hundred miles from UGA, oddly I had a carefree, rather idyllic school history. I was a cheerleader, a choral member and participated in a number of academic clubs. Believe it or not, I'd never personally felt the sting of a racial slur. Not that the language of hateful prejudice didn't exist in my town or at my high school, but I never experienced it. So I was utterly unprepared for this day at UGA. Walking down the sidewalk when a car of rowdy kids passed me and hissed that "preppy clothes are cool but not on a n-----."
The word was casual yet filled with daggers.
I stopped dead in my tracks as the car sped away. My heart raced and my eyes stung with tears.
Who could be so cruel? And why?
Suddenly, I was filled with fear and panic as I turned to run back to my dorm. I still feel that same hurt and shame that gripped me as walked back into the lobby, trembling with fear. I never told my roommate, who happened to be white, what had happened. I never told my parents either. I was too shaken and upset. As time went on, I buried the painful incident and chose to forget it. Overall, I had a happy experience at the school and look back on those years fondly.
As for the incident, I had mostly tucked it away in my mind until this week when the ignorant and cruel OU fraternity members reminded me -- and so many others -- of just how damaging racial bias can be. I hope that the incident, as disgusting as it may be, is a lesson to us all about how much work we have ahead of us if we want our children to sing new songs about tolerance and peace.