The following statement was read by our Executive Director at the press conference called by the Say No to Hate Coalition of Tulsa in response to the recent racist incident involving the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma.
The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance stands with our partners in the Say No to Hate Coalition of Tulsa in condemning the recent actions of some of the members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma. We appreciate the quick and appropriate response of OU President David Boren in holding accountable those who participated in this incident, and in making it very clear that such language and action are inappropriate and will not be tolerated.
Like many Oklahomans, we have found ourselves wondering where and how these students, those with whom our future rests, ever learned that such behavior might be appropriate. Our response must do more than simply condemn the actions of those who behaved in such a fashion; it must also condemn the actions of those in positions of authority who, through their own example, have allowed a culture of racism, religious-based hatred, and homophobia to exist in Oklahoma.
In particular, we wish to shine a light on the actions of the legislature of this state which is currently debating almost a dozen different bills that are meant to write intolerance, bigotry, and hatred into law in Oklahoma. The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance wishes to condemn, in clear and unequivocal language, the actions of our elected leaders who teach our students that hating another is not only okay, but that it is the best way to get elected to public office in this state. If the members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity had replaced the language they used so that it was a violently anti-Muslim or homophobic chant, would the response of leaders of this state have been the same?
Rev Dr Martin Luther King once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and the legislature of this state is providing proof. At a time when our legislators are debating and approving bills with only one purpose (to make unjust treatment of homosexuals the law of this state), it cannot be coincidental that the young people of this state are chanting hatred. When our own elected leaders use offensive language and imagery to describe the members of a particular faith tradition, we should not be surprised that the students of this state find humor in the language of hatred.
Just as we condemn the actions of the members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon who thought it was okay to organize and participate in a chant meant to dehumanize another, the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance also condemn, in equally strong language, the actions of the legislature of the state of Oklahoma for passing legislation and making public statements that are meant to dehumanize another. If our current generation of leaders does not reflect compassion and respect for others, how can we expect the next generation of leaders to behave differently?