We’ve decided to change our organization’s name to “Students for Social Justice.” When creating this organization, we wanted a noun specific to OU students to describe our intention to create an inclusive, localized community. I grew up in Oklahoma and throughout my formal education was reminded of the glory of Oklahoma’s beginnings and statehood. I ran in a mock land run in the third grade, celebrating the accomplishments of the “Sooners” as many other elementary school students did. Even in high school the consequences of the land run were glossed over; the success and bravery of Oklahoma’s new residents trumped the Native Americans’ deaths and suffering. I’ve only recently realized how emphatically “Sooners” celebrates the genocide of a people. We are sorry to have participated in this trivialization of Native Americans’ historic and current struggles. We’re sorry for our callousness in the naming of this club and sorry that statewide education continues to celebrate the murders of Native Americans. Clearly, Oklahoma culture celebrates our beginnings and the concept of the Sooners. We, however, no longer want to associate ourselves with that.
By Blessing Ikpa
I’m grateful for SAE. Truly, I am. That may come as a shock to some, but I’m grateful that true colors of certain people were shown on that fateful party bus. I’m proud that the University and the SAE National Chapter acted as swiftly as they did. From this (not isolated) incident, topics can be introduced. The tough conversations can start to be had, and the floor opened for discussions.
Studying abroad in a foreign country has given me the necessary space to take a step back, and truly examine how OU operates. This unfortunate SAE incident is not the first, or the last, that an aspect of racism will rear its ugly head. Everyone has come together as a community and let these young men know that what they did was wrong. Their actions were shameful for the University, their fraternity, and their families. When they were saying “Nigger”, it felt like they were talking to me. To my family, my Black friends, my community. Hearing that word rips me apart inside because I can feel the deeply rooted pain of my ancestors. The pain of both my parents who immigrated to America from Nigeria in order to give me and my siblings a better life. Feeling these emotions has given me clarity and premonition about what could happen next, on what the next topic of discussion can be in the face of this tragedy that has hurt many people across campus.
Which brings me to this: Inclusivity.
I’ve been doing my daily scroll through social media these last few days, and most of what I see is, “OU is SO inclusive! We are one of the most diverse campuses EVER. People have equal opportunity on our campus, for sure!”
But do they really?
Growing up in Norman, I always viewed OU as the most diverse part of Norman. Probably even all of Oklahoma. I thought that OU would have people who looked like me, other than the handful of Black people in my high school. People who were as progressive as me and could have deep discussions on tough subjects. I thought that I would finally feel included in a bigger picture.
That is, until I started getting involved.
Being a “campus leader” is all the rage throughout the OU community. If you’re not a campus leader or highly involved, then what are you doing?! I thought that I would finally get the community I have always wanted and fulfill the longings I’ve always dreamed of. As I went through my freshman year, throwing myself into activities, and into my sophomore year, things started to become strange to me. Where was the Black community? Where were all the Hispanics? Asian community? Native Americans? What about the LGBTQ community? How many of us ARE there on campus? I almost thought of myself as “better than them” because I was getting myself out there and networking with people from different crevices of campus. Until I stopped and realized what was truly going on.
When I became the Multicultural Affairs officer for the Student Government Association last semester, I was able to fully engage with the Multicultural community. I was listening. I took the blinders off of my eyes and did my research. People in the Black community, the Hispanic community, LGBTQ community, the Asian community, the Native American community….they didn’t feel as though they belonged. They didn’t think that they could be apart of these University-wide campus activities or win the big campus awards because, in a way, they weren’t made for them. Why were the same people, year after year, winning all of these OU awards–and why was there no consideration given to the Multicultural community? Why do we see the same people, over and over, in positions of leadership but hardly anyone from these communities I have mentioned (and more)? I know I can’t be the only one who sees this.
If we want to say that we are an inclusive community, the “Sooner Family,” we truly need to start acting that way. We need to start asking ourselves the hard questions. “Does such-and-such organization REALLY include everyone?” “Does my club give everyone the equal opportunity to try and succeed?” Feelings are hurt all over campus. People are let down. People are scared. People’s hearts are bleeding. Those men in the video showed us, and told us, that people of minority are not welcome. They are not valued on this campus. Their joyful singing brought up old, painful wounds that cannot be covered with a band-aid this time. People are demanding answers now. We need to make sure that every single person on this campus feels as though they have the opportunity to be included as much, or as little, as they want to be. We can no longer act as if we are the most diverse and inclusive University to have ever lived unless we take a step back and see the hidden problems.
If we are who we say we are, we need to start acting like it.
United States Senate
U.S. Cuba relations
2016 Presidential Election
It’s hard to believe a place as quaint and friendly as Norman, Oklahoma can foster such hatred. Everywhere we look, people are being oppressed. All over the nation, racism is revealing itself in the most shocking circumstances. Sexism lurks behind the mask of chivalry. Prejudice against religion and nationality persists in less blatant but more deeply rooted ways in the deepest circles of American society. Each and every one of us is affected by privilege or oppression in some way or another, whether it is because of our race, our gender, our religion, our class, or even our size. In seeking justice, it often feels like there is too much that’s wrong and too few who care. Adults say, “Millennials are uninformed. Indifferent. Lazy. Selfish.” We say, “Millennials are the future.” We are Sooners for Social Justice. We are not indifferent. We intend to respond to injustice, not only on our campus, but in our state and in our nation. We desire to educate our surrounding community and continue educating ourselves. Our organization aims to inform students about social injustice and instill a sense of social responsibility and competence in our student body. We meet every Sunday at 6:00 pm to discuss academic articles, studies, and current events, as well as brainstorm ways to combat injustice and encourage positive social change. This blog, run by our members, is a platform to create an open dialogue on issues of social justice and voice very real experiences of discrimination. Blog posts will include members’ personal experiences, opinions on current events, resources to learn more, and educational posts that discuss privilege and the intersectionality of oppression. We want to hear your voice. Tell us what you think. Like our Facebook page, follow our blog, join our email list, comment on our posts.
We ourselves are students, and we realize that activism possesses a vocabulary and paradigm that may not be familiar to some. We know that our readers may have some questions, such as:
- What is social justice?
- What exactly is privilege, and how does it affect me and those around me on a daily basis?
- What can I do to help with the issues I feel strongly about?
We hope to help you answer those questions and begin your own personal journey to making this world a better place! Our goal is to educate and continue learning ourselves. This is a safe space; feedback and discussion are encouraged, but we call upon our supporters to always be respectful and open-minded when considering topics and viewpoints that may be uncomfortable to confront or challenge deeply held beliefs and assumptions.