By Ian Millhiser
Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), the fraternity that was kicked off of the University of Oklahoma’s campus Sunday night after video emerged of some of its members singing a racist chant that celebrates lynching, proudly touts its history on its website. “Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South,” the fraternity’s national webpage explains, adding that the frat was “[f]ounded in a time of intense sectional feeling” and that it initially “confined its growth to the southern states.”
Though SAE had “fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began,” 369 fought in the Confederate army. Only seven fought for the union.
The video that thrust SAE’s University of Oklahoma chapter into the national spotlight certainly has echoes of the old South. It consists of a segregationist refrain repeated over and over again — “there will never be a ni**** in SAE” — interspersed with an allusion to the campaign of terrorism white supremacists once used to maintain Jim Crow rule in the South: “You can hang ‘em from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me.”