In matters of racism, there’s often a lot of raw, visceral emotion harnessed. Whether it’s deep-seated fear or a more overt prejudice, given this nation’s history with the issue and the ongoing fight for true acceptance culturally, videos like the one Oklahoma University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon were allegedly recorded in dredge up intense–and justifiable, if we’re being honest–vitriol.
All-American Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker saw the video. He saw it and he was angry.
That anger was on full display in a profanity-laced reaction video he posted on his SnapChat account. A quick Google search will turn up both the chant and Striker’s response, but we’ll save you the pleasantries by giving you a summary recount:
Eric Striker is fed up with the hypocrisy of it all.
For a lot of folks from rural America, college is their first exposure to widespread ethnic diversity. Globally, there’s this perception of America as a cultural melting pot, and it’s true that this is one of the most culturally various nations on the planet; however, it’s also true that we largely live in communities surrounded by similar looking and speaking people outside of select urban neighborhoods with cross-segments of the population.
On college campuses, the notion of a melting pot society are supposed to be on full display, and football is supposed to help bridge that gap. Because, let’s face it, when you jam 80,000 people into one building, you’re going to draw a diverse crowd.
However, sometimes football can also highlight the gap. At Oklahoma University, a campus where the demographics report says only 5% of attendees are African-American, they make up the overwhelming majority of the football team.
Given the hero-worship at a place with as much football pride as OU, you’d figure that’d help ease some of the racial tensions, but, according to Striker in an interview with The Oklahoman, it’s likely only contributed to its proliferation.
Sure, in the aftermath of a big win over Texas, everybody loves a football player. But the fraternities that control the campus nightlife and social atmosphere are still largely white and, while it’s not fair to claim they’re ALL categorically racist, it is safe to say that this general line of thinking permeates at a lot of all-white fraternities across the nation.
So, when you’re an athlete like Eric Striker–by all accounts an intelligent, driven young man with dreams of being recognized as more than a jersey number–it’s easy to see why being invited to a party and then told to go stand in the corner where people can say, “Hey, there’s the football players,” without actually having to interact with you can be bothersome.
When he saw the SAE video and recognized the faces as ones who’d embraced him after the big game, it triggered an instinctual reaction. Less than 12 hours later, Striker found himself in front of a reporter to apologize, not for the content of his message but for the terseness of his language.
He hitched up all that anger and that sadness and saddled a cause–one worth fighting for.
Eric Striker has had enough of the racism. He’s had enough of the hypocrisy.
He’s ready to be taken seriously as more than just a football player but as an influential young man, and he knows that in order to affect real change, this issue needs a face. A few hours after Eric Striker calmly explained his position to the reporter, as the football team walked arm-in-arm into their practice facilities in silent protest, the message was clear and it had a leader.
And Oklahoma University, from its leadership on down to its extremely vocal student body, were behind him and it.
Now, we need an Eric Striker on every other college campus in America leading a similar charge. Because we don’t need to see another video to know this is a problem in more places than just Oklahoma.
And I think Eric Striker is showing it’s a problem we’re capable of addressing–if not solving–if we can find a few more fearless leaders to stand up to it.