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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #299)

Tue Mar 17, 2015, 05:45 PM

302. if we're discussing the two students

then, as I think has been pointed out, it would be hard to make out a case of per se or any other kind of discrimination by those students either as individuals or on behalf of the fraternity.

Individuals can legally discriminate. I can choose to associate with or not associate with anyone i choose, for any reason, and I can shout it to the hilltops why I made my choice.

Organizations, such as fraternities, are different and are subject to laws barring discrimination (although even those laws sometimes makes exceptions for different types of organizations, which is why its okay for a fraternity to discriminate in membership decisions against women and for sororities to discriminate in membership against men). Of course a fraternity doesn't act itself -- it acts through its members. So it would require evidence that the current membership of the fraternity has actually engaged in unlawful discrimination. THe fact that the fraternity doesn't have any African-American members woud be prima facie evidence. But not per se. For example, there would have to be evidence that this particular group of fraternity members rejected any and all requests for membership from African American applicants and did so on the basis of race. That requires evidence. And as for at least the one expelled student who is a freshman, it seems almost certain that he has never had a say in who gets admitted to the fraternity. Singing a stupid song about what he would do isn't the same as proving that he has engaged in discrimination any more than my saying I'll never have a friend of a particular religion doesn't establish discrimination on my part in organizations in which I'm a member but have no role in making membership decisions.

The chant and the fact it was sung by fraternity members may be evidence in support of a claim of discrimination by the fraternity, assuming that any African American students actually have sought to join and been turned down. It also can be cited as evidence that the presence of a fraternity whose members sing such crap creates a hostile environment for African-American students. But that still leaves the question of whether the hostile environment was created by the song being sung on the bus or by the act of publishing the song on the Internet. I'm not suggesting an answer to that question, just pointing out that its a fair question that raises a host of other questions in world in which everyone's words and actions can be readily described -- indeed filmed and disseminated -- instantly to a virtually unlimited audience.

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