About twenty years ago, the Rude Pundit was attending a Giant University in the South. Even then, he was straddling worlds, writing wild and woolly lefty editorials for the school paper and directing theater. A friend came up to him to tell him about a way to make a bundle of scratch. Every year, during Greek Week, the fraternities and sororities would put on elaborate stage revues, with music and dancing and action and humor, with all kinds of costumes and set pieces. It was a competition with a trophy involved and idiot pride. It was a big damn deal. And they paid directors a shit-ton to herd all those cats into a show, like a few thousand bucks. Well, who says no to that deal?
The Rude Pundit doesn't remember which frat it was and which sister sorority was working with them. But he remembers a hell of a lot from that stupid month working with them.
He met with the leadership of the frat. This being a GUS, the frat has a long history, all kinds of traditions, a big house, legacy members, buckets of money. So the fraternity dudes interviewed the Rude Pundit, telling him their vision of the show. It would be a take-off on Disney's Aladdin, complete with all the songs (lyrics rewritten), with the head douche - let's call him "Chad"- a blonde, very white guy, playing the Genie as a kind of ringmaster. The whole thing would involve all these very white people playing fake versions of Arabs. But it was pre-9/11 and we didn't really think of that as especially racist back then. Besides, it's not like Disney's version was exactly a model of open-mindedness.
The Rude Pundit passed the interview, which mostly meant making these lummoxes laugh at ideas for the show. They gave him the script, which he had to swear he would keep secret lest their amazing slams of other frats and sororities get leaked out.
The things was exactly what you'd expect. The black Greeks were treated as caricatures of thugs or Uncle Toms. One sorority was portrayed as having ugly, fat girls. Another was the sluts. A rival frat's members were written as the fairiest gay guys you could imagine. Moments included the Genie stopping the show just to say that another frat was a bunch of dumb jocks, which was about as idiotic as it sounds. The Rude Pundit had a meeting with Chad that went something like this:
RP: Why are you saying the [some damn Greek letter]s are all fat?
Chad: Because everyone knows that if you're an ugly bitch, that's the only sorority you can get into.
RP: And the [another Greek letter]s fuck everyone?
Chad: Oh, yeah. They're total slut-bags.
RP: You can't do these jokes. I won't direct the show if you keep these jokes.
Chad: Ok, we'll take out the slut jokes.
RP: And you do know that you have to get rid of the gay jokes about the [one more Greek letter]s, right?
Chad: No, that's the joke. Every frat has a reputation. They're fags. We're gonna call them fags.
RP: Are they gay?
Chad: They're a bunch of fags. Everyone is gonna make fun them for being fags. If we don't, we're gonna look stupid.
RP: (Trying a different tactic) You know that some of the judges are gay, right?
By the end of the conversation, the Rude Pundit had gotten Chad to grudgingly agree to give up the gay jokes, the anti-women jokes, and the blackface on the actors playing the black frat.
The rehearsal period was a goddamned nightmare. It involved about fifty mostly drunk male and female undergrads who were more concerned about making each other laugh than with putting together a show. It was pleading with Chad to tell the future lawyers and executives, all working in their Daddy's office, to calm the fuck down and practice. The choreographer walked out midway through and told the Rude Pundit to go fuck himself for bringing her to the proceedings. Eventually, though, there was something like a show, and the night of the performance for competition, Chad, painted head to toe in blue makeup, thanked the Rude Pundit.
They were the first of the groups to perform. The Rude Pundit watched as Chad tossed out the revised script and did every racist, homophobic, sexist joke. He watched as the white actors playing the black frat came out wearing dark pantyhose for skin, loping along like gang-bangers with muscle cramps. He watched as the sisters mocked the other sororities for being whores. And, of course, half the cast had put on tan makeup to appear Arabian.
After the performance, the Rude Pundit walked up to a sweaty Chad and said, "What the fuck was that?"
"What? You got paid." he shrugged. "Watch. Every other show is gonna do the same thing."
Here's the twist in the story, though. While they certainly weren't kind and inclusive by any stretch, maybe one other group had even a single homophobic or racist joke. Certainly it wasn't anything close to the mincing queens all huddling together out of fear of the Genie or the Stepinfetchit act in Chad's show. The sexist jokes were still sadly present, but not as vicious. No, most of the other fraternities and sororities were more concerned with their dancing and singing. During judging, Chad's show got ripped by the panel for all the things the Rude Pundit had said they would slam them for. Chad didn't care. He had done what he set out to do and thought he had won the (im)moral victory.
So when the Rude Pundit saw the video of the SAE group from University of Oklahoma singing about how "niggers" will never be welcome in their frat and that they should be hung from a tree, he had a few reactions. One was a sad lack of surprise.
Another was sadly remembering what he learned after Chad was proud of his actions. The Rude Pundit realized that, at the very least, Chad was honest about what he thought and that a good many others had been lying to make the judges happy. The gross after-party, which the Rude Pundit left very early to go to a dark bar, pretty much confirmed it all. They just didn't do anything to get caught.
Update: Someone just wrote to the Rude Pundit to clarify. The fraternity was, in fact, SAE.