Bridges still to cross: Birmingham reacts to racial Univ. of Oklahoma fraternity video on heels of Selma event

Lillian Lalo - BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) - Two students were expelled from the University of Oklahoma Tuesday after a racist video emerged over the weekend. While this incident happened out of state, some in Alabama say the incident brings up a discussion about race relations all over the country.

A common theme during the 50th anniversary events in Selma over the weekend was how much progress has been made in the United States. With this racist video surfacing on the tail end of that weekend, some say it is a sobering reminder of how far we have to go.

Larry Desotell was among dozens of people with visited the Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church on Tuesday. He drove from Wisconsin.

"We thought we would come and see some of these civil rights sites given the fact that the 50th anniversary of Selma, and the voting rights march, and the Voting Rights Act, was this past weekend," Desotell said.

Fresh flowers were placed at the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing site and by the memorial statue. Dozens of people could be seen taking pictures of the emotionally moving images.

Inside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, young children learned about Birmingham's past. Ahmad Ward, who works with at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, says he is not surprised by the racist video that emerged from the Oklahoma fraternity.

"Maybe one day we will get to a point where I start being surprised," Ward said.

Ward says he believes the timing of this scandal happened for a reason, and he hopes that reason will be for good.

"One of the things that becomes problematic for us is that we do not have honest conversations about race. People clam up when race comes into the equation, or they get defensive, or they try to act like it is not a problem," Ward said. "We still have some things we got to do. And it's obvious that the people in the video have some more education that needs to take place."

Zachery Banks is calling for a recipe of education and awareness. Banks became a member of a predominately white fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, in 2003 at the University of Montevallo. He says his skin color was never an issue. He believes racial issues come in cycles -- from Selma 50 years ago to the incident at the University of Oklahoma.

"Awareness can be the one thing that can stop that cycle. We know that this is what is going on in different places. Different organizations and different schools can now put the magnifying glass on Greek organizations and say, ‘Okay, we got our eye on you now,'" said Banks.

Banks and Ward both hope the public can take something away from what this fraternity is learning in a very public way.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News


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