Obama Says Backlash to Oklahoma Fraternity Video Is Sign of Progress

In decades past, “there might have been a different reaction,” the president says.

US President Barack Obama speaks at the City Club of Cleveland March 18, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama on Friday offered his reaction to an Oklahoma fraternity racism incident, saying the measure of progress in race relations should be the way the country responds as a whole.

“The way we have to measure progress here is not, 'Is there ever going to be an incident of racism in the country?' It's, 'How does the majority of our country respond?'” Obama told the Huffington Post in an interview published Saturday. “And on that front, there's no doubt that the overwhelming number of students at the University of Oklahoma, and around the country, think that kind of behavior is deplorable and don't accept it.”

The University of Oklahoma expelled two students this month after a video surfaced appearing to show Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers chanting racial slurs. Obama said it was “heartening” to see the quick response of the school's president, David Boren, who condemned the students' behavior.

Obama said this wasn't “the first time that somebody at a fraternity has done something stupid, racist, sexist. It won't be the last.”

Here's Obama's full comment on his reaction to the video, according to a transcript provided by the Huffington Post:

HUFFPOST: We've made a lot of progress on race relations, obviously you noted in your Selma speech. But then you have situations like what took place in Oklahoma -- fraternity brothers caught on video chanting about lynching. What was your reaction to that video?

OBAMA: Look, at any given point on any given day, somebody is doing something stupid out there. In the age of the Internet, it's going to attract attention. I don't think this is the first time that somebody at a fraternity has done something stupid, racist, sexist. It won't be the last.

What was heartening was the quick response from President Boren, somebody who I know well and I know who has great integrity. The quick reaction from the student body.

You know, the way we have to measure progress here is not, "Is there ever going to be an incident of racism in the country?" It's, "How does the majority of our country respond?" And on that front, there's no doubt that the overwhelming number of students at the University of Oklahoma, and around the country, think that kind of behavior is deplorable and don't accept it.

Frankly, 30 years ago or 40 years ago, there might have been a different reaction and more tolerance for that kind of racist chant.

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