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Syracuse frat says racist oath was satire — of a Republican

This Wednesday, April 18, 2018 photo shows the Theta Tau fraternity house in Syracuse, N.Y. Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud announced the fraternity was suspended over videos with racist, sexist content. Syverud, described the video involving members of Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity, as racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and hostile to people with disabilities. He said the videos were turned over to the school's Department of Public Safety for possible disciplinary or legal action. (Julie McMahon/The Syracuse Newspapers via AP)
Julie McMahon/The Syracuse Newspapers via AP
The Theta Tau fraternity house in Syracuse, N.Y.

Leaders of a Syracuse University fraternity chapter have apologized for a leaked video in which a member swore an oath ‘‘to always have hatred in my heart for’’ black, Hispanic and Jewish people — each referred to with unprintable slurs.

But the oath was not serious, according to a statement that appeared on Tau Theta Tau’s website early Friday morning, after the university suspended the chapter. Rather, the fraternity said, the video showed a satirical roast of its own members — in particular of ‘‘a conservative Republican’’ in the frat.

‘‘None of this can possibly excuse the words that came from our fraternity house last month, no matter the context the words were used in,’’ the statement says. ‘‘However, we do believe that it is important to understand that context.’’

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The frat’s six-minute Facebook video, which was first published Wednesday by the student newspaper the Daily Orange, does in fact appear to be an attempt at someone’s idea of comedy.

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About a half-dozen members — all new pledges, according to the fraternity — are gathered on a makeshift stage. The sketch begins with a sort of origin myth: A Theta Tau member has sex with a dog, and through consequent misadventures, is inducted into the fictional Tri Kappa frat. (KKK, get it?)

Tri Kappa is ‘‘the main enemy of Theta Tau,’’ the skit’s narrator explains, and its leader has ‘‘been slowly integrating the members of the once great fraternity into his newly formed white empire.’’

In the scene that has incited students across Syracuse to protest the frat behind the video, the Tri Kappa leader stands before a Theta Tau member (the same one who had sex with a dog earlier in the skit).

He makes the inductee kneel and asks:

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‘‘Do you know the oath?’’

‘‘F--- black people,’’ says the inductee, who then says something similar about Hispanics, but with a racial slur.

‘‘You’re close,’’ says the leader. ‘‘I solemnly swear . . . ‘‘

‘‘I solemnly swear,’’ repeats the inductee, who like the leader delivers his lines in an exaggerated Southern accent.

‘‘To always have hatred in my heart for . . .’’

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‘‘To always have hatred in my heart for . . .’’

‘‘[Black people]’’

The inductee repeats the word, which this newspaper cannot, followed by another slur for Hispanics, followed by much laughter from the audience.

‘‘And most importantly . . .’’ says the leader, prompting the second man to complete the oath by using a slur for Jewish people.

A simulated sex act involving an aluminum can follows the oath, and the crowd applauds.

The university suspended Tau Theta Tau on Wednesday, the Daily Orange reported, shortly before the video leaked to the public.

Protesters across campus have demanded harsher punishment, and the university chancellor announced an investigation into behaviors deemed ‘‘extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities.’’

The chapter’s website briefly went offline, according to the campus paper, but reappeared some time before daybreak Friday, with a long statement that began:

‘‘First and foremost, every single member of Theta Tau would like to apologize to everyone affected by the racist video that was recorded as a part of our new member process.’’

The video was recorded last month as part of a tradition in the engineering frat, the statement said, in which ‘‘new members are given the opportunity to write and act out a skit, in order to roast the active brothers.’’

‘‘This year, one of these brothers is a conservative Republican, and the new members roasted him by playing the part of a racist conservative character,’’ the statement continued. ‘‘It was a satirical sketch of an uneducated, racist, homophobic, misogynist, sexist, ableist and intolerant person.’’

The actual Republican member, the statement said, was not racist, homophobic or otherwise intolerant.

The statement apologized repeatedly, alternately explaining the context of the skit and assuring readers that Theta Tau was not trying to excuse the conduct.

‘‘We would like to believe that the new members seen in the video laughing at the horrible things being said were not laughing in concurrence with these beliefs, but in fact the opposite - that racism, sexism and homophobia are so wrong that they are laughable,’’ the statement read. ‘‘None of the satire was said or done in malice. That said, many bright lines were obviously crossed.’’

Theta Tau is one of eight student groups now under suspension, probation or other disciplinary measures at Syracuse, according to the school’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

In an editorial, the Daily Orange called the video ‘‘the byproduct of a toxic Greek environment that breeds complicity in exchange for social validation.’’

And it’s not the only byproduct, apparently.

The newspaper says it has also obtained, but not yet published, videos in which Theta Tau members parody a mentally disabled man in a wheelchair, and what one frat member describes as ‘‘gay girly accents.’’