Daily Egyptian

ATO denies making racist video that calls for lynchings at SIU

By Tyler Davis, @TDavis_DE

A YouTube video spouting racist views of black people at SIU made the rounds on social media, increasing the conversation about racism on campus. 

The 2-minute, 5-second video posted Thursday by YouTube account “ATO AZO” calls black people the N-word while using footage from the Disney movie “A Bug’s Life.” The video has since been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech. 

An anonymous speaker ends the video by attributing the message to the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at SIU and calling for black students to be beaten and lynched on May 2. May 2 is also the date of protests against student loan debt. The May 2 Strike Committee said it is anti-racism, anti-oppression and has no connection to the video.

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Nolan McConnell, president of SIU’s ATO, said no one in his fraternity made the video, which is titled “SIUC White is Right.”

“Obviously there’s been stuff going on with us since that Facebook video was posted a few weeks ago,” McConnell said in response to a viral video accusing ATO members of making racist comments against blacks and Latinos. “I’m assuming it’s just a retaliation because those people were most likely silenced and it kind of died down. I think they’re trying to re-hype what was going on.”

SIUC interim Chancellor William Bradley Colwell responded to the video in an email sent to students, requesting it be removed.

He urged students to stop sharing the video, which has nearly 2,500 views, and said disciplinary action could be taken against the publisher.

“Those who choose to disrupt the campus or threaten others will be held accountable via laws and policies that are in place to protect our community,” he said.

Kendall Crayton, a member of the Black Affairs Council, said the video is probably not the ATO’s doing.

Crayton, a senior from Peoria studying mining engineering, said recent graffiti at Faner Hall about student loan debt has inspired people to anonymously speak about issues on campus.

“It’s just a bunch of keyboard warriors that are just taking advantage of the situation that happened with the spray painting of the walls of Faner [Hall],” he said. “We shouldn’t feed in to this. They’re just trying to rile everybody up.”

Crayton is not taking the threats made in the video seriously and said students should not worry about their safety May 2.

McConnell, a junior from Bourbonnais studying computer science, said he told ATO’s national organization about the video. 

“[The video] has ‘ATO AZO.’ I’m not even sure what AZO is,” McConnell said. “That’s not even our chapter initials, or really have anything to do with us.”

He said his chapter is meeting with the Center for Inclusive Excellence, which promotes equality and diversity on campus, to better inform his fraternity about racism. However, he denied his members’ involvement in any racist acts.

“Every organization has those two or three bad apples who get the organization in trouble from time to time,” Crayton said. “There’s always that one person who ruins it.”

This comes during a time of several reported racist incidents on campus. 

In a Facebook live video, SIU student Leilani Bartlett said white students — some of whom are alleged ATO members — used racial slurs against her and told her in Brown Hall to “go back to Africa.” The video had gained more than 171,000 views and nearly 6,000 shares on Facebook as of Sunday afternoon. 

“You’re not going to make me feel uncomfortable at a school I pay $22,000 to go to,” Bartlett, a freshman from Chicago studying business, said in the 3-minute, 26-second video. “I went down there and I confronted all of them. Y’all want to have an open discussion and an open forum about black people? Let me pull up a seat.”

Colwell responded to the video via email by saying the university was investigating the incident. 

After Bartlett’s video, 100 people marched from Brown Hall to Morris Library to demonstrate against on-campus racism. The group walked to the library chanting phrases such as “How’s a university take pride in its diversity, but we can’t live here comfortably?” and “Accepted, but not welcomed.”

Then on April 17, a swastika was drawn on a Neely Hall chalkboard next to a pro-Donald Trump message, reading “Build That Wall” and “This country is so sad.” 

MORE: Where Trump support moves from politics to hate | 77 percent of students believe racism exists on campus, Daily Egyptian poll shows 

About 20 students gathered Monday for a sit-in in the lobby of the chancellor’s office in Anthony Hall, where they demanded the university resume a search for a professor who specializes in Africana philosophy and African-American philosophy. 

Johnathan Flowers, a doctoral candidate in philosophy from Oak Park, said the department has been trying to get a professor in this position for the last 10 years, and this is the first year the administration had approval to conduct a search and interview applicants. He said having a professor that specializes in Africana and African-American philosophy would serve all students.

Students expressed concerns on Wednesday about on-campus racism during a meeting held by the Center for Inclusive Excellence. The panel of administrators said students can be open when filing complaints, and explained what resources students have to file a complaint. 

Evan Jones contributed to this report. 

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3397.

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