The Phi Delta Theta fraternity at the University of Chicago proved that at the college "where fun goes to die," bigotry might come to live. The fraternity is under intense scrutiny for a racist and homophobic prank pulled on U.S. postal carrier Iran Becton.
Becton told the Chicago Sun-Times that about a week after Memorial Day he got an order to deliver 79 boxes to the fraternity house.
“I came to the address and explained to the frat member that I would have a lot more supplies,” he said. “I went back to the truck for the boxes about six or seven times. After the last trip, one of the frat guys came out and said it was a practical joke. Another guy said that I should read the name backwards and I’ll get the joke.”
All the boxes were addressed to “Reggin Toggaf.” LOL, right?
Becton is an African American. “I was humiliated,” he said.
No fraternity members have spoken with the press, but Mack Julion, a representative of the letter carriers union, went to the house and spoke to the fraternity’s former president who said it was a joke being played on them by another fraternity and it was not meant to offend Becton. (Nobody has asked why the guy at the door told Becton to read the card backwards if it was a joke being played on them by another fraternity.)
Julion was not amused. “Is this standard protocol in terms of practical jokes?” he said. “Is this the way they go back and forth, because it is not acceptable.”
Becton said his efforts to see those responsible for the prank punished have been fruitless. “Someone had to send an email to order those boxes, and the postal inspector should go after the person who ordered all this stuff,” he said. “This is ridiculous that all you can tell me is that you are sorry it happened.”
The fraternity’s mail delivery has been put on hold until they send a written apology to Becton. Julion has not heard back from them since Saturday.
So congrats, Illinois Beta chapter of Phi Delta Theta, for reinforcing every negative stereotype about fraternities. Already in 2013 there have been several national stories about racism and homophobia in fraternities. Members of the Lamda Theta Delta fraternity at UC Irvine got heat in April for a video featuring a student in blackface. Duke University’s Kappa Sigma chapter attracted racist accusations with a party themed “Asia Prime.” And a student at Swarthmore wrote an essay in the school’s paper about his homophobic encounters with fraternity members.
In the essay he cites two fraternities that claim to have “inclusive policies.” Delta Upsilon’s website says, “We are not prejudiced of race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation.” And Phi Psi says it “prides itself on its openness.” Every fraternity has similar phrases on its website. So have fraternities today lost sight of their original values or are those words just a formal way to satisfy administrators and over-zealous and overly sensitive citizens?
I don’t believe the blanket statement “fraternities breed bigotry” any more than I believe being Islam makes you anti-American. Nevertheless fraternities are in the news regarding racism and homophobia way too much for there not to be some correlation. I can’t help but wonder what this says about American culture in a broader sense.
Current fraternity members are millennials — aren’t they supposed to be the most progressive and accepting segment of American society? So is it that fraternities attract only the most prejudiced of all millennials? Or are fraternities a representative sample that make themselves an easy target with organized pranks and themed parties? Do they just have no concept of what a good joke is?