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Members of the University of Chicago’s Alpha Epsilon Pi, a historically Jewish fraternity, have been accused of sending racist emails, according to a report on BuzzFeed.

The emails exchanged amongst the UC chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi)  trace as far back as 2011 and reportedly feature disparaging comments about a Muslim student activist and cringe-worthy conversations about the N-word. In 2013, the fraternity began organizing “Marathon Luther King Jr. Day,” an offensive homage to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, featuring day drinking, fried chicken, and the Blaxploitation film, Black Dynamite. 

BuzzFeed reports:

The email reads: “Reverend Marathon Luther King Jr. did more for our civil rights than any other leader during the civil rights era. Following the horrors of prohibition, the puritanical powers in control of the United States successfully stigmatized day drinking. This travesty flavored American life in many ways, leading to increases in domestic abuse, legitimate rape, and worst of all oppression. MLK took a stand. He had a dream. He led a million man to march on Washington in order to make his dream a reality.”

The email then instructs brothers to start drinking at 9 a.m., to eat dinner at Harold’s Chicken Shack, and then to watch the movie. The brother ends the email saying, “Let us honor this Great American,” and signs off with “Hezbollah.” The member who shared the emails told BuzzFeed News that up to 10 brothers, including himself, attended the “Marathon Luther King Day” in 2013.

Another AEPi chapter email urges brothers to petition against stipends for the university’s Student Government (SG). One person refers to a Muslim woman who was part of the government as a “terrorist.”

These emails could be considered mild compared to their conversations about the N-word. One member suggested his nickname include the N-word in it. Another suggested frat neophytes should be named NIGs instead of NIBs (newly initiated brothers). They also referred to Muslim students as “towel heads” and Black students as “community members.”

Via BuzzFeed:

The brother asks the chapter not to use his nickname on Facebook, in emails, or in person, unless “you need to satisfy your inner klansman,” he writes.

Another member responds to the email saying, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word nigger. By calling it the n word’ you are giving it power that it doesn’t deserve.”

“What’s racist about it?” writes a third member. “It’s based on winnie the pooh!!”

One email, sent in December 2012 to the chapter, shows a poster featuring a Jewish man eating a watermelon. The poster reads, “You don’t have to be Negro to love watermelon.”

The email doesn’t have context, but as BuzzFeed reported in 2012, the poster was a controversial response in the 1960s to an ad for Levy’s Jewish rye bread. One of the brothers calls the picture “outstanding” and writes, “It is also excellent that gmail wants to translate it (a 0 word email!) from afrikaans.”

The email reads, “In an effort to foster better relations between Jewish and Muslim students, I would like to offer you the chance to participate in this year’s event by debating two long-held fixtures of your culture! Please let me know if you plan to attend the C4-Dynamite Debates.”

The email concludes, “Peace be upon you.”

In two other email chains, sent in March and April 2015, some brothers refer to an empty lot filled with gravel and weeds next to the fraternity’s apartment building as “Palestine,” the member who provided the messages explained.

An AEPi brother eventually released the emails to BuzzFeed. He explained that many new members were growing tired of older members’ racist rhetoric and behavior. Andrew Borans, the executive director of Alpha Epsilon Pi, released a statement:

“I was personally appalled when I saw the personal emails distributed by members of our chapter at the University of Chicago. Hate speech like this is completely antithetical to the Jewish values of Alpha Epsilon Pi. We are working with our brothers to implement programs which will educate our members about the dangers of intolerance and hate speech.

As a Jewish fraternity, we know as well as anyone the pain of being belittled and marginalized. We don’t stand for it when it happens to us and we won’t tolerate it when it is being done to others.

Silence in the face of such actions is not acceptable. We expect better of our Brothers and we will use this event as a lesson for all of our nearly 10,000 undergraduates.”

Josh Benadiva, the president of AEPi, also responded to the emails in a now-deleted Facebook post:

We are disgusted by the emails sent to the fraternity list host in past years, and regret that such hate was ever a part of the discourse in AEPi. The current Executive Board is doing everything in its power to investigate and confront the individuals of the fraternity who sent these emails. We whole-heartedly condemn this behavior and reaffirm that there is no place for these hateful and bigoted sentiments in our fraternity.

Benadiva has requested “educational materials” to be distributed to the chapter from the university and the national fraternity.

You can read more of the emails here.



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