National SAE President Brad Cohen recently vented his talcum powder-coated opinion, saying that David Boren’s claim that OU SAE chapter members learned the racist chant four years ago while in a national leadership cruise was “disgusting, one-sided and biased” as well as “inflammatory and self serving.“
I noticed Brad didn’t say the allegations are untrue. He went on to say that perhaps Mr. Boren shouldn’t be president of the university if he can’t run an impartial investigation. This is coming from a graduate of the fine state of Arizona, a state perhaps best known for its string of schools remarkable for their studious fortitude and inclusiveness. (And blue meth.)
I think Mr. Cohen is a bit hurt that President Boren crossed over his imaginary collegiate thin Burberry-tartan line. What I do know is that, recently, a friend of mine — also a lifelong friend of Mr. Boren’s — died after a long, 29-year struggle with mental illness and addiction.
Everyone in the art community knew and loved Spencer Mellow, so did many in the faith community and even many in a few more debauched local communities. Spencer was known for having the most love to give out of anyone we knew, so it came as no surprise that in his funeral photo montage were images of a quite young Spencer sitting at one of Mr. Boren’s more stately desks. (Checking for grammatical errors and good ideas, no doubt.) What did surprise me was seeing Mr. Boren sitting quietly, drawing no attention to himself, taking time to say goodbye to a kid he loved for an all-too-brief but brilliance-filled few decades. Just that day he appointed Jabar Shumate as University of Oklahoma’s vice president, a new position intended to foster stronger multicultural relations, among other tasks, and now there he was taking time away from what had to be an incredibly busy transitional time to pay respects to the most chaotic, flamboyant, hardest working and hardest partying creatives I have ever known.
I’d hardly call those the actions of a man who is “disgusting, one-sided, biased, inflammatory” or “self serving.” In fact, I’d say that was some of the most Christ-like, leadership-quality behavior I’ve seen out of an Oklahoman in one day since Representative Emily Virgin single handedly freed the LGBT community with her red pen.
Despite having family in the political realm, I have never met Mr. Boren, but I would gladly shake his hand out of respect, and I prefer that he runs that crimson insane asylum most of us adore so much. Better an ex-politician who cares enough about people to bring real change, than one who would rather sing the songs of the same.
So you might be asking yourself, “What does Ralph Waldo Ellison, author of Invisible Man (1952) have to do with any of this?” I’m glad you asked.
This month (April) is Mr. Ellison’s birth month, and seeing as how he is both an Oklahoman and he wrote the 1950s version of Fight Club, from the perspective of a black man in Harlem, but as an existential criticism of cultural relations and modern man’s many roles in Western society instead of a think piece on the joy and escapism that cubicle life offers.
This makes it the perfect book for revisiting right now, and I hope you do, and frankly I hope it is handed out to every student who joins OU in the next year, regardless of color, status, or singing ability. Clearly we have gone too long without seeing or reading about a man making difficult choices in times of cultural upheaval.
PS: During my research, I found out Mr. Boren’s aunt used to write songs, and met Elvis Presley as a budding musician (she also cowrote “Heartbreak Hotel) , so needing one more catification to make 3 total, it seemed a lovely choice. Hope you enjoy.