Christen A. Smith

Christen A. Smith is assistant professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.

Recent Articles

America's Willful Ignorance of Our History of Lynching Feeds Racial Hatred

It's easy to focus on individual racist acts and condemn the actors. But that doesn't get us closer to solving the problem of racism.

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National condemnation of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma has a cruel irony that highlights a painful truth: By singly condemning individual racist acts and refusing to talk openly about our country’s complex relationship to anti-black violence, we allow racial hatred to fester under our noses. As a nation, we need to do two things in response to the SAE scandal: Take a long hard look at the history of state-sanctioned, anti-black violence, and recognize that this violence has been an integral part of our nation’s culture for quite some time. When the racist chant that fraternity members sang on their way to a party came to light, condemnation of SAE was understandably swift and sharp: Two fraternity members identified from the video have been expelled . The university has soundly denounced the fraternity’s actions and shut down its campus activities. In all likelihood, the O.U. SAE members knew their chant was racist. That’s why...

Scalise Scandal Rooted in Secret Societies' Hold on Paths to Power -- Through Violence

From campus rape to the House whip's 'need' to address white supremacists, it's starkly clear that American roots of gender, race and sexual violence run deep. So what are we going to do about it?

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
There’s a direct connection between white male secret societies and group violence that roots gendered racism and raced sexism into our nation’s core. As the campus rape crisis, the Senate's CIA torture report , #blacklivesmatter movement and mainstream political acceptance of white supremacist ideology highlight, we should be deeply concerned. Consider: U.S. Representative Steve Scalise , Republican of Louisiana and the House majority whip, admitted to addressing a community organization with genealogical ties to the Ku Klux Klan, a secret white, male fraternal society founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, on Christmas Eve 1865 that would become one of the most destructive terrorist organizations the United States has ever known. In the wake of the University of Virginia (UVA) rape scandal, we discovered fraternity members are responsible for 28 percent of sexual assaults in which the victim is incapacitated. Fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault ...