TEMPE, AZ - An Arizona civil rights activist is rescinding his call for Arizona State University to expel members of a fraternity chapter who attended a distasteful party in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Jan. 19 party reportedly had racist stereotypes and offensive costumes.
University officials notified Tau Kappa Epsilon last week that its recognition as a fraternity chapter at ASU was being permanently revoked for violating the school's student code of conduct.
TKE's national organization says only 16 of 125 chapter members attended the event.
The Rev. Jarrett Maupin had called the party "a raucous, racist rally" and called on the school to expel all students involved.
But on Monday, Maupin issued a statement rescinding his expulsion demand, saying he wants second chances for all of the students involved:
In his 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked a poignant and relevant question that can still guide us to the moral high-ground: "Will we be extremists for hate or for love?"
In the outrage over racist "MLK Black Party" linked to the now-defunct ASU chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon, extremists emerged -- extremists for activism, extremists for inaction, extremists for unbridled speech, extremists for consequences. And on social media, all hell broke loose.
As I reflected on a week of extremes and extremists, I began to pray about what was best for the students caught up in this moral failure. I began to think less about what was good for civil rights and more about what was good for them. I remembered a time when I was most in need of mercy, as they are now. A major misstep and a moment when a stupid mean-spirited mistake caused me, like these youths, to stumble blindly down one of life's Damascene roads. I was blinded like Paul, an extremist, and memory of my own need for a healing from a merciful "Ananias" inspired me to act.
We cannot call for the academic destruction of those blinded by bigotry or ignorance. We must find the strength, despite our anger and rage, to restore their sight that they might see intellectually and socially that all people are equal and made in the image of God. That the inherent worth and dignity of individuals of color is indisputable because we are humans. That the concept of humanity, to paraphrase King, makes us all "inextricably intertwined" and responsible to and for each other.
We are our brothers' keepers, so let me be the first to vouch for the fools. I demand second chances for them all. I am rescinding my demand that Arizona State University expel any students connected with the infamously immoral masquerade -- though, I fear people on both sides of this issue will crucify me for it.
That is not to say that my first demand, ASU's expulsion of TKE was not the Kingian thing to do. It absolutely was. I admire ASU President Michael Crow for his bold and swift defense of the legacy of MLK, the dignity and humanity of Black people, and for enforcing his university's zero-tolerance for discrimination and racism. And it doesn't mean I believe my third demand, developing policy and programmatic changes to incorporate long-term racial sensitivity training, is any less needed or serious.
King's letter talks about Jesus Christ, who is described as "an extremist for love, truth, goodness and who thereby rose above his environment." The preacher closed a thought with the idea that "the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."
This dilemma calls for creative extremists. I can think of no greater extreme action than to chance the ruin of my reputation, the loss of Black peoples' patience, and risk ASU becoming America's latest laughingstock if this new mercy mission is misguided.
So let the second demand be met, let discipline be meted out -- suspensions, sanctions, required diversity and ethnic studies classes. But also let truth and reconciliation talks begin. Let creative extremism guide us in the high-calling of civil rights work, inspire us to keep building a "New American University" free of racism, to embrace and affirm diversity, and transform ASU into MLK's vision of a "beloved community."
Students, this is your mountaintop-moment, don't fail us or yourselves.
The Rev. Jarrett Maupin is a Phoenix-based Baptist minister and civil rights activist.