This article has been updated with an additional interview from freshman Sofia Nazeer and the inclusion of statements from the Intercultural Greek Collective, Phi Mu and the AU Black Caucus Committee, AU Black Student Union as well as an additional statement from Chi Omega. This article was also updated with a correction that Nazeer, not Babkir, was part of the 2020 Chi Omega pledge class.
A video posted to social media on Tuesday evening sent a ripple through the American University campus after a member of the Chi Omega sorority was filmed saying the N-word.
The video, which appears to be taken in a bathroom, shows freshman Nani Martin yelling on the toilet while fellow freshman Sofia Nazeer filmed her. The first part of the clip is inaudible until Martin says the words, “...really n*****.”
Brittany Mejia, a freshman, posted the video to her Instagram feed and shared it with the caption: “racism at school is so behind closed doors that it’s often unseen. Bigoted people have sloppy, revealing moments, this being one of them.”
Early Wednesday morning, Martin posted an apology on her Instagram story, but has since deactivated her account. In the post to her Instagram story she said: “I am so sorry. This is not who I am and I am so sorry for everyone I hurt through this video.”
She claimed to be intoxicated when the video was filmed, however she said online, “No way am I blaming it on the intoxication.”
Nazeer, who is also a member of Chi Omega, said in an interview with The Eagle that she regrets not taking more action against what Martin said.
“I just want to apologize that I was associated with that video and that I didn’t address this fully and as forcefully as I should have," Nazeer said. "As a person of color, I should have been more aggressive about it, this is not how I was raised, these are not my values and not a good representation of who I am.”
Another video was shared on Aneisa Babkir’s Instagram story of a Facetime call between Martin and freshman Fatima Elsheikh. The two go back and forth about what was said in the original video. The recording of this conversation has since been taken down.
The Eagle reached out to Martin, Elsheikh and Babkir, but they all declined to comment.
A few hours after Martin made her apology, Martin’s sorority Chi Omega posted a public apology to their Instagram account.
“The sisters of Chi Omega are deeply angered and disappointed by this behavior, and under no circumstances will this or ANY racist act ever be tolerated within our organization,” the Eta Lambda chapter said in their post. “This behavior does not align with our morals or what we stand for. Appropriate and immediate steps are being taken in response and we assure that those involved are going to be held accountable.”
The sorority made a second statement on Thursday saying that the two students in the video are no longer members and that they plan to work with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center to educate their members and facilitate dialogues about race.
Chi Omega was taken off probation last semester after violating the student conduct code. They were given a cease and desist order from the University and were not allowed to recruit new members until the fall 2019 semester. Martin and Nazeer were part of the spring 2020 pledge class.
The Eagle reached out to Chi Omega for comment, but the sorority was unable to give a response in time for publication.
In an email to the AU community on Wednesday night, President Sylvia Burwell said that she found the language offensive and that the University is working on restorative actions to those impacted by this incident.
“It causes enormous pain and anguish, particularly for our Black community and our communities of color,” Burwell said in the statement. “We know words of racism, bigotry, discrimination and violence are traumatizing, create lasting damage, and make people feel unwelcome and unincluded.”
Multiple student organizations including AU College Democrats, AU Muslim Student Association, AU Student Government, the Intercultural Greek Collective and sororities Phi Mu, Phi Sigma Sigma, Sigma Kappa and Alpha Epsilon Phi issued public statements on Wednesday condemning Martin’s language in the video and calling for more support from the AU community to marginalized groups on campus, particularly the African American community.
In the statement that AU Black Student Union released on Sunday, the organization expressed disappointment in the University for doing little to hold Martin accountable. They also said that they used their general board meeting on Wednesday night as a space for black students to express their grievances and raise concerns they have for the University.
Martin said in her online apology on Wednesday that she would be reaching out to BSU and “similar organizations, the school administration and my sorority to personally apologize and seek any guidance they can offer.” According to their statement, Martin has not yet reached out to BSU.
The AU Black Caucus Committee released a statement on Instagram Thursday, saying that the Committee carries a "zero-tolerance policy toward the use of the word by non-black individuals." The Committee also said that they would be creating a safe space for black students on campus. The details of this event have yet to be announced.
Students have also shared their opinions about the incident with The Eagle. Saniya Parks, a freshman currently on medical leave, said that she felt Martin’s apology wasn’t genuine and that the incident has not helped on her decision to return to AU.
“You can’t say you’re not racist, you knew it was wrong and you can’t act like it's nothing,” Parks said.
Patrice Sanford, a freshman who said “racist undertones” is one of the reasons why she has decided to transfer from AU next semester said, “she thought she was in the safety of the bathroom with her best friend but it was recorded and it got out, you can’t keep your racism covered.” She also mentioned that incidents like this are the reason why classes like AUx should be taken more seriously and are clearly necessary.