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The Context of Racism at Auburn Fraternities

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 22 years ago, in 2001, on the World Wide Web.

photo: from an Auburn fraternity Halloween Party

An Auburn fraternity brother dresses as a member of the Ku Klux Klan for Halloween

[The incident of AU fraternity members wearing Ku Klux Klan costumes for Halloween] could portray Auburn as a racist community. I do not believe Auburn is a racist community.

–Grant Davis, secretary to the Auburn University Board of Trustees

Funny that it keeps happening, then. Davis’s comments were made two years ago in 1999, when members of Pi Kappa Alpha dressed as Klansmen for Halloween and were mildly punished once it came to the eyes of the administration. The hate images put on display this Halloween 2001 by two all-white Auburn fraternities are shocking and horrifying in their own right, but they are not anything new to the Auburn community. Just in the past few years, the Auburn community has seen repeated incidents of racial hate and remains deeply engaged in institutional racism on many levels.

  • As previously mentioned, two years ago there was a parallel incident where Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity members dressed as Klansmen for Halloween.

  • Auburn’s historically white fraternities are, and have always been, almost completely racially segregated against Blacks.

  • Among Auburn’s registered student organizations is a campus chapter of The League of the South, a neo-Confederate group that is tracked as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  • Numerous complaints of racial discrimination by Bourbon Street Bar managers in downtown Auburn, including managers inventing phoney dress codes on the spot and lying about city ordinances in order to exclude Black patrons from the bar.

  • Pervasive racism in hiring, promotion, and benefits in the Facilities Division (whose workers are overwhelmingly Black, managers overwhelmingly white) has prompted marches, demonstrations, and finally a federal civil rights lawsuit against the University. In response, Auburn dealt with the problem by… ignoring worker complaints and shifting building service workers to a night shift of 4:00pm to 12:30am, which will result in many of them having to quit in order to keep family commitments.

  • The Auburn University Board of Trustees consists of twelve white men, one white woman, and one Black man. The senior administration is almost exclusively white (one exception, of course, is the director of Multicultural Affairs). Auburn remains under a court desegregation order to increase hiring of Black administration and faculty and to increase Black student enrollment, but the much-vaunted 24% increase in Black enrollment still leaves Black students at Auburn as only 7.2% of the entire student population.

And there’s a lot more that I couldn’t put together for this hastily-compiled list. Of course, none of this was mentioned or responded to in the administration’s white-washing diversity rally media event. Instead there was everything I had hoped for in a serious, harsh response to the individuals who committed the most recent acts–and everything I had feared in distancing, disavowal, and refusal to deal with the larger environment that nutured the kind of moral obliviousness that would allow frat boys to think that their vicious re-enactments of hatred and genocide were all just a big stupid lark. Look, this is a serious problem in the Auburn community, and one that we’d better get damned serious about dealing with. If we fail, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, I fear that very shortly we will learn that racism is a sickness unto death.

Take action!

Please send polite and carefully-considered e-mails to Vice President for Student Affairs Wes Williams and Interim President William F. Walker urging them to take this hate incident seriously by ensuring that the individuals who committed it and the fraternities who hosted it are severely punished, urging them to permanently dissolve the local chapters of Beta Theta Pi and Delta Sigma Phi. Further, politely but firmly ask them to make sure that their response to this incident include a careful look at the broader racial environment at Auburn and that concrete new programs be implemented to address racism in the Auburn University community.

7 replies to The Context of Racism at Auburn Fraternities Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    One Down, One To Go… – Beta Theta Pi dissolved in Frat Racism Scandal

    The national board of Beta Theta Pi has announced that it will be suspending and indefinitely dissolving its Auburn chapter [link courtesy of the ever-awesome Max] in response to the fracas over racist hate imagery at the local chapter’s Halloween…

  2. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    And the other shoe drops – Delta Sigma Phi Dissolved in Frat Racism Scandal

    In response to the racist hate imagery at Halloween party, Auburn University has revoked its recognition of the local chapter Delta Sigma Phi [AU], and the national board of directors of Delta Sigma Phi voted to dissolve the local chapter….

  3. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    And the other shoe drops – Delta Sigma Phi Dissolved in Frat Racism Scandal

    In response to the racist hate imagery at Halloween party, Auburn University has revoked its recognition of the local chapter Delta Sigma Phi [AU], and the national board of directors of Delta Sigma Phi voted to dissolve the local chapter….

— 2005 —

  1. Chad Milner

    Your article is nothing more than a black on white racial slur. Freedom of speech and freedom of opinion is what got your forefathers out of slavery. You should embrace freedom of speech and look at the fraternity members as racist rednecks, not try to infringe on their rights as Americans. Your opinion is what gives good hard working black men a bad name.

— 2007 —

  1. brittney

    i do not even see how you can joke around like that, that is a hate crime. i dont think it is funny at all, that the “kkk” went around killing african-american people. i dont think you would like it very much, if someone was chasing me trying to kill me wearing a creepy costume, i woulnt think it was funny at all, but if it happened to you, i would laugh, and hope that they would kill you!!!!!

— 2008 —

  1. jasmine

    i think this is very disrespectful not just to the black race but to everybody i this is a sign of racism

  2. SHANE

    I wonder how many young African-American football players (who make-up 75% of most SEC teams) would be conducive to signing a scholarship with this University after viewing just the photographs?

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