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.
Numerous complaints of racial discrimination by Bourbon Street Bar managers in downtown Auburn, including managers inventing phoney
dress codeson 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.
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.