Outrage Continues over Fraternities' Racially Offensive Costumes: Expert on Race Relations Says the Behavior Comes as No Surprise. (Auburn, Ala.)

By Lords, Erik | Black Issues in Higher Education, December 6, 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Outrage Continues over Fraternities' Racially Offensive Costumes: Expert on Race Relations Says the Behavior Comes as No Surprise. (Auburn, Ala.)


Lords, Erik, Black Issues in Higher Education


AUBURN, ALA.

At a time when most Americans are putting domestic differences aside to unite in the international war against terrorism, racially charged events at two southern universities have reminded the nation that the battle against ignorance and intolerance at home must still be addressed with a sense of urgency.

Aftershocks at Auburn University in Alabama and the University of Mississippi are still being felt weeks after fraternity members at Halloween parties found a way to disrespect and offend millions of people.

In now infamous photos that circulated on the Internet, members of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity were shown wearing Ku Klux Klan robes and one member was photographed in a Klan costume, clutching a rifle and a noose in front of a Confederate fag. He was pretending to hang a member in blackface. At another Auburn frat house, Beta Theta Phi members at a Halloween party blackened their faces and wore clothing with the symbol and colors of historically Black fraternity Omega Psi Phi. Members also wore bulky jewelry and outfits that mimicked the FUBU apparel company. Some members held up gang signs. Pictures from the parties were posted on the Internet by a company that photographs social events.

Shortly after the Auburn photos surfaced, a photograph depicting two costumed Alpha Tau Omega members at a University of Mississippi Halloween party hit the Internet. One student wore blackface and a straw hat and was photographed picking cotton on his hands and knees while another student dressed as a police officer held a gun to his head.

"I was angry and saddened when I saw that garbage on the Internet," says Gerard Seabrooks, a member of Omega Psi Phi and graduate of the University of Maryland. "In 2001 we have students performing mock lynchings? Wearing Klan robes? That's madness. I received more than 30 e-mails about it from all over the country. People were in shock."

But Dr. Jack Levin, an expert on race relations and director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, says the behavior comes as no surprise to him.

"Some fraternities have been home to some of the most grotesque and stereotypical acts going back for many decades," says Levin, who co-authored the 1993 book Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Hatred.

Levin said that during the 1980s, when more students of color arrived at universities around the country, "we saw these kind of incidents increase.

"It's a defensive position from the point of view of these students, who are what used to be the prototypical college student: White, male and Protestant," Levin says. "But now they have to share with people who are different -- Black, Latino, and Asian students -- and they don't like losing their advantage and privilege."

The Internet postings exacerbated the problem, Levin says. Within hours, the photos were being forwarded and discussed via e-mail and in chat rooms nationwide. Levin says little thought must have gone into the fact that Internet posting would present the photos to a global audience.

"There's still an illusion of anonymity with the Internet," he says. "People are far more open in chat rooms than they are in living rooms."

OUTRAGE, THEN ACTION

At Auburn a flurry of activity followed the revelation about the fraternities' behavior as counselors, administrators, and faculty and staff moved quickly to quell racial tensions and educate students on the value of diversity.

Among the moves taken:

* More than 200 students, administrators and faculty at Auburn attended "Education and Tolerance at Home," a three-hour seminar that was part presentation, part conversation.

* At the request of Auburn interim president William Walker, the Southern Poverty Law Center conducted diversity workshops at Auburn, which were attended by dozens of students.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Outrage Continues over Fraternities' Racially Offensive Costumes: Expert on Race Relations Says the Behavior Comes as No Surprise. (Auburn, Ala.)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?