Fraternity that Reveres Robert E. Lee Faces Revolt over RacismBreaking News
tags: Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, fraternities, Lost Cause, colleges and universities
Kappa Alpha, one of the nation’s largest and oldest college fraternities, is not unaccustomed to fending off charges of racism.
Its embrace of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, as a “spiritual founder” has rankled students and faculty members. Black student groups have protested its antebellum-themed spring formals. One campus demanded an apology after Kappa Alphas recited a chant lamenting the Union victory in the Civil War.
But the killing of George Floyd has for the first time started a racial reckoning within the fraternity’s own chapters. Members of the Southwestern University chapter demanded that the fraternity drop its association with Lee and investigate the racial harms they say Kappa Alphas have inflicted. “KA nationally has a deeply troubling history that active chapters can no longer cry ignorance to,” they said in a statement drafted over often-tense Zoom meetings and GroupMe texts.
The unusual breaking of ranks was initiated this summer by Noah Clark, a Southwestern alumnus who had, in 2017, become the first Black student to graduate as an active member of the college’s Kappa Alpha chapter. Kappa Alpha’s national organization then suspended the chapter, angering even some Black students on the Georgetown, Texas, campus who have not typically regarded Kappa Alphas as allies.
“My first reaction was, ‘I can’t believe they’ve gone and done this,’” said Pierce MacGuire, 29, referring to the chapter posting the statement. Mr. MacGuire, an alumnus who voted for President Trump, lent his support to the statement after being approached by Mr. Clark. He added, “It’s not a group you would typically expect to be the people on the front line of a protest.”
The national ferment over race has reached many American institutions, including professional sports leagues, major corporations and Hollywood. Yet the dissent within Kappa Alpha, pieced together through interviews and by reviewing text exchanges and other documents, caught many familiar with the fraternity by surprise.