Day 12: School Daze

I moved into the freshman dorms at Auburn University in September of 1991. The school calendar was divided into trimesters, and I remember my first year of college starting later than those of my friends who had ended up in Bloomington and West Lafayette.

At Auburn, I was a GDI – God Damn Independent, meaning I never did rush week and never pledged to a sorority.

Greek life was big in Alabama. Pledges were announced in their hometown newspapers – legacies given special attention with the names of the moms and grandmothers who had pledged the same sororities decades earlier.

When I was at Auburn, there were white fraternities and sororities, and black fraternities and sororities, and the two rarely mixed. I can’t imagine it was an institutional rule or Greek code, or even that there weren’t exceptions; but, it was my first experience of what segregation looked like in the light of day.

One Saturday afternoon during my freshman semester, SAE KA fraternity brothers, dressed in Confederate Army uniforms, marched down Roosevelt Street right outside my dorm, accompanied by their sorority dates in Gone with the Wind Southern Belle dresses.

It was the annual “Old South Day” parade – an event billed as a “celebration” of the old South and its culture.

On this particular “Old South Day,” a number of black fraternity members – many with Greek letters branded on their upper arms – lined up across Roosevelt to halt the parade of modern day confederate soldiers.

I don’t remember it getting hostile. I do remember officers being called to the scene. I don’t know if a resolution was reached.

On many Southern campuses, “Old South Day” has since been terminated, or rebranded as “Founders Day.” Some disallowed wearing Confederate uniforms.

What hasn’t changed is that the members of these fraternities are often the sons of previous fraternity brothers.

I am disgusted by the repulsive display of hate by the Oklahoma SAEs and their dates. The sickening lyrics. The apparent joy these young men – and women – took in screaming such hate-filled words. I’m angry, and I’m heartbroken; but, I’m not surprised.

Postscript: Thank you to the reader who pointed out Auburn’s Old South Day parade was organized by the Kappa Alpha’s, not the Sigma Alpha Epsilons.

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