Here is my column from the May 13, 2009 edition of The Western Tribune.
There is always a lot of interest in what goes on in both Tuscaloosa and Auburn, with news about Auburn coaches recruiting in limos or Alabama coach Nick Saban serving as grand marshal of a race at Talladega. But other things go on in those towns as well.
In Tuscaloosa recently, members of the Kappa Alpha fraternity recently held their annual Old South parade in which they wear Confederate uniforms. Apparently they chose to stop in front of the house of the historically black Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority house to pick up members of another sorority from nearby.
Members and alumni of AKA were offended, and called for the university to permanently end Old South Week and similar events.
Meanwhile in Auburn recently an Auburn city council member removed confederate flags from a cemetery that had been placed there by members of the Daughters of the Confederacy to honor ancestors who had fought in the Civil War, a fifty year old tradition.
Councilman Arthur Dowdell, who is black, had not noticed the flags until this year. He said the cemetery had the appearance of a Klan or skinhead rally.
If my only source of information had been the anonymous comments posted online regarding these events I would have thought that shots had just been fired over Fort Sumter. In reality, both of these incidents are being overblown in attempts to promote agendas on both sides of the issues.
I won’t deny that racism still exists or that some whites in our society still yearn for the ways of old. It’s also true resentments are still strong and that a constant degree of suspicion exists among some blacks at the motives of all whites.
But here is what the players in both of these dramas should be doing. Rather than issuing formal apologies like the KA’s are doing, they could be organizing a permanent project to help disadvantaged kids with the AKA sorority as a co-sponsor.
And instead of issuing a disingenuous sounding apology like the councilman did, he could meet with members of the Daughters of the Confederacy in order to understand the importance of ancestry even when one might not agree with the beliefs of the ancestors.
Human nature, it seems, makes us seek conflict. But a more healthy conflict might be that based on chosen attributes, such as university allegiances, rather than conflict based on race. War Eagle.