Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Frat brother: 'The Rebel flag was not the KA flag'

By Walter Wooten

       Editor’s Note: Chapter Three of the memoir November Ever After provides a detailed recollection of a bloody brawl between blacks and whites on the Marshall University campus. This confrontation took place on the day before the horrific plane crash that killed most of the school’s football team. In today’s blog entry, a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity who attended MU in the ‘60s, shares his innermost thoughts about this incident, which could have turned into a full-blown race riot.

       The world was definitely changing in the ‘50s and ‘60s with integration in the schools and society as a whole.  I missed that 1970 intramural football game [KAs vs. Black United Students]. My Marshall experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student were wrapped around that era. Like other young men at that time, I was off doing our generation's war (Vietnam). 
       Anyway..... answer me this.  If we (Kappa Alphas) were oriented to the positive lessons to be learned from our spiritual founder, why did we exhibit to outsiders indications of the opposite? 
       The Rebel flag was not the KA flag.
       I still have a picture of our intramural championship football team from 1965 with Mike Chandler standing with the players holding the KA Flag. The choice to use the Rebel flag was an incorrect indicator of our group viewpoint. And it was obviously viewed by others as provocative.
       Even so, this is not sufficient cause for committing illegal acts or bodily assaults. Or, were there those among us who held such beliefs [that blacks could never be viewed as being equals to whites]?  I cannot recall any discussions in our (frat) house or group activities that denigrated blacks or espoused the view that they were inferior in any way. I supported the black athletes who represented Marshall and took school pride in their success.
      I formed a few friendships with black classmates while at Marshall. However, when dealing with groups, our personal beliefs get lost in the appearance. Did the KAs make themselves an easy target for those black students who were exhibiting a newly found pride in their culture?
       As we all graduated and moved in a more integrated society as a whole, we learned the nuances of interaction, cooperation, and friendships that helped us work through these barriers. Having a career in the military makes it impossible to work around racial issues.  Those issues must be faced and resolved. A common ground must be established so that people of different cultural backgrounds can effectively work together to achieve common goals.
      I believe there is a definite place for Kappa Alpha, which was founded on pursuing the exceptional attributes of Robert E. Lee as a model.  Unfortunately, our beer drinking, girl chasing, and overly self-confident approach to life at the time, may have clouded the issue.

       Walter Wooten is an alumnus of Marshall University and a member of the Kappa Alpha Order.

No comments:

Post a Comment