The Virginia-based Kappa Alpha Order issued new rules to chapters earlier this year saying members aren’t allowed to wear Rebel uniforms to parties or during their parades, which are a staple on campuses across the South.
The decision, announced in an internal memo posted on the group’s website, followed a flap last year at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where a black sorority complained after a KA parade stopped in front of its house on campus. KA members were dressed in the gray uniforms of Confederate officers, and young women wore hoop skirts.
In the memo to chapters, Kappa Alpha’s national executive director, Larry Wiese, said such displays had to end.
“In today’s climate, the Order can ill afford to offend our host institutions and fend off significant negative national press and remain effective at our core mission, which is to aid young men in becoming better community leaders and citizens,” Wiese wrote.
The KA chapter at Alabama has canceled this year’s Old South parade, which was set for this week. Still, a large Confederate national flag covers the front of its house on campus.
Other KA chapters quit donning Confederate uniforms or holding parades with Old South themes in recent years as criticism grew. The University of Georgia chapter canceled its parade in 2006 after complaints by residents of a black neighborhood. Instead, it switched to a Founder’s Day parade, with members riding horses but ditching Confederate gear.
Auburn University’s chapter ended its Old South parade in 1992 after black students confronted white students with Confederate flags.
Kappa Alphas at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., moved their Old South events off campus in 2002 after drawing protests from the Black Student Alliance and others over the Confederate garb.
An alumna of the black sorority that complained about racial insensitivity at last year’s parade said there are ways for the fraternity to acknowledge its Southern heritage beside dressing up like Confederate soldiers.
Kappa Alpha was founded in 1865 at Washington & Lee University–a school partly named for the Confederate general, and the group calls Lee its “spiritual founder.” It has about 130 chapters nationwide.