What These Sororities Did Wasn’t Just Catty. It Was Straight Racist.

Maz Ali Curator:

On June 11, 1963, John F. Kennedy issued a presidential spanking of Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a proud racist who refused to allow black students to register at the University of Alabama. Kennedy threatened Wallace with arrest by the National Guard — a bold and risky move, to be sure — if he didn't comply. The politician in Wallace made him eat his pride and step aside. But 50 years later, the university is still cleaning the stains of white supremacy from their walls.

Ending racial segregation at the University of Alabama and on plenty of other campuses isn't proving easy. But we can change it. How? According to Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post, "by changing minds. And the institutions will follow." So let's get to it.

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And I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.

September of 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of integration on campus but the problem is still alive. The Mallet Assembly, a student-run organization that celebrates equality and diversity, took a stand and decided to do something about the recurring acts of segregation.

Recently we began documenting acts of injustice on the campus which we feel need to be brought to light.

[megaphone speech]

Racism, real or perceived, is wrong no matter what [but I think] that discrimination will always be around as long as there are people that are complicit in letting it continue.

You at home, your tax dollars go to pay for the leases for all the fraternity houses and all the sorority houses on campus. Your tax dollars at work are going to institutionalized racism. That's part of why this is a very big deal.

The Mallet Assembly has always fought for the rights of minority groups but there are still instances on campus where they're excluded. At the beginning of every school year there's a big pool party to welcome back the students. There will be black people there but most of them are football players or ex-football players.

[shouts into camera]

The first gate we went to the dude said he couldn't let us in 'cause we didn't have on swimsuits. Somehow within the 14 seconds it took us to get to the other gate they were at max capacity.

I love Alabama! Nope, nope.

It was clear that there weren't a lot of minorities there.

A lot of old wounds from Alabama's transgressions are still open.

The University of Alabama campus at Tuscaloosa is under attack security guard of state police as Gov. George Wallace prepares to confront a deputy U.S. attorney. The federal officers are armed with a proclamation from President Kennedy urging the governor to end his efforts to prevent two negro students from registering at the university. Five minutes after the governor leaves, James Hood is the first of his race to become a University of Alabama student.

The Mallet Assembly was founded in 1961 by Dr. John W. Blackburn to foster integration in on-campus housing. Since then it's been at the forefront of keeping the university on-task with integration.

It's not something that, "Oh it's 50 years ago, we don't need to worry about this any more." No, it's still a problem and it's definitely a problem here on campus when it comes to Greek life.

It's not even that the people in the Greek organization are racist, like the individuals inside the fraternities. It's just that that's how they were taught to act around minorities.

Sometimes we the progressive organizations will come together and hold meetings. We've held some in our basement in this dorm before.

This isn't the first year that an African American student has tried to pledge to a historically white Greek organization and been turned away. Just happens that this year one of the students is the granddaughter of a trustee.

I went to law school at the University of Alabama. I started there in 1969 in the first class of African-Americans that the university law school admitted. I have two sons who both graduated, and then a daughter. All of them finished the University of Alabama law school. So all my children are lawyers. Kerry[SP] my granddaughter, you know she... 4.3 grade point average and just an outstanding student who had a chance to look at Alabama close and decided to go. Now how she feels about it now I don't know.

At the time that I went through the [SEA] president had a number of executive assistants and they were over certain aspects of campus life. I applied for one of those positions and did not get them, and in my mind they went to members of fraternities and sororities whose family members had gone through Alabama.

A professor used the term "enclaves of privilege." They set up these enclaves of privilege with university backing, but in time we'll all grow as people from having a more comfortably intermingling campus, and I think we all can really get behind that.

What's up?


I'll just make sure you all are off the private property.

It has to be a long, long process of fostering not only integration and diversity but also just general good personhood, just being nice to people. And I think we all can really get behind that. We're gonna have to do a lot more.

You know, it's like tight, for the summertime muscle, you know what I'm saying?

On September 18 the Mallet Assembly and a number of other organizations held a rally on campus to take a stand against racism.

Students at the University of Alabama have become disgusted and embarrassed by the state of racial segregation that continues to this day on our campus and ultimately not doing anything about the white-black-Asian...

[inaudible megaphone]

Hold their hand. Be diverse. This is a largely [inaudible] demonstration to bring back memories of the [inaudible] and 60s so keep that in mind if you're being quiet and orderly.

Because of those who had the bravery to speak out there have been actions within the past few days that have begun our walk towards progress. However there's still so much to do. These issues are not easy and will not be fixed overnight.

I'm slightly concerned that now it looks potentially to the national media like a problem that's solved and the University of Alabama is not racist after all, and that's not the case. There's much more work we need to do and I hope that the success and positivity of this event has not derailed the serious negativity that we're fighting.

Let's do the Alabama Fight Song!

You guys might know about the song "Alabama Football," I've been trying to sell to the university for a couple of years now. You remember it goes... you'll be singing it game day:


Today we took what will hopefully be the first step of a thousand mile journey to end discrimination here and hopefully in other institutions that sort of set themselves up as bastions of justice.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This investigative report was brought to you by Vice. Read more about the 1963 standoff between Wallace and Kennedy. Learn more about the Mallet Assembly at their wiki. It includes a little background, as well as their governing documents, which could serve as a guide for organizing and challenging racism on campuses everywhere. And if you're a student at the University of Alabama, track the Mallet Assembly's activities and events on Twitter.

Jun 11, 2014

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