/Blackface, Confederate reverence a decades old tradition at Mississippi universities and colleges %

Blackface, Confederate reverence a decades old tradition at Mississippi universities and colleges %

The photo caption on the Delta Psi Yearbook page states that “The leader of the “SECRET PSIs” prepares to open their chapter meeting.” Two shirtless members from Phi Gamma Delta fraternity are seen in a 1979 Mississippi State University yearbook. Their faces, torsos, and arms have been darkened. Two photos from the 1969 Ole Miss Yearbook show two members of two sororities, Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma, performing blackface skits. One caption refers to “Gone With the Wind”, and it appears that the long-standing tradition of white sororities prohibiting black women joining is evident. The caption says, “Miss Scarlet (sic), may I be a Kappa Kappa Gamma?” Mississippi Today examined publicly available yearbooks from several colleges and universities that date back to 1960. This analysis revealed decades of racism and insensitivity by members of white Greek groups proudly displayed at Mississippi colleges. These yearbooks are now digitalized. Photo of Democratic Virginia Governor. Ralph Northam’s page from the medical school yearbook that featured images of a man dressed in blackface and another wearing full Klan regalia triggered a political storm. This scandal led to a wave of journalists and political opposition researchers from across the country looking through college yearbooks. Republican Lt. Governor and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. Tate Reeves, the top candidate for their party’s gubernatorial nominations, were also under fire for their association with fraternities that published offensive photos on college yearbook pages. American Bridge, a Democratic SuperPAC, which conducts political opposition research, published on its website yearbook pages the Millsaps College Chapter of Kappa Alpha Order’s photos in the early 1990s when the current Lt. Governor was still alive. Tate Reeves was an original member of the fraternity. One of the photos shows one of three members of the fraternity with their faces painted. Another is wearing dark-colored makeup and the stars-and bars pattern of the Confederate war flag. A second photo from the fraternity page shows a group of Confederate soldiers, planters and one man waving a Confederate flag. Although it is not clear if Reeves appears in any of these photos, he can be clearly seen in another photo where he is posing with an unknown man and a composite of members of fraternity chapters. Reeves’ office responded to reporters asking about the photos today by Laura Hipp, his spokeswoman. “A quick Google search will reveal, Lt. Governor. Reeves was a Kappa Alpha Order member. He attended college students’ costume formals. In America, Kappa Alpha’s formal is called Old South because it honors the Civil War veteran who founded the fraternity. The formal is also the most visible ritual where the fraternity, KA, is known. Hood was a member of a fraternity that published a photograph in the Ole Miss yearbook in 1980. It showed several men wearing necklaces and holding sticks with their faces covered in dark- and light-colored paint. The photo shows a man on the right wearing what appears to a white sheet, with holes for his eyes and mouth. Hood was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the time that the photo appeared in yearbook. However, Hood is not in the photos. James Thomas, a University of Mississippi sociology professor, stated that blackface is closely tied to rituals that support the Lost Cause narrative. All of these events coexisted alongside Confederate balls and Robert E. Lee beard-growing contests — all other reenactments based on the ‘Lost Cause. These things were introduced by the Greek community. Thomas stated that they were organized and closely knit networks of wealthy whites. “What better way than to tell their ideas about place and status than using their social networks to present their ideas about African Americans’ lackof place on campus?” The 1970 Ole Miss yearbook shows a student with darkened skin, arms, and hands. He is also wearing what appears to have been a sombrero. The caption to the photo reads: “Si, If Only My Name Was Carlos” The photo shows a Phi Tau member wearing a darkened coat and tie in a 1984 Mississippi State yearbook. One photo from the 1986 Mississippi State yearbook shows a Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity members with darkened arms and faces. The 1986-87 Delta State University Yearbook features a photo of Kappa Alpha fraternity members with their dates. Many of the KAs, many of whom are holding beer cans or posing with their dates, appear to have darkened skin. At least three fraternity members are shown in a photo from the 1984-85 Delta State University Yearbook. The entire Kappa Alpha fraternity is shown in photos from the University of Southern Mississippi’s 1986-1987 yearbook. Each member poses for their composite headshot wearing a Confederate soldier uniform and a Rebel flag in the background. The 1981 Mississippi College yearbook photo shows a man in dark makeup and a man in white makeup. The caption suggests that they are attending a “Derby Day” event for tribes. Mississippi College does not have fraternities or sororities. Similar social organizations are called “tribes”. Recently, news broke about blackface incidents at Mississippi’s white Greek organizations. One photo from 2001 shows a member the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity of Ole Miss shooting at another person dressed in blackface and kneeling to pick cotton. For a year, the university suspended the ATO Chapter. A Mississippi College student donned blackface in 2009 to a Michael Jackson-themed tribe party. Officials at Mississippi College condemned the act, but pointed out that some blackface makeup was done by an African American student. The University of Southern Mississippi Phi Mu sorority placed six members on probation in 2011 for wearing blackface to a party that featured the Huxtable family. Hughey, a former sociology professor at Mississippi State University said that blackface and other racist behavior by white Greek letter organizations perpetuate “white dominance” on campus and in greater societies. “As long the group of citizens, African Americans is subject to a large wealth gap and still receives unbalanced and inferior services, and is subject to more surveillance, discrimination, then you’re going see depictions that make those people look like caricatures or objects for ridicule,” Hughey stated. “We shouldn’t be surprised when exclusionary, powerful white Greek letter organisations do exclusionary, powerful things.” Contributing by Larrison Campbell