Content Warning: This article contains content discussing Confederate Army generals, slavery, the Klu Klux Klan, and more generally, white men being racist pieces of shit.
BERKELEY, Calif. — In what Cal Greeks hailed as an inspiring action, fraternity Kappa Alpha Order, otherwise known as “KA”, hosted an open-to-all diversity training in their spacious “Robert E. Lee Memorial Conference Room” this past Saturday, April 23.
“Listen, I’m really excited about what we’re discussing today,” said pledge Bill Anderson prior to the training, brandishing a rainbow ‘I DON’T SEE COLOR’ T-shirt. “We here at KA really care about this stuff, like race, diversity, and struggle. As white, cis, fraternity men in this society, it’s simply our DUTY to do whatever it takes to feign passionate interest in race relations and half-assedly-discuss diversity practices – in order, of course, to protect our national chapter from lawsuits!”
Kappa Alpha Order’s proud, unabated affiliation with its “Spiritual Founder,” Robert E. Lee — likely the most notable general leading Confederate Army in its fight to preserve slavery during the American Civil War — has been the subject of nationwide criticism for decades. But Lee actually didn’t found the fraternity, nor was he ever a member; the men who founded KA simply fucked with the pro-slavery veteran so much that they built an entire organization based off of his definition of “being a gentleman.”
“Berkeley can be a pretty progressive place, and I sometimes feel like my values are ignored,” lamented KA senior Braxton Bragg. “But then I think about how we have a cannon on the roof of our fraternity pointing ‘toward the North,’ and I remember that my brothers, General Lee, and the confederate army have my back.”
Bragg was surprisingly eager to weigh in on the relationship between KA’s tumultuous affiliation practices and the diversity-focused event.
“We know there’s all of this totally ridiculous stuff out there, claiming that KA is racist, or that we have to memorize a Robert Lee quote as a pledging requirement, or that we have the cannon, or that KA has ties to the Ku Klux Klan, or that KA founders subscribed to the ‘Lost Cause of the Confederacy,’ or that KA used to deny membership to non-white men, or that the yearly celebration of KA’s founding is held on Robert E. Lee’s birthday. And yes, those things are all true, but we’re obviously not tolerant of that stuff, and of course it’s all in the past (even if it’s also in the future). KA wants to shed that reputation, though, which is why we all wanted to sit down for a single two-hour period this year to show our appreciation for our brothers of color who make us look less bad,” explained Bragg, sitting under an “All Lives Matter” tapestry pinned above his bed.
George Pickett, the single staff member working for the UC-funded LEAD center as central oversight of the Interfraternity Council (IFC), also commented on the significance of this event.
“Looking after the frats and generally Greek life at Berkeley can be a tough job, except for when I turn a blind eye to literally every single thing that happens! However, sub-par diversity practices are inexcusable. I am so proud KA took the initiative to finally host a meeting, instead of just structurally addressing the fact that they accept fewer than 10% non-white members with each pledge class, or simply reevaluating the fact that their frat is based on someone who risked his life defending the right to own humans as property. But jolly, was it refreshing to hear them say that racism exists! It’s things like that, you know. I’m honored that KA is Cal-affiliated, what with them taking time to make their house a safe space, and all,” Picket said.
The training began at 11:00 a.m. A large portrait of Lee was taped over with a tattered poster of Martin Luther King Jr., apparently only because a pledge of color had suggested it to the organizers an hour before the event. The portrait’s placard, reading ‘Our Hero, Savior, Role Model, and Moral Compass: Robert Edward Lee,’ however, was still visible below the words “I HAVE A DREAM” scrawled in sharpie at the bottom of King’s photograph. Non-white KA brothers were instructed to sit at the back of the room for the event, because they “knew all of this stuff already,” and needed to give white brothers priority in learning all of this new information. Nate Forrest, a four-year KA senior, led the training.
“Thanks everyone, for coming today. We’ve worked really hard to prepare for this training, sacrificing an entire sunny afternoon of playing die to plan,” Forrest chuckled in his introduction, receiving echoed hollers from a sea of blonde heads. “I might be a white man from Manhattan Beach, but I’m a pre-law political science major, so I sure know a whole lot about race relations in America, and think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me leading this training. Bottom line, we fixed a good deal of it during the Civil Rights movement in the ‘60s – hell, we’ve already had a Black president! Now we just have to make sure we don’t offend anyone, especially because racism is NOT cool – neither for our peers nor for our PR. Diversity is also, like, super important, and so is being as least racist as possible. Like Robert E. Lee said, ‘Forgive and forget, gentlemen.’ Guys, gentlemen aren’t racist most of the time.”
Forrest proceeded to take the entire remaining two hours trying but failing to explain the concepts of “white privilege” and “microaggressions,” and fielding questions about what his white peers “could and couldn’t say.”
“Overall I think it went pretty well,” he said after the training, holding a Budweiser can covered with an American flag. “The brothers definitely learned a lot and I’m super proud of how hard they tried. It may not have been a super diverse crowd, but there were definitely non-white brothers who really showed up and showed out, and not just because it was mandatory!”
At press time, our reporters have not been able to contact non-white members for comment about the training due to the fraternity’s administrative interference, which cited “wanting to protect our minority members from libel and aggressive media practices” by completely taking away the ability of these members to speak to the press.
“I wish more people of color had come. We tried really hard to spread the message,” Forrest continued between loud slurps of his patriotic, urine-flavored beer. “We made a massive group of white brothers flyer on Sproul for the training… Maybe the flyers weren’t cool enough. I even made it a point to update the ‘Statement on Social Justice’ on our website that we haven’t changed since the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, so it doesn’t seem like we only take stances when organizations like ours are called under increased speculation. Better advertising next time, I guess. But hey, at least we finished on time!”
To spend only two whole minutes discussing reflections, the training was abruptly cut off amidst an intense debate about the “validity” of monuments to Confederate generals; Lee, whose semi-obstructed portrait still hung on the conference room wall, was surprisingly not mentioned once.
Indeed, fraternity leaders hastily wrapped up the event at 2 pm sharp and made attendees clear out immediately. The training absolutely could not go overtime – KA was throwing a “Colonial Bros and Uncle Sam’s Hoes” dayger at 2:30 pm, and of course, the brothers couldn’t let down their guests.