As a former federal judge, Rep. Alcee Hastings was incensed when presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rhetorically attacked U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ability to be impartial because of his ethnicity.
Hastings, D-Fla., was equally outraged that Trump went after a fraternity brother.
In disparaging Curiel for his handling of the Trump University lawsuit, the Republican standard-bearer has raised the ire of members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., a predominantly African-American organization that the judge belongs to.
"Several of us have reached out to other Kappas to point out that it now gives us two reasons to be upset with Donald Trump," Hastings said Friday. "The fact that he referred to him as Mexican and the fact that he is our fraternity brother."
Curiel joined Kappa Alpha Psi in 1974 when he was an undergraduate student at Indiana University Bloomington - the campus where the fraternity was founded in 1911. Curiel went on to become a charter member of the university’s the fraternity’s alumni chapter.
"It takes a strong person of a different heritage to join a predominantly one-race fraternity," Hastings said.
Ronald Anderson, 67, a Kappa Alpha Psi member from Indianapolis, said that the organization for decades has welcomed people of all races and ethnic groups “who just decided they want to pledge a black fraternity.”
“I guess they relate to the blackness more than anything," Anderson said.
Kappa Alpha Psi has more than 150,000 members and 721 undergraduate and alumni chapters nationwide and seven chapters overseas.
Its membership includes a roster of current and former elected officials that reads like a Who’s Who in African-American Politics: Hastings, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., John Conyers, D-Mich., Sanford Bishop, D-Ga; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; and former mayors Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, Wilson Goode of Philadelphia, Wellington Webb of Denver, and Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C.
Trump raised the issue Curiel’s ethnicity on the campaign trail and in interviews, claiming that the judge has an “absolute conflict” in the Trump University lawsuit because he is “of Mexican heritage.”
“I’m building a wall,” Trump said in a Wall Street Journal interview, referring to his campaign promise to build a giant wall along the border with Mexico. “It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”
Thomas Battles, Jr., Kappa Alpha Psi’s Grand Polemarch, said in a statement that Curiel “is a highly regarded jurist whose distinguished academic and professional career personifies Kappa Alpha Psi’s founding motto: ‘Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor.’”
“Kappa Alpha Psi stands firmly against the practice of judging a man solely by his race, creed, or national origin,” Battles added. “Our fraternity will continue to oppose all forms of racism and rebuke those who promote this evil.”
Some of the fraternity’s members, known as "Nupes," have taken to social media, launching campaigns under #Nupes4Curiel and #NupesAgainstTrump.
Members of the fraternity’s chapter in Montclair, N.J., posted a "Men of Kappa Stand in Solidarity with Judge Gonzalo Curiel" petition Wednesday on Change.org that "vehemently" denounces "the ad hominem attacks that have recently been hurled against Brother Curiel by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee."
The petition had nearly 750 signatures Sunday. Bishop said his fraternity brothers are also alerting the other so-called "Divine 9" organizations – historically black fraternities and sororities - that Curiel is one of their own.
We are going to take some action - showing up at the voting places, using Curiel in our speeches to our constituents…working with the other fraternities and sororities and letting them know that this guy, Trump, is bad news
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.
Black Greek organizations carry political clout within the African-American community and in the power corridors of Washington, as evidenced last year by the aggressive lobbying effort by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority to get Attorney General Loretta Lynch – a Delta member – confirmed by the Senate.
"Obviously, the Divine 9 make up a large part of the progressive, college-educated African-American community, as well as some non-African-American community members," Bishop said. "Obviously, there is a network and that network has been doubly nonplussed, particularly after finding out that the judge is one of the noble clan of Kappa Alpha Psi."