So originally, my blog this week was supposed to focus on “Trusting the Process” when it comes to dealing with life issues. However, seeing as how a new interesting Greek incident recently popped up on my Newsfeed, it’s only appropriate to address the matter at hand. Many of you may have seen @laylaevette’s screenshots (an AKA from Southern Methodist University) floating around your timeline. It’s even garnered attention from Ms. Being Mary Jane herself, Gabriel Union. If you haven’t seen them yet, each photo captures comments and suggestions as to why some sororities at SMU don’t accept and/or seek out women of color, specifically Black women, when it comes to their recruitment efforts.
Though all of the statements were disgusting, there were a few that were distinctively disturbing to me:
“Yall are racist and have your own sororities and fraternities. Ya’ll created them so how about utilizing them?”
“Yall are aesthetically unpleasing to the eye for both actives and the fraternity men we associate ourselves with.”
“Yall generally go to crappy high schools and generally don’t deserve to be at SMU to begin with.”
” …Black women are normally too lazy to get to know activities and just do not fit in the SMU culture, let alone with sorority culture…Black women will have to work harder because affirmative action won’t help them with this process.”
While scrolling from image to image, I thought I would immediately become irate and frustrated by the statements made on GreekRank. Instead, I found myself feeling a sense of relief and pride. Why? Because it solidified and provided assured confirmation as to why I decided to join a historically black sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. In recent years, the black community has questioned the relevance and necessity of historically black entities in today’s society, including the National Pan-Hallenic Council. Since my inception, I have constantly defended our council with numerous reasons as to why we are still important. But it’s moments like this, my explanations are far more prevalent. Rather than suggesting how those particular sorority girls probably had their dues paid by their wealthy parents rather than working for it, were maybe jealous of the queens who were seeking membership (because pop culture automatically deems Black people/culture as cool when taken out of our context) and possibly qualified as a lame prior to their Greek experience because they depended on their lack luster aesthetics to get them any kind of attention, I’d like to focus on what’s important. Here are a few reasons as why I, and many Black students, choose and continue to join NPHC rather than traditional collegiate Greek letter organizations.
- Our history AND legacy consist of more socializing, popularity and name dropping.
To the young lady who had the audacity to claim we were racist because we formed our own fraternities and sororities: you ma’am, can have several seats in our history class. Matter of fact, the whole classroom is yours. The organizations within NPHC were formed for several reasons. The most evident are 1) Due to racial segregation and disenfranchisement, traditional White Greek letter organizations did not ALLOW us to join their organizations because they thought black students were inferior; therefore, we created our own. 2) Traditional White Greek letter organizations did not address issues that directly affected our communities; therefore, we created ones that did.
The history AND current activity of NPHC members goes well beyond our collegiate years, unlike many Panhellenic and IFC Greek orgs. Post college, we integrate our local grad chapter events, auxiliary groups, regional conferences and national initiatives to enhance and advance our members to become strong, effective, and influential leaders within our communities. We have little, to no time, to worry about how our fraternal and sororal counterparts perceive us aesthetically (although we are a good looking group) because that is not why we were established. At ANY given time you can see our members taking initiative to fill the needs in our community and at the same time turn up for a Greek social (which is most likely for a cause we champion). We are not Barbies and Kens as some Greek orgs make themselves out to be; we are Baracks and Michelles. They can keep the simple minded membership strategies, we’ll take the movers and shakers they so politely declined.
- Members debunk negative stereotypes of Greek Life and being black.
Generally, when people think of “Greek Life” they think of the huge Greek houses, binge drinking parties, crazy hazing, shallow frat and ditzy sorority members and big bucks being paid out to “buy friends”. But when you deal with NPHC specifically, it’s a whole other ball game. Yes, you associate us with step shows, probates and pledging. But members and non-members alike can easily identify public figures (celebrities, athletes, politicians, scientists, historians, lawyers, doctors, etc) as well as family members, mentors and friends that drastically defy all of the presumptions these women so kindly made about our black wo(men). We are constantly breaking barriers and starting new traditions due to the support of our community. NPHC holds weight not only in our black communities, but in society as a whole. There are a high percentage of Black student leaders as well as key influencers in various industries who are NPHC members. Rather than joining an organization that puts you in a box because of your skin color, NPCH offers way to show and prove and succeed based not only on your ability but also the resilience of your African American ancestry.
- Members are not “a token”; they are a collective organization of influential change. Members can be unapologetically & authentic themselves, which includes being black.
Let’s be honest. An African American going to a PWI (Predominately White Institution) is already intimidating as it is. You are trying to prove to yourself that you can succeed and that you’re not a statistic. You are also trying to prove to your white counterparts AND the predominately white workforce that you, in fact, DO belong and you’re capable of being an asset to your class and industry. To supplement our anxiety, our inexperience, or lack of social interaction due to classes, we join student organizations. We look for commonalities and companionship in those organizations. When you join NPHC, you get just that. Hardly do you have to wonder, BECAUSE OF MY RACE, do I measure up? Because of my race, my culture, my customs, my history, will I fit in? Do I have to watch what I say so it doesn’t sound “too black”? What do I say if/when someone says something that I consider racist/discriminatory? How would I convince my sorority or frat members to not attend this party that looks like something right off of Dear White People? Will I have to speak for all the blacks from history up until now when someone has a question about what it’s like to be black? Should I get mad if they’re surprised I’m doing so well in class? Will they consider me a statistic if I’m not? If I can’t afford all the pricey socials, will I be an outcast or will someone at least offer to lend a hand? Bruh. We don’t have time for that and neither should you. Come-as-you-are!
NPCH provides a community of organizations with like-minded missions and members who don’t make you feel like the exception, but the standard. In addition to fitting in with a greater cause that expands beyond your senior year, NPHC allows and encourages you to be your authentic self – unashamed and unapologetic. You are an asset, not because of your race, but because of who you are and the great contributions you bring to the table. If Black pride is apart of that, then so be it.
I feel sorry for the wo(men) who encounter this kind of institutionalized racism at any given time in their lives, especially when it comes to aspiring to join a brother/sisterhood. And to all those women who uphold these damaging mentalities and impose them on eager aspirants, be careful how you treat people. Collectively, smart, resourceful and powerful minorities are slowly but surely becoming the majority. I’m just sayin, you and karma might have a date.
But to end this on a good note, although this is specific to Zeta, I believe NPHC emulates this belief in our actions:
“There’s a Zeta in every girl regardless of race, creed or color who has high standards and principles and active interest in all things that she undertakes to accomplish”. – Viola Tyler Goings . AND THAT’S how you execute membership intake.