Culture · HBCU

Are Black Fraternity’s and Sorority’s an asset or do they work against Black Culture ? : A difficult conversation and debate..

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col·or·ism
prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

class·ism
prejudice against or in favor of people belonging to a particular social class.

soul
the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.
a person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity.
“in the depths of her soul, she knew he would betray her”

While this article isn’t meant to change anyone’s ideas, beliefs, or thoughts concerning Black Greek life, here are just a few points and personal thoughts to think about in regards to Black Greek life

I recently showed interest in a sorority at my historically Black university (Wilberforce University). I started out by respecting the organization and all that it stands for, but in the midst of deeply thinking and reading about some of the things that it would take to join a sorority, I questioned my initial reasoning’s for wanting to do so. I still went through with things such as the interviewing and application process and am extremely grateful that I wasn’t accepted. I was disappointed for a few days, but then I began to reflect on some things and became extremely grateful with the decision. I personally like to believe that I am already a leader amongst my community in my own way, rather it be by being a very vocal mental health advocate for my community, or merely sharing my truth and inspiring young Black women, such as myself through my art.

So why is it that I felt the need to want to join a sorority? Was it for acceptance? Was it for status? Initially it was because I respected what historically the woman of this particular sorority had done for the Black community, although honestly, what I see on campus now doesn’t truly reflect what I have read.

I already had some concerns about the Black Fraternity and Sorority process, the rumors and accusations (not at my university) but around the world, of young people dying for a sisterhood, or brotherhood.

Even in the process of me doing my own research about all the good things that this particular sorority has done for the Black community, I didn’t understand and still don’t understand the idea of physically or mentally humiliating or harming another Black person, for them to prove their selves, or to break them down to essentially build them back up. I also don’t agree with or understand how one can pledge their lives to something that was man made, for I personally want to pledge my life to God, myself, and freedom. I know with me attending an HBCU, this article will be extremely controversial. I recently tweeted a thought that I take accountability in saying that I possibly shouldn’t have tweeted, in which it stated:

In hindsight I shouldn’t have tweeted this post, because it wasn’t very positive. Although, I don’t regret doing so. My tweet was screen shot put on snapchat and I received petty back lash by a few people whom are a part of Greek organizations here at my university, some mean comments, but nothing too major. Hey, what radical woman throughout history didn’t receive backlash for her comments ? I did indeed write a poem essentially about what this article is about, it wasn’t personal towards any Greeks, but just about what I learned after conversations with my grandfather concerning my own journey in seeking sisterhood, among other research. Many people know that I am a student of history, as well as a truth teller and so i’m going to write about mostly anything that is life altering for me.

With that being said, let me share some of the things that I found interesting in researching this topic. Focusing on the idea of Black elitism, white supremacy, assimilation, colorism and classism. While mostly all Black fraternities and sororities seem to have started out with rebirthing concepts, which can go back to West African communities, I question if it stayed that way? Many of Black fraternities and sororities include many prominent historic figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr. to Coretta Scott King, and Nikki Giovanni, just to name a few.

“Conversely, many of their harshest critics maintain that the activities of organizations that have included secret meetings, selective membership, and a preference for lighter complexions have allowed Black elites to create a separate privileged society based on snobbery and arrogance and have thus enabled these organizations to perpetuate the vicious cycle of racial prejudice and White supremacy.”

There is a letter from 1928 that I came across, where a student at Howard University wrote about brown paper bag testing amongst Black sororities. (Read it on the link below:)

https://www.watchtheyard.com/history/brown-paper-bag/

brown paper bag test pic

If you don’t know, paper bag testing is an actual test, along with the so-called ruler test that was commonly used in the early 1900s among upper class Black American societies and families to determine if a Black person was sufficiently light enough to gain admittance or acceptance. If your skin was darker than a brown paper bag, you did not meet the criteria. Thousands of Black institutions including the nation’s most eminent Black fraternity, and numerous church and civic groups all practiced this discrimination.

Sociologist W.E.B. DuBois (former professor here at Wilberforce University) at times openly condemned Black fraternities. During a 1930 commencement address at Howard University,

DuBois stated, “Our college man today is, on the average a man untouched by real culture. He deliberately surrenders to selfish and even silly ideals, swarming into semiprofessional athletics and Greek letter societies…we have in our colleges a growing mass of stupidity and indifference”.

Amongst my research, I read that conformity to western values and social norms, was a problem amongst these organizations. Many scholars have questioned whether these organizations were created in the hopes of unifying the Black community against the harmful effects of racial prejudice or whether they were formed by young African American students in order to gain acceptance into American society by emulating existing White organizations of the period.

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My main concern when it comes to Black Greek organization’s, that I personally don’t agree with is the known physical and mental humiliation aspect of going through the process to become a member. I also have this naive thought, that if it was truly about brotherhood and sisterhood why do we need to join organizations to prove that to one another? We are all Black and should therefore be “sisterly and brotherly” towards one another, but I digress.

“Black people are not even in the position to be excluding our people from things” – Grandfather.

Another concern of mine is the idea of Black elitism, and the history behind Black elitism and how detrimental it is to the Black community. “Black elitism” is a term used to address classism in the Black community and is typically used to criticize the Black upper-middle class. Just as in any community elitism derives from the idea that one select group of people within a community are above or superior to another group. In the case of the Black community elitism has mostly to do with status, educational background and socioeconomic status”

While I don’t dislike these organizations, for I still believe that they do a lot of good for our community, and have done so for centuries, reasons listed within this article are examples of why I will look at Black Greek organizations as being critical and historically not as good as they may seem for the culture of Black people.

Please comment below any comments, concerns, or points that you would like to debate.

14 thoughts on “Are Black Fraternity’s and Sorority’s an asset or do they work against Black Culture ? : A difficult conversation and debate..

  1. This is definitely a discussion that needs to happen. True Brotherhood and sisterhood is something that should be taught, explained, and shown through action to everyone. It would actually increase healthy relationships on any campus. Thank you for speaking up , much love 💕

    Like

  2. This is was a great read. I appreciate your transparency. You were accountable for yourself but you stayed true to your spirit! Thanks for this insight into your experience. I’d say I’ve had a similar experience during my undergrad years as well.

    Like

  3. Allahnastevie, I’m so proud of you!
    Your self-worth should never be associated with what organizations you belong to, what school you attend(ed), what church you are a member of, etc., etc., etc….
    Always have confidence in knowing who you are. You are a young, beautiful, and gifted. There is greatness in you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is amazing. I completely agree with you and understand what you are saying. Organization such as these test us down mentally, physically and spiritually for the name of an organization. It indeed is not for the liberation of Black people and if things are not done on the basis of that they should not be done. Thank you for this well versed article, amazingly written.

    Liked by 1 person

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