OPINION: Invisible Membership: Black Students Joining Predominantly White Organizations

(Photo from https://thechampsyo.com/2019/07/17/how-to-fraternities-do-initiation/)

Author: Destiny Williams (News For Negus)

Published by: June 19, 2020

Updated: June 22, 2020

PRINCE GEORGES, MD. — While in college, both undergrad and graduate levels, there are many Greek letter organizations involved on campuses nationwide. Certain procedures, standards, policies, and financial status must be maintained in order for the organization to function. These standards are coupled with the combined efforts of the chapter members in order to sustain intake, and membership guidelines. To most, joining a Greek organization, or a Black Greek letter organization, is a way to get involved on campus with a group of like minded people. I believe by now, we all know that not all people who have joined some of these organizations, especially those joining predominantly white orgs, are not treated equally.

These differences are even more stark depending on what school you attend. The main differences between HBCUs and PWIs with white fraternities and sororities are the gaps in funding. On an HBCU campus, the pressures of a diversity quota do not exist because most, if not all, Greek orgs on the yard are Black. However, HBCUs also have allowed white, Latino, and other ethnic groups to create their own adaptations of Greek Letter organizations, upholding the standards of their school and organization, and have made the chapter their own. While attending a PWI, I’ve seen a lot of Black students joining white Greek organizations. This could be out of genuine interest or due to marketing that most white Greek organizations use to meet a certain diversity quota as a show of inclusion.

What I’ve learned is that even with the admission of Black members, sisters, brothers, and even in the newly installed chapters of these organizations, there are still many forms of discrimination. Members can feel ostracized either by their chapter, or by the organization at large.

The HBCU chapters of historically white fraternities and sororities have completely different issues. It has been proven that most HBCU chapters of white greek letter organizations are vastly underfunded and unheard when it comes to lobbying chapter issues on a national level. Chapters at PWIs may not have the same issues financially, but their Black members face discrimination in the organization, and may feel unwanted on many occasions.

The real issue here is that these white fraternities and sororities want the numbers, the manpower, and the image that they’re all inclusive but don’t have the range for true equity. In all actuality, most white Greek organizations couldn’t care less about their Black members, both active, alumni, or honorary as long as they get what they want from their Black members.

Black members plead for assistance with funding, advisors, mentors, and the asks for more authentic interactions with Black chapters but they all fall on deaf ears. In fact, Black chapters of these fraternities and sororities run the risk of being disbanded simply because there isn’t a “need” for a, or another, Black chapter in the province that they would be located in.

Will there be a change? If we push for them, yes. The decision making depends on the National Boards, and the individuals that comprise them. Ultimately, the mistreatment of Black members and chapters of white Greek organizations does not go unnoticed. We know board members simply don’t care but we will no longer accept their neglect.

There are many solutions to these issues, but it will take some internal tackling. The asks are simple, appoint black members to board positions, create a culture of true inclusion and diversity with the creation of an inclusion task force to handle complaints of discrimination, equal funding opportunities for HBCU chapters, and an equal distribution of resources. I believe these things are attainable as our resilient brothers and sisters continually push forward for equity, equality, diversity, and unity for all members.


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