Black Greeks: Gatekeepers of Tradition and Respectability

Black fraternities and sororities have always been a divisive force within the AUC. As a student, I take great joy in witnessing Greek life on our campuses. By witnessing Greek life first hand, students begin to develop preferences and misconceptions about certain organizations. This is where the problems arise.

Black Greek organizations have certain images and stigmas created by students who are non-Greek. Black fraternities and sororities are embedded in Black culture, whether you like it on or not.

“We were created for the betterment of the African-American race,” said Austin Easterling, senior and president of the Alpha Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Inc.

All of these organizations were created around the early to mid 20th century, where blacks faced racial segregation and other oppressive obstacles. The founders of these organizations used their privilege of being a college student as a form of resistance to the times. The organizations were founded on similar ideals of service, scholarship, and racial uplift.

Greek life at an HBCU is important; however Greek life in the AUC is pivotal.

“I think Greek life advances [HBCUs]” said Morehouse Jeremy Prim, president of the Chi chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Inc.

When Spelman and Morehouse first started, Greek life was seen as a space that infringed on the already instilled brotherhood and sisterhood. As enrollment increased and the organizations took spotlights in the community, it was only a matter of time that Greek life became what it is now.

The students are the arbitrators of the respectability politics that intrude on Greek life. The manner of respectability is all “Opinion” said Brianna “Bri” Baker, senior, president of the Eta Kappa chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Inc. The respectability that certain organizations get is not fair for the student body. Students that have the knowledge of Greek life prior to coming to college and that have family members in that space develop these preferences of respect for certain organizations.

This is “interest culture.” “Interest culture,” as Baker describes it, is a culture where the people can get so caught up with being in a certain organization that their interests take over their individuality. This culture is a by-product of the politics of respectability.

Greek life events are for the collective AUC environment; they have a certain substance for everyone.

“It’s a secretive process, not as in its underground, but you will only know if you are a member of the organization because that is the nature of Greek life…but it becomes much more than it needs to be if we focus on the sisterhood, the scholarship, and the service,” said Baker in summation.

It is just that simple. Greek life is much more than Hump Wednesday, Market Friday, and a performance. There is some unity. Morehouse and Spelman play a role in Greek unity by not having two organizations doing events on campus at the same time outside of the institutions grounding on brotherhood and sisterhood.

“No,” said Mbeke Ekanem, junior, president of the Alpha Pi chapter of Iota Phi Theta Inc, when asked about Greek unity. “It’s crazy how in the AUC, people are so stringent and focused in their ways … where they forget the whole purpose of being Greek. There have been collaborations and events together, but it has been on a social aspect, like parties, which may be beneficial for organization in fundraising.”

Sometimes students do not see the real aspects of Greek life or even Greek unity because of the parties, strolling, and social aspects that come along with being Greek, and it may create facades. However, the service that these organizations do is much deeper than what it seems on the surface level.

We only get to see what happens at Hump or Market, but there is much more than meets the eye.

“We do focus on our education and we serve the community. A lot.” said Jazmin Jervis, junior, president of the Beta Iota chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Inc. Sometimes, non-Greeks do not know what goes into being in organizations, but students that are Greek are almost all of the time serving the community as well as being a student. Education comes first. To become Greek in the AUC you have to have a 3.0 GPA, which is foreign in comparison to other chapters on different campuses.

“Greek life affects the culture of the AUC by readily providing underclassman with potential role models,” said Easterling. With that premise, it sometimes becomes hard for members of these organizations to be individuals, outside of the stigmas and representations. It seems that you may lose some sense of individuality, but by joining the organizations, it gives you a greater purpose. “It offers a means for people to feel respected, accepted, and to develop a new niche or new way of life” said Ekanem. Most people join these organizations to find a greater sense of self and to find a greater purpose, but due to certain misconceptions, it is hard for that to be understood.

I charge the students of the AUC to become open-minded when inquiring about Greek life, do your research, and talk to members. It is not a costume and it is not a performance. They are people and students of the AUC and should receive the same respect as such. They are embedded in our culture whether you ignore it or not.

I charge members of these Greek organizations to continue to do what you do for the greater community and offer knowledge to people that have a certain misconception about Greek life. Be the vanguards for a new generation of serving the community and Greek unity.

Javon Wilson

Opinions Columnist

javon.wilson@morehouse.edu

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