One of the clearest impressions I have of Greek Life is the movie Sydney White, where every member of the sorority portrayed in the movie is thin, white, and blonde, except for Sydney White, who is, *gasp*, a brunette. And that impression has not been disproven. When I entered Greek Life at Muhlenberg, there were no black women who had joined or were already members in my chapter. There was one Latina woman, who graduated, and in the composite photos that decorate the living room of our house displaying previous members who had graduated, I can count one black woman. But is it my sorority’s fault that we are a chapter of all white girls? I can’t say yes, but I can’t say no either.
Why is there so little racial diversity in today’s sisterhoods? You could argue that because there are historically black sororities and historically Latina sororities, and so on, that black women feel no need to go through recruitment for a sorority affiliated with the National Panhellenic Conference, the largest national organization for women’s sororities in the United States and Canada. But that would be untrue. Because historically, there have been many instances of discrimination against letting in women of color to sororities, and of racist activities, such as blackface. The message that predominantly white sororities are sending, however implicitly, is that women of color are not welcome.
So black women find the kinship that is typical of sororities elsewhere. But they are missing out on many things that they could benefit from. When a member of a sorority completes their undergraduate degree and is looking for a job, they have built into their framework the perfect opportunities to do networking. The alumni network for sororities is huge, and alumni of every sorority populate nearly every industry. If you’re lucky and you find someone who was a member of the same sorority in the industry you want to work in, then you automatically have a connection with that person. Do women of color do just fine finding jobs? Sure they do, although they most definitely have a harder time doing so than white women. But joining a sorority would give them a leg up in the career game. This is something that black women and other women of color are sorely missing out on.
Something that has been integral to my experience in college is that joining Greek life helped me truly branch out from a place where I was struggling to find my place in college. If I hadn’t joined Greek life, would I be happy? Sure. There are millions of students who don’t join Greek life that are just as happy as those who do join Greek life. But it is an undeniable fact that for anyone who struggles with loneliness, depression, and feeling like they don’t belong where they are, especially women of color, joining Greek life would make a huge positive impact on their life.
None of this is meant to say that it is black women’s fault for not joining sororities. I’m sure that my chapter wishes that more women of color would be interested in joining, but the history is too hard to ignore.
1 thought on “Sisterhood’s Lasting Impacts”
I am the Risk Manager for my sorority and under my job description is diversity and inclusion. Something that my sorority started these past couple of semester is meeting with the multicultural center and starting a conversation on this specific topic. Socioeconomic status and race are interchangeable in this context. Dues for sorority are expensive and so many people feel that this is considered paying for friends. Since sororities, as you stated, are historically white, people of color are considered outsiders. Deciding to be a part of an organization in which you are the only person of color, is not a decision that many people of color are making. Sororities are increasingly exclusive and it seems this is a losing battle for many organizations.
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