Why I Didn’t Join Greek life


Photo credit: Andrea Nebhut

Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

I made it to third round of the only sorority I was rushing, and the entire time I felt conflicted about whether or not I wanted to join. A lot — if not most — of my friends were in sororities, so I figured it could be fun. Then I started noticing all the flaws in Greek life: not little annoyances but rather major systems that allowed Greek life to uphold white supremacy in implicit ways — such as telling a person of color their accent was “pretty good” — that would later manifest into explicit racism and microaggressions — such as having Mexican-themed rush events. Sororities who can’t keep their black members, fraternities who have a history of engaging in blackface — these are the people we are protecting?

What do I know about sorority life anyway? I’m not in it. I also don’t have to be a member to recognize the systems of oppression it upholds. Between inexperienced first-years and whitewashed people of color, sororities are always looking to recruit more people of color to prove they’re diverse enough or that — by having people of color — they are doing enough. I didn’t join Greek life because I’m tired of hearing from friends about sororities momentarily worshipping and exalting marginalized people only for there to not be infrastructure to support and integrate them long term after the excitement of bid day and orientation wears off.

Greek life even holds power outside of their members. Ty Tinker — the president of the Student Government Association — is a white frat boy, who, in my opinion, should not hold a position that has such a profound influence on how much funding cultural organizations get. The students of color and their mere want to express and share their identity at this overwhelmingly white school lies in the hands of more white people, more Greek life members.

Before releasing the article on Trinity Greek life and their history of blackface, President Danny Anderson held a quick and quiet breakfast comprised of Greek life and cultural organizations in order to protect and prepare fraternities from any backlash due to their history of blackface. It was mandatory for a lot of sorority members to attend Ijeoma Olou’s lecture on race, instead they took a picture in the beginning and left. Only two years ago did Phi Sigma Chi have a party where the theme was sombreros and ponchos. Or what about that time last year when an O-Phi member joked about white power? Just last semester, certain white members in Alpha Chi were defending the white girl who said the n-word at Ignite the Night. These are only a few of the countless instances of racism in Trinity Greek life.

I know very well who’s going to be upset with me — the sorority girls who have “Black Lives Matter” in their twitter bio and “No Ban No Wall” stickers on their water bottle. The ones who have supported me calling out other forms of racism but will now foam at the mouth when it’s their turn to be held accountable.

First-year members of color may dismiss what I’m saying because their sorority sisters express interest in conversations of diversity. To that I say that many conversations have been had on this campus without sufficient action taken, conversations had to make us feel heard when in reality these dialogues are just another check on their list. Let time pass, let yourself become closer to your ethnic identity in a place where white people have no interest in your culture unless it is to appropriate and exploit it, and gradually you’ll begin to realize that white feminism just isn’t good enough. Feminism and sisterhood must be intersectional.

Greek life must create and implement clauses in the constitution that protect people of color, clauses that prohibit non-black members from saying the n-word and prohibit the exploitation of cultural themes. We must institutionalize diversity training for all members and amplify, not attack marginalized members when they express their frustrations. We also need a person of color as the head of Greek life. It’s not easy to forget that Trinity students in the past have called for the decapitation of “Indian” or indigenous people like me. For past, present and future people of color, I hope we can place the healing of marginalized members above the discomfort of the white, complicit members.