For this week’s blog post I sought to find out the level of diversity found in fraternities and sororities in U.S. universities. This stemmed from the news story that came out last week about the fraternal organization, Kappa Sigma, at Duke University that threw an “Asian-themed” party. This party was teeming with stereotypical representations of Asian Americans including the spelling of words and images depicted on their party flyers. After reading this news story, my curiosity was piqued as to the diversity within this fraternity and other organizations like it. Surely this obviously racist display would not have occurred if the fraternity was comprised of a diverse population, right?
In researching for this blog post, it was very difficult to find any kind of solid factual information on the statistics of diversity. Rather, I began to find articles relating to the internal and external struggles that many minority students face in joining fraternities/sororities, namely choosing between “social fraternities/sororities” and “multicultural fraternities/sororities”. A social fraternity/sorority is one that is open to all students and is not based on things like major, academic standing or race. On the other hand, a multicultural fraternity/sorority is one in which race is a qualification for membership.
I found two very interesting accounts of female minority students here at ASU who faced this difficult decision of between multicultural and social sororities. The first was of D’Andra Alexander, an Arizona State University African American sorority woman (Baggs, 2009). She felt pressures from her father to join an exclusive African American multicultural sorority because, “He thought I wouldn’t be accepted into a social sorority like I would in a cultural one. He thought if I joined a sorority where we all had the same skin color, my ‘sisters’ would understand me better.” Alexander decided to go against this pressure and join a social sorority in which she was the only African American member and was very glad that she did. She never was treated as if she ‘didn’t belong’ and was welcomed into the sisterhood without any thought of her skin color. The second account was of Jessimarie Coronado, an Arizona State University Hispanic sorority woman (Baggs, 2009). She also faced pressures from fellow Hispanic students to join an exclusively Latino sorority. She also went against these pressures and joined a social sorority stating that, “I didn’t like it. [concerning a cultural based sorority] I didn’t want to be labeled by my race. Just because I’m Mexican doesn’t mean I can only hang out with Mexicans.”
Both of these students faced a struggle based on pressures to stay within racial boundaries imposed by their friends and family but opposed these in favor of moving forward to a future not separated by racial barriers. Both claimed that their relationships with their multicultural friends have not changed in any way and they do not feel as if they have abandoned their heritage (Baggs, 2009).
These accounts really made me question the advantages of using race as a qualification for membership in fraternities and sororities. I have never personally been a part of these kinds of organizations but from my background and the accounts I have read, I personally believe that these kinds of separations only perpetuate racism and segregation. When you continue to think of everything in terms of race and have labels based on these racial qualifications it only works to separate people of different racial backgrounds rather than bringing people of diverse races together. If we changed our focus to PEOPLE and embraced our differences rather than using them to separate ourselves from each other we could make progress towards a future without racism and hatred.
Baggs, Erika. (2009). Diversity in Greek Life at ASU. Retrieved from http://www.upiu.com/human-rights/2009/11/25/Diversity-in-Greek-Life-at-ASU/UPIU-1671259192580/.