First a confession: everything I know about sororities I learned from movies like Legally Blonde and friends' glowing accounts of them. I went to a liberal university in the Northeast where sororities and fraternities weren't a big thing, so I was shocked to learn that in 2013, any school was still able to get away with keeping African Americans segregated from its sorority system.
According to several accounts, the University of Alabama is being slammed for doing just that. The school's newspaper, the Crimson White, published a story last week exposing the details of a extremely intelligent and qualified African-American female student who pledged several sororities in the school and was denied entry. But before you criticize the young sorority girls -- who reportedly gave the woman excellent scores during the recruitment process -- for discrimination, they aren't to blame. All of the shame for this goes to the alumnae, who tried to block the girl's entry.
The sorority members claim the woman, along with others, were not accepted solely because of their race. They even reported that alumnae threatened to pull funding from the sororities if they accepted African American members. Since financial support from alumnae is the bread and butter of sororities and fraternities, I applaud these young women for coming forward and exposing the segregated system in which they (hopefully unconsciously) took part.
So after what must have been an emergency meeting this weekend between the university president and sorority-chapter advisors, it was decided the school would join the 21st century and begin allowing African Americans into its Greek organizations.
I can't help wondering what I would do if I were the highly qualified woman who had pledged and been denied entry into these sororities based on the color of my skin. My first impulse is to say I would tell them to shove off. But wouldn't it deliver an even more powerful punch -- one directed straight at the alumnae -- if she held her head high and accepted entrance into one of the groups?
From what I hear -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- being a part of a sorority is more than just living in big house, throwing keg parties, and getting invites to the best parties. You are forever associated with a group of women with whom you can network when looking for professional opportunities. You take part in community events and are able to assume roles of leadership within your sorority that can prove priceless on a young person's resume.
What do you think? Should African Americans accept entry into these formerly segregated sororities?
Image via Legally Blonde the Musical