Williams: Why Are Sororities and Fraternities Mostly White?

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Williams: Why Are Sororities and Fraternities Mostly White?

By Brook Williams

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I walk into a house party, and immediately I’m hit with a familiar cloud of fruit scented vapor as I hear from the other side of the room, “sick vape tricks bro!” The smell of sweated out booze lingers in the air as I am approached by Brad — not the Brad who drives the red jeep and oh so impressively chugs beer faster than anyone in Sigma Chi — but the Brad who owns the BMW and wears clothes like he’s anticipating a sophisticated boat trip at any moment. Both are white, both are rich and both are in frats. I look among the crowd of white bobbling heads to find my friends. “Wait,” I stop to wonder, “Why is everyone here white?”

I am a Caucasian, blonde, fit-figured girl — a great representation of the majority of girls in sororities. Without fail, every woman I introduce myself to at these kinds of parties either asks or simply assumes I’m in a house. “Why yes,” I think to myself, “I am in a house right now. I have to live somewhere.” But that isn’t what they mean. They mean to ask whether I live in a sorority house. When I tell them I don’t they immediately tell me that I should join Chi Delta Gamma Gamma Omega 300 because I’d totally fit in. I ask myself, “Would this happen so frequently to me if I were a different race?”

Judging from the sorority pictures and videos I have seen, I can gather that I probably wouldn’t be confronted with this exhausted question as much if I wasn’t white. When looking at a “chapter’s” group pictures, consisting of about 100-150 men or women, its literally a sea of white, with a few specs of brown (brunette hair, that is).

I did some research and found that according to Lawrence Ross, author of “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses,” “Greek organizations resisted class and race diversity. Frats were a way for white upper-class men to separate themselves from an increasingly diverse student population.” Ross goes on to explain that, “The DNA of these organizations, if you go back, [were] predominantly white fraternities.”

I’m not saying that this is necessarily the members’ faults whatsoever, especially today. I don’t think that they are all actually racist and intentionally choose only white people to join their houses, but it is definitely a question that should have an answer. It may simply be due to a manifestation of tradition that we have just allowed to continually transpire, possibly without realizing it. Or maybe it’s the amount of diversity in the university overall, and the lack of desire in minorities to engage in fraternities and sororities.

Overall, though, I think something that definitely has do with the lack of diversity is the idea of a “legacy.” Older generations of sororities and fraternity members are all white, and if you are considered a “legacy,” you are more likely to get admitted, therefore creating a stronger white population. I believe that it is the conventional culture and history behind them that is the cause of the lack of diversity in sororities and frats. While that doesn’t make it right, recognition of the problem is a good starting point for improving it down the road.

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