If the title didn’t clue you in, I’m a strong, independent black woman (yes, an actual black woman) in a Panhellenic sorority. I’ve read articles about being a minority in a sorority and about some of the southern sororities that don’t accept black girls. This column has been inside me for a while now. I joined my sorority almost four years ago, and it was the best day of my life (besides when I got my big and my little). Even now, with graduation approaching, I still look at this as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’ll never regret it. What I do regret is the way I handled (or didn’t handle) all of the drama around me as I embarked on this journey. As I look back, there are four things that stick out that made it much harder for me, as a black girl, surrounded by blondes and tan, green-eyed beauties.
1. My Family
I love my family–really, I do. As completely bat shit crazy as they can be, I would do anything for them. But their disappointment when I told them my decision to join a “white” sorority was sometimes too much to bear. Being black, a lot of people think your first and only option for Greek life is to go the Divine Nine route (you know, the really cool black kids who stomp the yard and have really hot and well put together guys). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about joining a Divine Nine sorority, because it was an option for me and I knew it would make my family incredibly proud. In the end, I went with my gut feeling, and although my family doesn’t outwardly say it, they’re still disappointed and don’t understand my decision. My first year after pledging was filled with sly remarks and hurtful jabs about trying to be “white” and betraying who I was as a young, black woman. It even got to the point that I stopped talking to my mom and grandmother for a while as a result of all of the arguments we had because of my decision to go Panhel. It wasn’t until my brothers and mother attended a few events and saw how my sisters rushed in to help me during a time of need that they finally started to understand why I joined my sorority.
2. Other Black Kids On Campus
The thing I most look forward to never having to do again after I graduate is be stared at by other black people when they see me in a circle with my sisters or when they walk past me in my letters. I’ve been asked many times why I hang around the “white girls” and not around my “own kind.” Give me a break, it’s 2014 and my own kind is the human race, not the race that closely mirrors my skin color. I regret never telling this to the people who approach me on campus about my decision. I’ll admit, I don’t necessarily fit in with the black kids on my campus and I’m okay with that, but it bothers me that I’ve spent the last four years defending myself, my choices, and my sisters against them.
3. Learning To Love The Sisters Who Are “Slightly” Racist
This is the hardest thing I’ve struggled with since receiving my first set of perfectly designed letters. I’ve never expected everyone to be like me and have the same values I have, which is why I try to still love my sisters who make comments that slightly rub me wrong. None of my sisters have ever been blatantly rude to me because of my race, but as anyone who is a minority can tell you, it’s not that hard to pick out a person who may have some racist characteristics within them. Sometimes it’s funny, because unlike other butt-hurt minorities, I can appreciate a good joke every now and then. I make fun of the ratchets, too. But sometimes jokes go too far and I have to put on a brave face and smile and giggle, because at the end of the day, I pledged to love my sisters no matter what–even when they hate me or I hate them. I’m aware that we don’t always think before we speak or realize how what we say can upset someone else, so I don’t get too upset with them about it. However, it is a struggle to see past their character flaws and still muster up unconditional love for them.
4. Accepting My Differences And Loving Myself For That
Ah, last but not least. Ask any black girl in a predominately white sorority and she will tell you that she’s struggled to accept that she can’t do what everyone around her is doing at least once. When my sisters go tanning, I have to struggle with the fact that I can’t join in on that adventure. When they all fight over who gets to straighten her hair next, I don’t join in on that war. Sometimes, it leaves you feeling left out. Because of this, I learned to include myself in my own way. When they’re tanning, I’m hanging out in the shade and giving that really pale sister who only burns a person to talk to. I’ve taught my sisters about black hair and how it is, indeed, the #struggle. I have been able to open doors for my sisters and teach them about my culture just like I’ve learned their Jewish traditions and how to ride a four wheeler. It’s a give and take relationship that has made me 10 times more cultured than I could have ever imagined.
The real truth about being a black girl in a white sorority is that it’s not easy. I would never say it was. It was the best decision for me, though, and even with the family issues and my so-called “trying to be white,” I’ve unlocked some powerful knowledge about myself and about the person I want to be in this world.