Greek life across the United States has historically been majority white and plagued with racism. Except it isn't only in the past, greek life is still at most schools filled with white members and some chapters still have racist practices. As a white woman, I will never understand the experience of a POC in greek life or in life in general. Due to the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and the protests that have followed, many white people have been awakened to the racism ingrained in our society as well as themselves. I, myself, am trying to educate myself on my own white privilege and the many obstacles that black people have to overcome in order to help bring about change within our society. One area where I believe we must make changes is greek life. Although I know these changes will not bring an end to problems like police brutality and housing discrimination, changes to greek life across our country could lead to more representation of POC on college campuses. Additionally, I believe that it would be a disgrace if greek life stayed silent (excluding the blanket statement many chapters issued) and didn't make any lasting changes to the way greek life is run across the US.
Here is a list of actions that chapters can take:
Use your platform to make more than just a blanket statement
Most greek organizations have made a single post to address the racial issues occurring in our country and around the world, but have done little else to follow up on their words about standing behind the black community and supporting their fight for justice.
Put as much effort into raising awareness about racism and raising money for Black Lives Matter as we do for our individual philanthropies
The amount of posts that greek life members make to raise money for their organization's philanthropy is impressive. When members ask what they can do to help the BLM movement now, tell them to bring the same energy as they do for their philanthropy. Create graphics to raise money for BLM and other organizations helping protesters, spread awareness, amplify black voices and stories.
Recognize the racist history of greek life
Own up to the racist history of your chapter or organization. Tell the stories, educate your members, have the uncomfortable conversations to ensure that history is not repeated.
Create a diversity cabinet position
A diversity cabinet position, which was suggested by Jade Jarencio and Alex Harvill from my chapter, would serve to reach out to multicultural greek organizations and plan events with them, create the graphics mentioned above to raise awareness for social justice issues, and organize fundraising for social justice initiatives.
Events with multicultural greek organizations or other organizations for POCs
Going off of the last suggestion, even without a diversity cabinet position, greek organizations should be holding events with multicultural greek organizations and other organizations for POCs on their campus. These events should be to help educate each other, create a relationship between the groups, and erase any divide between members in order to create a more understanding community on campus.
Intentionally extending more bids to POC
I can't speak too much on greek life at other schools, but at mine, most everyone in greek life is white. Additionally, a majority of people who go through recruitment for a sorority or fraternity are white. greek organizations need to intentionally welcome more POCs into their organizations, and not simply to have a "token" POC in their chapter. We need to create more inclusive and actively anti-racist organizations, which cannot happen until POC are represented equally within greek life.
More mindfulness about cultural appropriation at costume events
Many greek life events occur in the form of costume parties that unfortunately can lead to cultural appropriation. Harsh consequences for these kinds of actions must be implemented in every greek organization across the US. We cannot tolerate these actions whilst attempting to support social justice movements like BLM.
As an exec or president - hold a forum where all your members can voice their thoughts and opinions on these issues
If you are reading this as the President or as an executive in your chapter and wondering what else your chapter can do then ask your members. Hold a forum and listen because there are probably more members that are very passionate about these issues than you may know. I got many of these ideas through discussion with members of my own sorority.
Alex Harvill, one of the members who helped come up with the idea of a diversity cabinet position states that greek organizations must "acknowledge our white privilege and ignorance and commit to promoting education and using our privilege to speak out,...acknowledge the racist history of greek life,... take accountability for the discrimination we have perpetuated" and that "it's our job to change the history of greek life to be more inclusive of people of color and to be a community that is unanimously anti racist in our actions, words, posts, and in everything we do." These are the words I leave with any member of greek life reading this article.
Please comment if you have any more suggestions that you think greek organizations should take.