WBEZ | University of Alabama http://www.wbez.org/tags/university-alabama Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Sorority racism: a legacy that needs to end http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-09/sorority-racism-legacy-needs-end-108690 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rush%20at%20the%20University%20of%20Alabama-%20Lindsay%20Flickr.jpg" style="height: 418px; width: 620px;" title="Sorority Rush at the University of Alabama, Fall 2011. (Flickr/Lindsay Brown)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">Last week, the University of Alabama&#39;s student newspaper <em>The Crimson White </em>published a lightning rod of an exposé on <a href="http://cw.ua.edu/2013/09/11/the-final-barrier-50-years-later-segregation-still-exists/" target="_blank">racial discrimination</a> during sorority rush. The allegations&mdash;that two black women were rejected from four traditionally white sororities this rush season because of pressure from racist alumnae&mdash;were based on the account of Melanie Gotz, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, and several other UA sorority members who wished to remain anonymous.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This news does not surprise me. First of all, Birmingham, Ala. is the site of one of the most heinous hate crimes ever committed. On September 15, 1963, a group of white supremicists <a href="http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/15/20507957-birmingham-remembers-4-little-girls-50-years-after-infamous-church-bombing?lite" target="_blank">bombed</a> 16th Street Baptist Church, injuring two dozen black churchgoers and killing four little girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair. This year marks the 50th anniversary of their deaths.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Many of the white alumnae urging sorority members <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/us/sorority-exposes-its-rejection-of-black-candidate.html?_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">not to pledge black women</a>&nbsp;in 2013 may be old enough to remember this tragedy, or perhaps their parents witnessed it firsthand. Most likely, these women came of age in a place and time when violent racism was not only out in the open, but also publicly encouraged.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I was raised in the South and saw institutional racism almost everywhere I turned; although sadly, I didn&#39;t see it for what it was at the time. I joined a prestigious (read: overwhelmingly white) Southern sorority, as did my mother and older sister before me. The university that I attended for two years was not what one might call a shining bastion of <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/tcu-professor-criticized-email-students-of-color-2013-9" target="_blank">racial diversity</a>. My youngest sister rushed at the University of Alabama this fall, and was selected by one of the sororities at the heart of the current controversy, Alpha Gamma Delta.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I know how rush works. The pressure from alumni is intense. I know that most white women who enter into sorority rush, often at the behest of their female relatives, are either blissfully unaware that their &quot;sisters&quot; look just like them, or prefer (secretly or overtly) to keep it that way.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Still, I believe that in the vast majority of cases, it is the sorority <em>system</em>, not the sorority members themselves, perpetuating the age-old practices of elitism, segregation and thinly-veiled prejudice. Tradition is worshipped in sorority life, upheld as holy doctrine by the alumnae determined to keep their sisterhoods frozen in time. &nbsp;However, the new pledges are the ones to raise their hands and ask why. After all, when a perfectly qualified candidate is rejected for no other reason than the color of her skin, what does standing by &quot;tradition&quot; really mean?&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">My sister, raised in a city by an open-minded family, goes to parties in Birmingham and is shocked to hear students casually spewing racial epithets. She and her more progressive friends leave.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Members of Alpha Gamma Delta and several other sororities on the UA campus have spoken out against their Panhellenic legacy of <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/report-racial-segregation-university-alabama-sororities-2013-9" target="_blank">systemic racism</a>, and I commend them for doing so. Still, the system needs to change from the inside out, with the younger generations leading the way to bridge the divides.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Anyone who followed the Trayvon Martin&nbsp;trial or saw the hate roll in on Twitter for the new, non-white&nbsp;<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-people-are-very-upset-that-an-indian-american-woman" target="_blank">Miss America</a>&nbsp;knows that we don&#39;t live in a post-racial world. Not yet. But as long we continue to speak out against injustice, much like sororities <a href="http://jezebel.com/tell-us-about-your-schools-racist-sororities-and-frate-1300421893" target="_blank">all over the country</a> are beginning to do in the wake of this report, then bigotry won&#39;t win.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Leah Pickett is a pop culture writer and co-host of WBEZ&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-changing-channels/id669715774?mt=2">Changing Channels,</a>&nbsp;a podcast about the future of television. Follow Leah on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Tumblr</a>.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 17 Sep 2013 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-09/sorority-racism-legacy-needs-end-108690