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People have thrown around accusations of racism against members of Greek organizations for decades, and recent incidents of racism in Greek life are one of the biggest black eyes on fraternity and sorority reputations. While there are some legitimate cases of racism among Greeks, the vast majority of the slanderous charges are nothing more than shaky accusations hurled by angry, politically correct keyboard warriors who have never seen the inside of a fraternity house. These accusers don’t understand what actually goes on inside a fraternity, so instead, they base their opinions on old media tropes. Their opinions are ignorant and uninformed, yet they gleefully type away. They throw their “indictments” at a wall and hope something sticks–and usually it does, more so because people want to believe anything negative about Greeks, rather than something that’s actually true.
One of the most recent cases of unnecessary uproar came from the University of Alabama. This past fall, the university was rightfully vilified nationally after students cast accusations of racism upon it following the blacklisting of two exceptionally qualified black PNMs during sorority rush. While the issues with the girls were seemingly resolved and bids were rightfully given to those who still wanted them after the controversy, the university is still a symbol of the perceived racism among Greeks in the southern United States.
Yesterday, Gawker (of course) posted an article lambasting the university’s student senate. Recently, the senate avoided a resolution that would basically have said, “we’re not racist” while actually achieving nothing. The resolution was proposed as a way to show support of “the complete integration” of the university’s fraternities and sororities. It was nothing more than that. It didn’t require Greek organizations to accept non-white potential new members, nor did it even require the university to change any policies or procedures. It was an empty, and thus useless, gesture that the senate decided not to waste its time with. Instead of voting on the resolution, the senators sent it to committee, effectively killing the proposal due to the 2013-2014 senate’s session ending. If the senate had passed this resolution, would the same sort of writers like the one from Gawker have vilified the student legislators for passing a hollow resolution that did not actually take any action? It’s likely, as those sorts are more concerned with reaching for low-hanging fruit and manufacturing outrage (for themselves and others) than they are with being sensible or productive.
The Gawker writer proudly wrote a one-sided piece, titling it “U. of Alabama Greeks Win Fight for Their Right to Be Racist Dicks.” With the media filled with people like this, it’s not hard to figure out why the stereotype of Greek racism is so strong.
While at first glance the lack to vote on the resolution may appear unsavory, the uproar surrounding it is nothing more than manufactured backlash by the media, which is determined to undermine and destroy the Greek system in this country. When a meaningless resolution that was sent to committee in a university’s student senate makes national news and draws the cries of racism from major media outlets, we have an issue.
The issue isn’t the actual Greeks in this case. The issue is that the media is set on attacking Greeks until they are satisfied with the firestorm they created by blowing up meaningless issues and turning them into major controversies. The issue here is that outraged talking head-types like this Gawker guy enjoy attacking Greeks because the stereotypes surrounding us are so readily accepted. The affirming back slaps from their readers and constituents are inevitable–whether or not they apply any real thought or even make decent (let alone good) points, these writers can be as lazy as they want to be about the topic. Trust me, writers appreciate any opportunity to be lazy. When it comes to writing about fraternities and sororities, journalists are really, REALLY fucking lazy.
The blacklisting of two intelligent, qualified PNMs because of their race was stupid, hateful, and awful, but it does not mean the university as a whole is a racist school with hateful members. In fact, it was widely reported (and then subsequently ignored by people looking to make the aforementioned worn out, generalized, lazy points) that most sororities on Alabama’s campus actually wanted to give bids to the girls, but their alumnae would not allow it. This led to literal tears in some chapter rooms. Most Greeks across the country were appalled at the actions of the Alabama sororities, and more specifically, their alumnae. For people who have never been part of a Greek organization, it’s hard to understand how much control alumni often have over their respective fraternity or sorority, whether the current members like it or not. It was not the current members who were prejudiced against the black PNMs; it was their alumnae who stood in the way of handing out bids.
While there are certainly racist Greeks, there are far more who are not. Unlike the Gawker writer covering this story, the Alabama student senate didn’t see the point in putting something hollow and ultimately useless out into the world. That’s not racist, that’s just common sense. While the battle against racist accusations and incidents is still an issue for Greek life, the media needs to pick battles actually worth fighting. Attacking meaningless issues does nothing but degrade your credibility should a real story arise.