African Americans and other minority groups in the United States have overcome many obstacles in order to gain increasing acceptance within the auspices of the American experience in a manner commiserate with their long-standing commitment to the American ideals of democracy, freedom and equal rights. Toward this end, African Americans and other groups have endeavored to gain access to the myriad expressions of free will and predestination that have been historically granted by right to the majority population. Among these rights, are those to equal education, which is a long-standing mainstay in the African American civil rights tradition dating back to the groundbreaking legal stand of Brown vs. Board of Education (Eaton 2004). The resultant access to the full gamut of educational platforms that this country has to offer resulted in the gradual increase in the number of African Americans going to post-secondary institutions, matriculating through demanding academic programs and graduating, thereupon to embark upon many a promising and successful career.
Beginning in the earliest decade of the 20th century, African Americans in northern, white colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been able to apply for and gain membership in Greek fraternities and sororities. Being denied access to Eurocentric Greek organizations, the necessity of a parallel Greek organizational development mirrored African American social expansion into many other arenas previous denied them based upon the xenophobic strictures of the peculiar institution and the concurrent black codes. The first African American fraternity was Alpha Phi Alpha, founded in 1906 at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Greek sorority for African American women, was formed on the campus of Howard University, in Washington DC. The fraternity of Kappa Alpha Psi was chartered at Indiana University-Bloomington, in 1911. Another sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, was also incorporated on the campus of Howard University in 1913. The fraternity of Phi Beta Sigma was also formed on that campus, in 1914; its sister sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, was incorporated on that campus in 1920.
The experiences of those African Americans matriculating through American universities – both HBCUs and predominantly white universities – during those years was, of necessity, in preparation for a life lived within the parameters of the greater society, saturated throughout with a virulent and expressive form of racism that only exists in small, isolated pockets today. Joe Feagin (1992) quotes Gordon Allport’s classic study, The Nature of Prejudice in delineating the forms that racist expression took in those days: “…antilocution (talking against), avoidance, exclusion (segregation), physical attack, and extermination (573).” While many of these practices remain prevalent to a greater or lesser degree, their overt expression is greatly tempered by civil rights and hate crime laws created for the very purpose of reigning in the historical violence that African American and other marginalized populations had been subject to for centuries previous.
A member of the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, W.E.B. Dubois, came to exemplify the spirit of intellectual and social endeavor to be embraced by all of the Greek fraternities and sororities when we wrote his essay, The Talented Tenth:
“Can the masses of the Negro people be in any possible way more quickly raised than by the effort and example of this aristocracy of talent and character? Was there ever a nation on God’s fair earth civilized from the bottom upward? Never; it is, ever was and ever will be from the top downward that culture filters. The Talented Tenth rises and pulls all that are worth the saving up to their vantage ground…How then shall the leaders of a struggling people be trained and the hands of the risen strengthened? There can be but one answer: The best and most capable of their youth must be schooled in the colleges and universities of the land (386, 1903)”.
Dubois’ essay has resounded across the bloody and tempest-wrought decades of the 20th century and into the 21st, becoming a mantra for generations of fraternities and sororities bent upon actualizing the grand parameters of the great socialization, embodying the ideal of the Talented Tenth in their continuing efforts to exemplify the standards of the best and brightest in the hopes of uplifting and entire race of people. A quote from Henry, one of my interviewees, exemplifies this shared burden, in response to a question regarding the responsibility of “Black Greek” organizations in combating racism:
I mean, just being in fraternity, you’re supposed to be the talented tenth, so you lead by example. Everyone’s looking at you, so I guess I’m in a, um an opportune position to, uh show that, you know, that I can, well I wont’ say battle racism but, you know, just, I guess, through my actions and interactions with other races and whatnot, since I’m in the limelight people see this and hopefully my example will be set. And other people will act upon that. But. That’s about it.
It is within this context that my study takes place. This research problem will examine the experiences and perceptions of members of selected African American Greek fraternities and sororities within the greater framework of college matriculation and campus climate. There is a dearth of literature regarding this issue, particularly. However, there is a burgeoning collection of scholarly articles devoted to group behavior and patterns, to include studies documenting the creation of instruments designed to measure the responses of the members of Greek organizations (Cokley et al. 2001), to examine the levels of social alienation (Lane and Daugherty 1999) in college students, and a plethora of studies geared toward marginalization and matriculation of African American students and other disaffected populations. Grant and Reese (1997) approach the issue from the perspective of marginality theory, which explores the numerous perceptive responses to marginalization that members of disaffected populations incorporate within their individual and group identity matrices. Datnow and Cooper (1998) document the educational experiences of African Americans and the creation and maintenance of cultural and racial identities through peer group identification.
The context of African American matriculation is clarified by Feagin’s article (1992) delineating the parameters of racism experienced by students within the confines of the ivory tower. Fisher and Hartmann (1995) explore interactive tools employed by minority students within the context of predominantly white universities through a multicultural lens, exemplifying the promise of qualitative research methodologies – as do others listed above – in their deployment of the interview format, designed in order to cull personalized responses from members of what could be considered to be a study-reticent population (Rich 2001). Cultural capital and the homogenization of difference is the theme of Kalmijn and Kraaykamp’s 1996 article about school trends and parental influence upon their children’s college attendance. Family values continue to play a large role in the determination of college attendance and success. Being Black at a Predominantly White University takes an in-depth interview approach to the problems that black men particularly experience on predominantly white campuses, with sobering results. All of these studies combine in meaning and intention to create a tapestry of textures, though which the threads of African American fraternities and sororities weave a colorful and vibrant pattern. The haven that these organizations provide for their members (Lane and Daugherty 1999) mirror familial and communal patterns that are non-existent for the majority of students, let alone those African American students without fraternal memberships.
Research questions that will have a bearing upon this study include the following:
1) What are some of the positive and negative issues that occur between black fraternities and sororities?
2) What are some of the positive and negative issues that occur between black fraternities and sororities and white fraternities and sororities?
3) How do “Black Greeks” deal with their status on a daily basis?
4) Do issues of marginalization and racism affect them organizationally or personally?
Despite the lack of pertinent literature in this area, it became apparent during my literature review that there was indeed enough research ‘out there’ to carry out a relatively rigorous examination of the “Black Greek” phenomenon within the context of social theory and ethnographic studies.
This study utilizes critical race theory (CRT) – begun by law scholars – as an interdisciplinary approach to studying ethnic issues. The foundation of CRT is informed by multiple theoretical constructs, to include feminism, postmodernism, multiculturalism, post-colonialism, discourse theory and social constructionism, primarily. False consciousness and racist ideology work in tandem with ideological constructs that constitute the institutional and societal bases of society, forming the sociological ‘underground’, if you will, whose very power remains in its invisibility and imperviousness to conscious criticism (Shelby 2003). The collective reaction of the marginalized to the lived reality bounded by logical response to these strictures results in the ‘normalization of the abnormal’, as exemplified by the twisted logic of marginalization theory and the rabid non-intellectualism of black male youths (Grant and Breese 1997; Datnow and Cooper 1997).
CRT corroborates the above opinion in numerous ways and standardizes the irrational aspect of xenophobia through the following generalizations: 1) Racial ideology is not an abnormal part of American society. Instead, it is everywhere and in everything, and racist beliefs and practices are dispersed throughout the cultural landscape 2) CRT utilizes narrative theory, which states that culture has a large effect upon reality; informs it, guides it, supports it. CRT then positions itself in opposition to the prevailing paradigms, engaging the metanarrative through the construction of a different social reality utilizing knowledge and discourse in situ. Oppressive myths and presuppositions endemic to our culture are the particular fodder of CRT proselytizers.
As mentioned earlier, according to Eric Lane and Tim Daugherty (1999), in their article on social alienation among college students, social alienation among students belonging to Greek organizations was significantly lower than that experienced by students not associated with these organizations. Sherlon Pack-Brown (1999) conducted a study on racism and white identity development in the context of counselor training, in which he determined that socially delineated roles of ethnic conduct determined student responses to each other and also to concepts of diversity. The self-segregation practiced by African American Greek organizations may be an indicator of the level of racial awareness and multicultural openness that some African American students may have upon joining these organizations. Therefore, the perception by students regarding the existence of racism on college campuses may play some role in determining the extent of their multicultural interaction and self-segregation during the course of their matriculation.
Because a significant proportion of African American students that enter college come from backgrounds that may have been ethnically and racially homogenous, the experience of a college campus may produce anxiety and the sensation of alienation. The sense of community and relationship that Greek organizations provide to their members may be a strong incentive for African American male and female students to join these organizations. Considering the fact that the majority of African American students who enter college do not graduate (Feagin, 547), issues of perceived racism as well as an inability to adjust to the higher standards of academic performance may play a large role. The ‘haven’ offered by African American Greek fraternities and sororities may provide a stopgap measure against the student attrition rates that plague this demographic. An in-depth exploration of student perceptions regarding their own affiliation within these groups, as well as discourse pertaining to their opinions about these groups when compared to the greater college community may lead to a greater understanding of how issues of racism and social acceptance play a role in the matriculation of African American male and female students.
Methodology and Interviews
For my study, I chose 6 members of African American Greek fraternities and sororities. 3 were male, 3 were female. I did not interview them in any particular order. I utilized a snowball sampling methodology in choosing my interview subjects. As I interviewed one subject, I would ask them for recommendations regarding the next fraternity or sorority member interviewed. In all cases, I contacted and confirmed new interviews based upon information given me by previous interviewees. I conducted my study in public areas upon a central-Texas college campus. All interviews were conducted during daylight hours, when the subjects were between classes or finished for the day.
Of the six interviewees, all were from large urban areas. Four of the six thought that their neighborhoods lacked diversity, and considered predominant African American and Caucasian populations as being indicative of such. Two of the interviewees who considered their cities of origin as being lacking in diversity commented upon the fact that there were military instillations close to where they lived, which created diverse conditions that were not mirrored by the larger community.
This sample included members of four different Greek letter organizations, two fraternities and two sororities. Each of the interviewees spoke in depth about their fraternity or sororities commitment to values and to community service, listing numerous examples of local and national projects that they facilitated during the school year. The examples ranged from educational programs about breast cancer, to mentoring and tutoring programs at local community centers and schools. This commitment to community service was a major part of each individual’s self-conception and seemed to play a large role in the identity politics that differentiated each fraternity or sorority from the other. Some organizations defined their commitment in relation to the perceived commitment of other organizations. Harry, described his decision to join a particular fraternity thusly:
I guess interest in Greek life was growing so you know I pretty much made the decision that I’d want to go Greek and so uh I researched all of [a number Greek fraternities on campus] …but like [organization] ideals they like I agree with them you know I really like what we stand for as uh inclusive we rather than exclusive we. So it’s like we include everyone to make our fraternity better…rather than kind of like uh taking people in and telling them how they’re supposed to act how we do things well no you do this you know we used to take the eclectic communities uh talents and make our fraternity better. But I felt that the other fraternities didn’t do that.
The Lane and Daugherty study regarding social alienation (1999) provided evidence that the sense of belong that Greek organizations inculcate within their membership is endemic and based upon the sense of belonging and fellowship that binds individuals in place and time. The cultural capital (Kalmijn and Kraaykamp 1996) provided to members of “Black Greek” organizations who see themselves as ‘links in a chain’ spanning decades if not centuries ties them to historical trends of shared struggle and oppression within the African American community as well as the broader camaraderie of the greater, Pan-Hellenic narrative which dates back to ancient Greece and the earliest institutions of higher learning.
Membership within these organizations was something that both helped and hindered them, according to most of the respondents. All of them acknowledged the fact that their membership within their organizations made their academic lives more difficult, and yet, two of the five mentioned time management specifically as one of the positive aspects of being in a fraternity or sorority. Being a single part of a whole was an important theme, in that the interviewees saw their grades as being reflective of their sorority or fraternity as a whole, and making good grades as a mandatory requirement, in order to uplift the reputation and GPA of their particular organization as compared to other organizations. Eileen put it this way, concerning the competition between her and her sorority sisters:
Um, being in a sorority with my school work personally um we have a little it’s with us we’re more competitive with our grades. So it’s like oh you got a 3.5 this semester, ok I’m getting a 3.8.
Sue took a longer view regarding the influence of being in a Greek organization upon her schoolwork:
It helps, in a sense that our organization one of our principles is scholarship, so we, last semester we had the highest GPA out of all the Greeks, so it gives me something to strive for, I want to stay on the level or exceed the level that we were on, but it also has hurt me, because you just get so busy with everything, and you get caught up and this semester I got a little caught up with everything trying to stay on top of getting stuff done for the Greek organization, mine and the NPHC, um, trying to get stuff turned in on time, you know…
The impact of being in a Greek fraternity or sorority upon their social lives was immediately felt by all of the participants. Harry was quite straightforward in his characterizations:
It, social life is there. I mean, being Greek, like, people are going to want to hang out with you, because you’re Greek. It’s like the popular crowd. You know, it’s kind of sad, a lot of people want to be Greek to be popular, but, you know, that’s just one of the effects of being Greek, like you’re in the popular crowd, you’re in the limelight. So, social life, if anything, it actually boosts it more, you know?
Sue, a more retiring type, had a slightly different view:
…my social life has changed, you know, I guess for the better, cause I’m more social, more outgoing than I was before, I was really quiet, shy, I didn’t go out much, now that I’m trying to represent an organization, you know, you’ll see me more on campus at events, or you’ll see me and part of it I did for myself, because, I was like, I’m not really getting anything out of my college experience here, I felt as though I was losing pieces of my college experience, and I already knew I wanted to be Greek…
The connection between social life and academic life seemed to be a conscious consideration for most of the interviewees, as evidenced by their understanding that each affects the other, and that time management skills are required in order to successfully navigate their college careers.
The interaction between African American sororities and fraternities on this mid-sized central Texas campus could be considered to be fractious, at best. A central tenet in the discussion regarding relationships between fraternities and sororities was the interplay of ego and social power as applied through the production of programmatic themes as well as a distorted organizational pride that sometimes resulted in physical altercations. John, a taciturn member of one of the fraternities stated it succinctly:
However, [in] fraternities there’s like all these male egos and everybody has to be better so, immaturity really.
Sue’s impression of some of the negative aspects of interaction between “Black Greek” sororities was a little more revealing:
Negative, probably pride. I mean, every organization you’re in, I mean, whatever organization you choose to be in. that’s your decision. These are lifelong memberships. So, you are going to make the best of it, especially in undergrad, because you’re young, there’s parties, there’s events, there’s just everything you know the notoriety that comes with it, there’s that, cause some people don’t like us, they hate us when we go around in the parties and stuff. But um, some of the negative is the pride you know some people think just because three letters on their chest that makes them better than somebody else. And in some instances that shows. Not everyone is like that. Uh, but for some reason when you cross an organization you just there’s one you’re out there, people notice you, people see you, because after I crossed, people talked to me, who had never talked to me before. Never said anything to me, never looked, you know? And all of a sudden they come out, and I had three letter on my chest, and like oh hey, congratulations, blah blah blah blah blah blah and you know I was warm to it I was like well thank you but that’s a that’s somewhat of an that is a negative thing to um uh Greek life and sometimes people choose not to support because well I don’t like her, or I don’t like him, or he did her wrong, or you know its like its like that pride people hold onto and so they hold the whole organization accountable as opposed to whatever person they not clicking with, at that time. But then you’ll look two weeks later and they cool, you know it’s just but that’s um one of the negatives, besides other…
A number of critical ideas run through Sue’s discourse that reflect the underlying contentiousness and competition between as well as within the sororities themselves, as well as a political statement regarding the general perception of membership within Greek fraternities and sororities by the general campus population. The belief that the ‘wearing of the letters’ is a mark of pride and distinctiveness correlates favorably to the self-image that the members foster after going through the intense intake process which includes the memorization of fraternity or sorority history and ideology as well as differing levels of hazing behavior, which has lessened dramatically during recent years but still plays a role in the public perception of initiation into Greek organizations.
Bill, an ex-football player and a member of one of the more popular fraternities on campus was dismissive of what he perceived as jealousy by other fraternities:
Well, we been running the yard probably since, by ourselves, since maybe ‘92. You know, like last year, we had two, only two dudes in our campus. Two brothers on the yard, in the chapter. And, they put on more programs than some of the organizations that had maybe 30, 20, you know, that’s with 2 dudes, you know and a lot of the officials, you know they give us, you know they commend us for that, you know, I get like a little bit of hint of jealousy, you know, its like well, you know, well, they run the yard but we want to take the yard from them, you know, and people don’t want to cooperate with you when you at the top, they want to outdo you, you know, they’ll, it’s like, we’ll go ask somebody for help, its like no, no, we’ll do it ourselves. It’s like, well, you know I understand ya’ll feel that we’re at the top and y’all trying to get to the top.
Another theme that punctuated this particular topic was the broadening of personal dislikes of other individuals into Greek chapter dislikes of other fraternities and sororities. Bill again speaks on this subject, in the context of his desire to continuing his friendship with someone in another fraternity:
Um, like, my brothers and his brothers, you know, they try to split us apart, you know, cause you can get into some of those party environments where there’s fights and you know my brothers will fight his brothers and its like you know my brothers will get mad at me, well why you ain’t jumping in, and his brothers are like why you not jumping in like, well, me and him were best friends, you know those are two individuals that have a problem. You know, [his fraternity] and [another popular fraternity] don’t have a problem, y’all have a problem with each other and then its like, when I get back its like, man, why you wasn’t jumping in, you know, why you wasn’t helping the brothers out? I was like, well, y’all try to make me choose between the best friend you know that I been knowing since the 8th grade and some of my brothers? I was like, it shouldn’t be like that, and that’s like the thing I’m dealing with right now is uh, how to, you know, how to split time between frat work and uh, my friend, cause like the frat’s so demanding.
Katy, a member of one of the more popular sororities, did not place specific blame, regarding ill will between her sorority in others. On the contrary, she recognized some of the historical problems that her sorority had epitomized:
I feel it’s a lot of um, separation. It’s a lot of separation as far as, um, stereotypes that have been uh, passed down. Like, since the beginning, some old stereotypes where women from [Her sorority] incorporated had to pass a brown paper bag test. You know, to be accepted into the organization. I feel as though that, those are the things we’re trying to shed. You know, especially since there’s a wide array of color spectrum in my organization.
Katy hastened to reassure me that her chapter was working actively to change those negative impressions and move on toward inclusiveness and a broader commitment to community service.
In their interactions with majority population fraternities and sororities, all of the “Black Greek” organizations held the opinion that interaction was at a low level, but that they were working actively in order to increase that interaction. All three of the female interviewees mentioned specific “White Greek” sororities that they had either worked with in the past or were planning on working with in the near future, while the male interviewees spoke generally about attending functions held by “White Greek” organizations. One mentioned a formal relationship his fraternity had with a Hispanic fraternity and the events that they cosponsored. Harry, a member of one of the more service-oriented fraternities on campus shared his thoughts with me regarding the political aspect of interracial fraternal interaction on campus:
Basically, because like since they have the money they have more money they have more members, you know, its like they’re the majority, so basically, like with programming and with um I don’t know, events that that [central Texas university] throws or caters to Greek community, is going to go towards them. So, basically, like a lot of stuff they do like parties or, and there, stuff like, there’s a thing called, uh chapter accreditation packet that each Greek order has to turn in. There’s questions in there that only pertain to white Greeks, like there s a risk management or a risk reduction uh section and there’s a part talks about something to do with your house, it’s like we don’t have houses. You know, so that can’t possibly pertain to us. And so, but, they have to have it in there because white Greeks have houses. So, you know, and uh, there’s an all Greek meeting and stuff, which is facilitated by, uh, the board councils, which is IFC, which is predominantly white fraternities, pan Hellenic, predominantly um like sororities, pan, which is us, and then uh MGC, which is uh, historically Hispanic. Um, fraternities and sororities. And you know we’re in there, and, of course, 90% us and 95% of the people in there are white and the IFC which is the fraternities, they’re actually it seems like they’re like the president of the all-Greek so therefore that just shows that the white males is over all Greeks so basically we’re kind of the bastard stepchild and we’re just sitting there like…
Every respondent except for one, mentioned a particular “White Greek” fraternity, when asked about any negative experiences that they had had in their interactions with majority fraternities and sororities. For three out of the five, there had been no personal interaction of a negative nature, only the passing down of critical narratives decrying this fraternity for its racist origins and perceived continuance of this ideology by the apocryphal hanging of the ‘stars and bars’, the Confederate flag, in their fraternity house. Two of the male interviewees had visited the house themselves, and confirmed the placement of the offending banner, and yet one of the interviewees, Bill, has an established relationship with a member of that fraternity, which he describes thusly:
[The] only negative thing I’ve heard uh is that [Racist white fraternity] you know, when I first got in, there was like, you know, watch out for the [Racist white fraternity] they they’re a bunch of racists. But that’s…but you know I’ve never experience, you know, that just like the word going around on campus but um, I actually have a suitemate from freshman year, uh, he’s a [Racist white fraternity]. Like, you know, he can be walking with some of his brothers, you know, he’ll speak, you know we’ll start a whole conversation and they’ll speak. You know, so it’s like I don’t know whether everybody’s saying they used to be like that or they’re like that now, but I’ve never experienced it personally. Cause you know I guess it’s like you know your rep your reputation precedes you from the past.
Generally speaking, all of the interviewees did not consider the campus climate to be overtly racist in character or tone, although all did recognize the pervasive undercurrent of racism that exists throughout the country, and in the southern states in particular (Fisher and Hartmann 1995; Wallace and Bell 1999; Feagin 1992). Specific incidences were mentioned by a couple of the participants regarding police harassment within the city, and individual encounters with students upon the college campus, but there was very little indication of overtly negative racism in any of their responses. Katy’s response to the question typifies the lot:
But sometimes, racism can be blended into stuff, you know, didn’t even realize what’s going on, then you reflect, like, maybe a year later you’re like, man, they’re really being kind of biased, but, I can’t say any blatant experiences, I’ll say that, any blatant experiences, no.
This study took me on a journey into my own deepest wishes and desires, in that I began it looking for very specific answers to personal questions that I had regarding the sense of belonging, and the extraordinary sense of togetherness and purpose that I witnessed in “Black Greek” organizations across the United States, that brotherhood and sisterhood being exemplary of the greatest standards of personal and collective behavior that could be applied to any organization or group. What I found confirmed my suspicion that this solidarity was real, and beyond the mundane, that the members of “Black Greek” fraternities and sororities do indeed feel a connection ‘beneath the skin’ that goes beyond even familial relationship, skin color or ethnicity and into a deeper, philosophical realm of belonging and acceptance that borders upon the spiritual, in many cases.
A history and legacy of pride and commitment to the furtherance of personal and collective educational and economic elevation exemplifies the “Black Greeks”, and despite uneven development among organizations, internal strife and discord, the lack of fiduciary commitment by alumnus and beneficent organizations, continuing issues regarding hazing and improper physical and mental abuse, as well as other sundry and chapter-oriented banalities, the commitment of these organizations to collective empowerment remains firm. The peer group influence was enormous and self-perpetuating, and the self-perception of each participant in this study underwent dramatic reconceptualization, their lives having undergone drastic and fundamental reshaping during the intake process to include the concurrent and continuing indoctrination within the “Black Greek” corpus.
Returning, at last, to the illusive nature of false consciousness and the resultant societal and institutional mores, “Black Greek” organizations flourish within the bounded confines of the racist hegemony that characterizes western culture in general and American culture in particular (Shelby 2003). The necessity for “Black Greek” as opposed to “White Greek” organizations is a illogical leap into irrationality, given the base belief that all humans are created equal, and should be able to interact equally without the necessity of creating their own parallel social structures due to societal constraints upon interaction and education (Feagin 1992). Counter-ideologies of liberation and freedom wage war against prevailing ideologies of ethnic and economic supremacy and continuing marginalization and exploitation, while economic and political trends toward conservatism broaden and spread pervasive tendrils into primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions the country across (Zweip 2004). Brown vs. the Board of Education languishes (Eaton 2004), unremarked upon and fading in influence, as its 40th anniversary nears and the conservative clarion call of School Choice and No Child Left Behind render its verdicts moot. Bill, the ex-football player, rendered his final thoughts with extraordinary candor:
Bill: Uh, yeah, um, about the climate of the campus, uh, like how the campus is now, but I’ve been noticing like a trend, to where if it’s not dealing with partying or picking up girls and alcohol, don’t nobody want to it. And it’s been like that, lately. And part of that, I feel, is to blame on the African American Greeks, black Greek system, because we put so much emphasis on parties, like we’ll have you’ll have a national program on one side of the flyer, and a party on the other side of the flyer, and you only handing out the party side. And so people come to associate with just we throw tight parties, that’s it. They don’t know about the programs, you know they don’t know about the fundraisers we do or the community service. Part of that is our fault, and then part of it is TV’s part.
Bill: Because all they show is [Popular rap artist], you know the [Sexually suggestive rap], you know we all like it, it’s cute but that’s all people see on TV now. You know that’s all our TV shows, that’s all the black entertainment you know channel show, BET you know, only time you’ll see something productive on TV is late night moves, and by that time, what young African American person is watching TV at 3:00 in the morning, most of them watching [Sports show], cause you see whatsisname, [Black News Anchor] come on, turn the channel. Videos are on, you know, I’ll turn back when [Suggestive video show] comes on…
Interviewer: And, you know, BET didn’t have news for many, many years.
Bill: Exactly. So like right now all everybody wants to do is party. Don’t nobody want to do anything positive. Like you have to force them to do stuff positive.
His commitment to positive interaction and shared growth is mirrored by the other “Black Greeks” interviewed in this study. Despite greater societal forces trending toward negativity and ethnic and social conservatism, the ideals of the Greek organizations present a bulwark against encroaching mediocrity that harkens back unto the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s, a time period that marks the great social upheaval resulting in the current gains enjoyed by these young, African American Greeks. This study has revealed a stream of consciousness that flows in uninterrupted freedom into prehistory, in response to conditions designed to bring out the worst in certain segments of society, and which have, instead, brought out the best, even in the face of perceived popular and political apathy.
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