This is a well-known excerpt of a speech you’ve probably heard before:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream…I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
Does it sound familiar? Martin Luther King Jr. said these famous words fifty years ago during the “March on Washington”. Alabama was the birthplace of much of the African American Civil Rights Movement a half-century ago, but today it is also home to a Greek System at the University of Alabama that allegedly discriminates on the basis of race during recruitment.
There are about 30,000 students at University of Alabama, and nearly one in three girls go Greek. As of 2011, the school was 12.4% Black and 82.5% White. Despite these demographics, many highly qualified Black girls have been passed up on Bid Day for seemingly unclear reasons. These incidents have gone relatively unnoticed until recently, when a few active members spoke out against the recruitment decisions being made in their sorority. One Alpha Gamma Delta active member took notice when her chapter was rejecting a perfect candidate for her sorority:
“It was just like a big elephant in the room,” Gotz said. “So I raised my hand.”
Gotz took issue with a well-qualified Black candidate being dismissed, but the bulk of the sorority either didn’t notice or didn’t care as alumnae crossed another girl off the list of potential new members based on what seemed to be nothing more than prejudice. When Gotz started asking questions, the alumnae were quick to justify their dismissal, claiming that the girl did not have proper recommendation letters.
After Gotz spoke up, however, others began to stand behind her. Several active members began challenging the decisions of the alumnae. When questioned, the alumnae replied that they were simply following the policies of Alpha Gamma Delta’s National Headquarters. When the reporter got in touch with National Headquarters, however, their official statement claimed that, “Alpha Gamma Delta has policies that govern its recruitment process. These include policies about the roles undergraduates and alumnae play in the recruitment process. In addition, Alpha Gamma Delta policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in all of its activities including recruitment.” There seems to be some miscommunication.
When I first read the report in the Crimson White, Alabama’s student-run newspaper, my first reaction was annoyance. Every active member blamed the actions on the alumnae, acting as if their passivity wasn’t part of the problem. I’m proud of the girls that are questioning what is being done, but it is 2013. These girls, speaking their opinions and critically thinking about the institution that they themselves are a part of, should not be the exception. In my opinion, these sorority girls should take a lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil disobedience, a tenet of his, says that it is one’s moral obligation to disobey unjust laws. Sororities aren’t governments, and Greek rules are not laws, but if a girl has to bend the knee to alumni to suit the out-dated, prejudice needs of the alumni, then I think the same thing applies. Girls, stand up for fellow girls; speak out, question your elders, and if it’s necessary, deactivate your sorority. There is no reason to tolerate this.
Read the full Crimson White article here: http://cw.ua.edu/2013/09/11/the-final-barrier-50-years-later-segregation-still-exists/
“Common Data Set 2012-13” (PDF). The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, University of Alabama. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
“Fall 2010 Enrollment at a Glance”. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, University of Alabama. Retrieved May 29, 2011.