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Why Are There No Black People in White Fraternities?

  |   By: Dave Folk     |   Opinion

It was after midnight and I’d had about 15,000 beers, at least that’s what it would feel like the next morning when I wondered why everyone around me looked almost exactly the same. Brand name collared shirt, shorts above the knees, boat shoes laced up and whiskey on the breath. More so than dress and actions, why was everyone white?

See, I’m a member of a fraternity at Alabama which means I am by default a racist. Well, that’s what everyone wants you to believe.

Last fall some brave women peeled back the curtain on a generational dichotomy that was preventing integration of the University of Alabama’s greek system. According to reports, the younger and more progressive members of sororities were willing to shatter the unspoken rules that kept minorities on the outside looking in. Despite a change in culture, the more conservative advisors allegedly blocked the chapter’s wishes.

Thankfully, a lot of people who were never involved in the situation gave their two cents and the Student Government Association passed groundbreaking legislation to require all fraternities and sororities to pledge at least one minority member each semester. Just kidding! Only the first half of that is true.

What actually went down was a lot dumber. After the articles came out, unrelated campus groups publicly chastised those bastardly greeks and their racist selves. Groups like the Mallet Assembly emerged at the forefront of the conversation despite having nothing to do with what transpired. There was a cute march where everyone held hands and then the topic died.

Spring rolled around and a couple of SGA senators proposed the equivalent of a Model U.N. resolution on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. The resolution didn’t pass because it was stupid, and the media came out to bash the racist greeks and their campus controlling ways.

Now that you’re caught up I want to tell you why the SGA resolution was a farce and why there are no blacks in white fraternities.

Model U.N.

The Student Government Association at Alabama is an incredible organization that has introduced many initiatives that truly do assist students. An overwhelming majority of SGA executives are serving because they believe they can make their fellow students lives better. That being said they have not an inkling of authority over greek organizations.

If the SGA passed resolutions tomorrow that banned all Kappa Alphas from having jacked up trucks, and all Phi Delts from having black lab puppies (neither would be popular) not a single thing would change. Fraternities and sororities operate under their own regulatory bodies to decide on intra-campus matters amongst themselves. Yet still, not even those aforementioned regulatory bodies could pass legislation that changed-the-game because the nature of fraternities and sororities is secretive. No one but the groups themselves can alter how they operate.

The SGA’s failed resolution produced possibly the dumbest controversy ever. Within the resolution was nothing to solve the problem, and even if there was some genius idea it would hold no weight. They could have voted to impeach Obama and had more of an impact. Get pissed because they didn’t pass it all you want, but ultimately it didn’t matter. Change has to come from within, which is why Mallet wastes their Pokemon power-up points every time they curse the greeks.


So it’s after midnight, I’m drunk and surrounded by a Vineyard Vines catalog. Why is it like this, and when will the Capstone catch up to the rest of the country?

There are indeed racists in the greek system at Alabama (hold the presses, why didn’t I lead with that bombshell), but for the most part those idiots never hold leadership positions. IFC fraternities and Panhellanic sororities at Alabama are awfully vanilla for two reasons: traditionally white greek organizations don’t specifically recruit people of color, and people of color tend not to seek out traditionally white greek organizations in nearly the same numbers that whites do.

No greek organization is going to look for a potential member solely based on their race, there are too many other important factors that come first: is this person cool, are they smart, do they have any redeeming qualities, can they at least pay their dues, can they help our intramural team out, are they creepy, will they attract attractive people to hang out with us, are they creepy when they drink, are they winking or is that an eye-twitch? I suppose some organizations will disqualify someone based on their race, but no one is going out to actively fill a quota.

Not enough people of color seek out to join traditionally white greek organizations. Even at open rush events the number of white kids well outnumber the persons of color in the group. If you added up the number of members in traditionally black fraternities, multi-cultural fraternities and traditionally white fraternities I’d be willing to bet that the percentage of persons of color involved in greek life mirrors the percentage of persons of color enrolled at the University of Alabama. Maybe not exactly, but fairly close.

Ironically enough there have been — and are — members of traditionally white fraternities and sororities who are not white. None of whom have made the news because it’s just not news, as it shouldn’t be.

Follow Dave on Twitter at @davefolk

Dave Folk is a yankee transplant living in Birmingham, Alabama.