My “Fascination” With Greeks

As a member of a Black Greek Lettered Organization, I found the following article “interesting” to say the least. I will allow you the pleasure of reading these words and encourage you to engage in lofty discourse over the tone of this article. Please check back tomorrow where I will then post my response to this article. Enjoy!

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My “Fascination” With Greeks By Hananie Albert

By Hananie Albert, on 22-03-2008 20:39

Did they starve the consciousness out of you during hazing?

I have always been wary of those within the black community who pay a superficial homage to black history, only to turn and defecate on the legacies they pretend to uphold. Unfortunately this trait seems inherent to the black Greek system at this university—a cluster of complacent organizations who meander around issues of social justice and command respect because of the actions of their predecessors rather than their own commitments to equality, justice and progress. These groups only seem interested in the performative aspects of black culture and fail to reckon with the significance of their complacency, given their immense influence in the black community.

My time here at UF has been marked by crises that challenged the strength of the black community—from the bitingly ignorant Alligator cartoon, to the lack of funding for the African-American Studies Program to the controversy with the Jena 6. In these instances, individuals from Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) offered their support—but the Greek community at large stood idly by, seemingly ignorant of their power to galvanize the students and the administration to action. Oddly enough, they put this power to great use when it was time to raise awareness for a party or a step show. I began to wonder if these organizations felt at all ashamed to claim great Civil Rights leaders and political figures as alumnus, given the insignificance of their records of local social activism.

A recent forum titled “What’s your fascination with black Greeks?” promised to facilitate a dialogue between the Greek and non-Greek community, and I attended on my editor’s insistence. I was curious to see how the black Greek community would address the stark hypocrisies in their records—the fact that they had stopped earning the respect they demanded, the fact that “brotherhood” came to be marked by well documented instances of hazing and male on male sexual harassment, and the fact that they seemed to privilege mindless assimilation and social mobility over social justice.

The responses at the forum were as contrived and hollow as I had assumed BGLOs to be. When questioned about their failure to live up to their founding tenets, one Greek panelist responded that the public underestimated the efforts put into step shows; others insisted that Greeks were normal people and were unfairly put on a pedestal. Finally, one Greek responded with what seemed to be the default answer whenever a particularly tough question was posed: there was just so much that the public did not know. This implies that the public does not have the right to judge BGLOs because they are not privy to the same information. I doubt that adequate justification for black Greek complacency is somehow written into the founding principles that are beaten into them– or that one acquires intellectual infallibility by “crossing the burning sands.”

If the BGLOs at the University of Florida want to take the cowardly route favored by organizations such as the Black Student Union and respond to accusations of complacency by claiming that they are a “social” organization rather than a “political” one, they have every right. However, black Greeks must understand that they invoke a higher standard every time they mention alumnus like Huey P. Newton, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent figures in black history who might very well be ashamed to have their names associated with the uninspired, unengaged morass that is black Greekdom at this university.

This is not an assault on individuals within the organization—I know several exceptional individuals that join these organizations and strive towards social equality and consciousness—unfortunately the overall character of these groups is impermeable to the progressive intentions of the individuals. BGLOs, like other university organizations, will be judged as a whole, not just the sum of its more progressive parts.

I must note, however, that if black Greek existence on this campus seems shallow and self-serving, it is because black Greek organizations are composed of and cater to a shallow and unengaged black community who love to point out the evils of discrimination but fail to meet these evils with intellectual resistance and social activism. So, critiquing black Greeks for thinking that uplifting the black community entials nothing more than wearing letters on Wednesdays, the occasional self-gratifying forum on Fridays and a routinized and thus hollow commitment to “community service” on Saturdays, is ultimately a critique of the black community as a whole. Assuming that new members have had the consciousness and social awareness beaten and starved from them during the hazing ignores the fact that that many of these new members may not have cared about these issues to begin with.

As an immigrant to this country, I was ignorant of the significance of black Greeks until I stepped foot onto Turlington Plaza. There, I was ushered out of the way in order to make room for the strolling Greeks; a friend even jokingly suggested that looking them in the eye was disrespectful. I didn’t understand how a group could command this amount of unquestioned respect.

After conducting some research, I began to believe that these students were respected because the letters stitched onto their jackets were a sacred covenant—a reminder of the great contributions of past members and a promise to continue while improving upon their auspicious legacies. I believed that the initiation process was well-reasoned and commendable for its commitment to restoring rites of passage, similar to those in tribal Africa.

After several years on this campus, I am starting to realize just how wrong I was.

http://www.blacklistedmagazine.org/

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8 Responses to “My “Fascination” With Greeks”

  1. dsf Says:

    “if [] Greek existence on this campus seems shallow and self-serving, it is because [] Greek organizations are composed of and cater to a shallow and unengaged [] community”

    or in one word, Oreos.

  2. sethandray Says:

    The issues surrounding Greek life are on the whole complex and quite difficult if not impossible to understand by those on the outside of that community. Much of what these organizations do is public but much more is private and very closely held by these organizations. The challenges fraternities and sororities and their chapters face are in my opinion not discussed as much as they should be by those in the organizations. This is only my view, as I am only a member of one organization and one chapter. Issues are different depending on one’s perspective. I look forward to your response to the article tomorrow, as I already have formed opinons of both its writer and content.

    Seth
    http://sethandray.wordpress.com

  3. H. Albert Says:

    As the writer, (who happened to google her name, lol) I only ask that you attach the name of the publication “Blacklisted Magazine” that featured my article.
    I, also, look forward to your response– and I encourage you to visit http://www.blacklistedmagazine.org and post on the lively forum debates that we’re having. Please keep in mind that the critique in this article, is specific to my University– and I did that mindful of the fact that I couldn’t speak for every cluster of BGLOs. (I’d be willing to wager that some of the same critiques ring true, however).

    Always,

    -H

  4. CLC Says:

    Let me be one of the many that may address the question at hand. The answer is, no. And I’ll leave you to define consciousness on your terms. It is evident in this social climate that consciousness has become a thing of “relative” nature. Form your opinions on that statement as you will.

    It is unfortunate that the author, as as student at UF, has been left to question the modus operandi of the Black Greek community as a whole based upon her experience at her university. However, I ask that the author allow her experience to be one amongst her university and not be the umbrella under which the work and progress that these organizations become relegated to. They have a rich history and legacy. Rest assured it is highly doubtful that members of BGLOs will find themselves ashamed to be akin to great leaders. It is a thing upon which we pride ourselves – GREATNESS – our pursuit AND our achievement of it. As well, be mindful that individuals comprise the whole with regard to these organizations. Therefore, when one states, “This is not an assault on individuals within the organization”, be mindful that indeed, it is. Also, these BGLOs are no longer comprised of merely of individuals from the black community. Also, the black community is not merely comprised of Black greeks. So, “…a critique of the black community as a whole” based upon the chapters at UF is a problem unto itself. Where was the conscious thought and reasoning in that? Shall I ASSUME and assert it was starved out of the author in pursuit of…well, you get the point.

    In reponse to the forum held: indeed unfortunate. As a member of a BGLO hailed from Temple University, I assure you a panel of greeks on OUR campus would have never afforded you the opportunity to put in print any of the responses listed above. There is no justification for complacency in any arena. Exemplify Stellar Performance – E.S.P. This is the standard we are held to. So, NO, complacency is not found amongst our founding principles. “Progressive intentions” are the solid foundation upon which 2 Black Greek letter organizations have done well to celebrate 100 years of existence. With regard to one of the two: those intentions = Service to All Mankind = 100 years of progress.

    “I must note, however, that if black Greek existence on this campus seems shallow and self-serving, it is because black Greek organizations are composed of and cater to a shallow and unengaged black community…” Shoud this have read, “I must note, however, that if black Greek existence on this campus seems shallow and self-serving, it is because black Greek organizations ON THE CAMPUS OF UF are composed of and cater to a shallow and unengaged black community”???

    Now, for the sake of calling a spade a spade: there are those individuals who are shallow and self-serving. In addition, there are those who will gladly wear shirts, step, and participate in roll call without ever having extended a hand to reach back into their respective communities. I, myself, have bore witness to this. And no, this is not unique to UF. Now, if this form of thought and action is RAMPANT amongst the BGLOs on the campus of UF, then please do question our motives as BGLOs. Any thinking person would. Yes, some will be respected merely because of the letters stitched on their shirt, jacket, or tote bag. However, BGLOs did not enlist that training nor do we encourage it.

  5. Brandi Hill Says:

    So after two days of waiting for your response: all you can say is the author should change her article to better specify UF”S BGLO’s? I would think such observation would be obvious considering this article was published in a University of Florida student run magazine. Not to mention several times throughout the article she specifies “at this university” “here at uf” etc. It was obvious she was referring to UF’s BGLO.
    I was really hoping as Greek you could offer a better perspective on how INACCURATE OR ACCURATE the article’s content was- versus a mere suggestion on “phrasing”
    I was hoping you would speak more candidly about the current state of the black community in America and those who are currently in college. Possibly you could have spoken about the desperate need for another “name of fame.” Martin Luther King accomplished a lot but his movement was almost 40 years ago don’t you think we are a little over due? I mean in 2020 will these organizations still me screaming “MLK?”
    For instance you mention “those intentions = Service to All Mankind = 100 years of progress.” “Progress” is an interesting term. Unlike “consciousness” the term progress is NOT relative. Progress is growth. It seems to be that Greek organizations take a lot of pride in mere existence. However, Im sure you would agree progress is NOT simply maintaining existence- that’s called sustaining. Which I guess 30 years ago could have been seen as a HUGE feat. HOWEVER black ran organizations are no longer a phenomenon. These organizations ACTUALLY accomplishing their goals gracefully, IS a phenomenon. Mere maintaining is NOT PROGRESSION.
    To me not much has happened in regards to helping the black community in the past 40 years? A drastic increase in prison populations, an onset of racist laws and legislation, poor access to education and healthcare, and the onset of BET video culture has managed to show itself even in the midst of the successes. Please lets not just say the writer was stereotyping. Please confront the inactivity of the powerful, heavily funded, and now heavily populated AMERICAN BLACK GREEK CULTURE!! (I am now speaking nationally-in order to include you in the conversation
    We look forward to your response!!

  6. nativenotes Says:

    Brandi,
    I dont think you read my response, it seems you are responding to someone else who responded in the comments section. My response can be found at https://nativenotes.wordpress.com/2008/04/02/my-fascination-with-greeks-response/

    nice site you have by the way!

  7. CLC Says:

    Brandi,

    Forgive me. I think you misunderstood part of my repsonse. Upon reading the author’s article it was very clear her initial address was with regard to the BGLOs on the campus of the University of Florida. However, paragraph 7 opened with the intent to further discuss the matter on UF’s campus, but seemed to roll over to the entire Black Greek community as a whole. It reads as if the attitudes prevalent on your campus are as such as a result of the entire BGLO community. When you travel from campus to campus it is blaringly obvious that UF (as I stated before) is not unique, BUT there is another side to the coin. A trip to some of the college campuses up north may offer you an alternate perspective. Well, hopefully. 🙂 Then, it will be very apparent why I requested that the “shallow and self-starving” proclamation not be an attempt to characterize BGLOs as a whole based on the chapters present at UF. I am sure you know the insertion or deletion of a single word can completely misdirect a conversation. And in this case, I believe it may have, judging by your response. As well, in anticipation of further discussion amongst my fellow greeks, I thought it imperative to ask that question. I’ll be the first to admit the things that have been outlined in the article are atrocious. I am ashamed this is the type of representation you all as students have been subjected to. It’s quite embarassing and disconcerting.

    Now, regarding how accurate or inaccurate. I believe she may have very well hit the nail on the head with regard to SOME chapters on SOME campuses of SOME BGLOs. This is why I used my closing satement to respond as such. In no way did I want that message to get lost amongst the other pieces of my response. What I do not want is for the climate amongst the BGLOS on UF’s campus to be the trademark by which every other chapter on every other campus gets measured. I can’t let the work of chapters(undergraduate and graduate) of BGLOs who DO work and TAKE ACTION be discounted. You see, I am an active member of an active chapter that DOES work.

    “Names of Fame”? No ma’am. That’s the last thing any BGLO needs. We have plenty of those – PLENTY! When you start name dropping, then you have start making excuses for why people do what they do and have done. And well, some… I could stand to rescind their invitations for membership. So, I purposefully left the famous people out it. What we need and expect (pardon me, what I need and expect) are “people of action.” How does one define action? Some see it as organizing a marchor a sit in. Others may perceive it as educating oneself so they are in a position to contribute to society as a whole. Silence, sometimes, can be the greatest form of action. So, a call to action -I agree with you. Although I celebrate my BGLO, I am not one who rests on it’s legacy. What I am often found screaming are things such as, “why is it that mediocrity has become the norm amongst our people?” However, that’s not a BGLO issue, that’s another issue. See, some expect to come to a BGLO and be “made” great. I expect that one comes already made great to a BGLO. They are two very different things. That’s an entirely different blog all in itself.

    Progress. Anything can progress. Forward or onward movement. Do you really mean to tell me that you believe the existence of any historically black organization for 100+ years is not representative of some type of growth? Now, the mere existence of anything is not representative of progress, but considering the the economic, social, and political climate of the country when these organizations were established, I think we can ALL agree that their mere existence wouldn’t have gotten them past 1921. Would you not agree? Therefore, I must assert that our growth is evident. Now whether or not you agree with the strides we have made and whether or not you see them as positive or negative, constructive or destructive is up for discussion. The goals my organization sets, it achieves – gracefully. AND will continue to do so.

    I don’t think the author was stereotyping. I think she gave an account of her experience.

    This started off a discussion of BGLOs, but I think the type of action you are looking for has it’s roots in the ENTIRE black community. Let it not be left to the BGLOs. We could go on and on about BGLOs, but the BGLOs in question on the campus of UF start with the individuals. Actually, every BGLO starts with it’s individuals. So, I ask you, “Please confront the inactivity of the powerful, heavily funded, and now heavily populated AMERICAN BLACK !!” Then, and only then will I be able to continue this discussion.

  8. nativenotes Says:

    I am excited about the dialogue on this particular topic, I hope that this same type of dialogue will continue around other pieces on this blog that deal with issues that affect our communities.

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