12 hours ago
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It's All Greek to Me
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I did some volunteer work. For the holiday season, one of the local churches I attend conducted an outreach service through which they delivered Thanksgiving meals to at-need families around the DC metro area. I was part of the loading & unloading team, which took 250 meal boxes off the delivery truck and then loaded them into the cars of the volunteers who were to present the meals to the families. After all of the volunteers had left, there were still about 50 boxes left unaccounted for. (Translation: multiple volunteers who had signed up to help deliver boxes didn't show up. Sigh.) So, the rest of us volunteers who were still there took what was left and helped to deliver the meals to the families that were expecting the boxes.
Why am I mentioning any of this? As I was heading home after volunteering, for some reason, Black fraternities and sororities came to mind. When I was in college, I remember the Greeks always mentioning volunteering as their main contribution to society as an organization. I always found it to be somewhat ironic whenever their community service was brought up, because for the most part, very little of it was ever made public. As a college student who never pledged, the things I most associated with Greeks were step shows, hearing them brag about their pledging process, and their strolling getting in my way when I was trying to dance up on a chick at a party. For this reason, I always wondered why these seemed to be the prevalent things that separated them from the rest of us instead of the alleged community service that was supposed to be the foundation for their organizations in the first place.
Furthermore, when you look at the mission statements for the NPHC fraternities, every one of them has a focus on providing service to the community (with the exception of Kappa Alpha Psi, whose only concern seems to be "being really good at everything"). I find it strange that service is such a common theme, yet most of the volunteer service being provided is done in private, unbeknownst to the rest of the college community. How can you attract like-minded individuals with your good deeds if they don't even know that it's being done?
Now don't get me wrong, I think that every non-Greek has had the idea of pledging cross their mind at least once. Even I thought about it for a quick second during my sophomore year (most of you can probably guess which frat I was thinking about). But I never went to an interest meeting, and truth be told, I only really thought about it when I was drunk at parties and I thought it would be cool to stroll around and throw up signs. Needless to say, it's probably better off that I never did it. I would wake up the next day, sober up, and think about whether I was really willing to sacrifice an entire college semester to be bitched around and get my ass beat on a nightly basis. Considering that I only had eight semesters of college, I wasn't willing to throw one away. Plus, I was too stubborn to have a group of my peers tell me what to do for 3 months, so I decided against it.
Which brings me to my next point: pledging. It always bothered me that pledging was such an accepted part of Greek life, yet every organization claims to be a "non-hazing organization". I realize that they have to lie because it's illegal, but a.) why would I want to join a brotherhood that has to lie to me before I even start and b.) why is pledging necessary in the first place? Is beating me with a red & white cane going to make me a better student? Is taking wood gonna make me a better role model?? I also always found it to be a little ass-backwards that most Greeks seems to boast more about what they endured to get into the organization than they boasted about anything productive that they did after they were a member. Not to mention, pledging leads to events like this, and then all the Greeks wanna act all remorseful when it happens. Maybe they should have considered the possible repercussions before they had those girls doing whatever they were doing in the middle of the night. And I have a very hard time believing that they were actually going to get their hair done at 6 in the morning... gimme a break.
I think my main beef with Black Greeks is the overall misrepresentation of the organizations' motives. It's pretty much common knowledge that the ideals that these organizations were built upon are no longer as vital to the fraternities' existence as they were when they were founded. It's not the 1910s anymore. Most people I know who are Greek didn't pledge with any intention of bettering their community or achieving any higher level of academic excellence. In fact, you usually hear the same reasons: "My dad was in the frat, so I wanted to continue the legacy." "My best friend wanted to do it, so I just decided to do it with him." "I figured if I made enough frat connections, it could help me get a job when I graduate." "Honestly, I just wanted to step." And let's not forget the other perks such as popularity and attracting groupies that a lot of guys think about but would never have the gall to admit to.
To be real, I don't even have a problem with any of these reasons. But if that's what makes people wanna join your organization, say that. Don't preach lofty goals about uplifting the community when half of your members are only in the frat so they can meet girls and stroll at parties. I have no problem with fraternities being strictly social communities, which is essentially what the white Greeks are. But if that's what Black Greeks wanna be as well, don't tell me that you're here to serve as a beacon of hope for the Black community. That's an insult to my intelligence, and I'm not that gullible.
This is not meant to be a post that simply bashes Greeks or their respective organizations. Many of my closest friends are Greek, including my best friend. I respect their decision to join Greek organizations. But I didn't need a fraternity to perform community service in college, and I don't need one to perform good deeds now. As a middle school teacher, I feel that I promote scholarship and serve as more of a role model than most of the Greeks I know, and I didn't need to pledge to do it. So, at the end of the day, what's the real purpose? I have a hard time seeing a good one.
Posted by J. Brown at 8:00 PM