University of Alabama has become a beacon for outdated, racist sororities and their resistance to change. In the shadow of President Barack Obama’s second term as the first black leader of the free world, UA students are still divided over whether blacks and whites can share the same Greek letters. What year is this?
Over at Marie Claire, Kayla Webley spoke to a number of University of Alabama students and recent graduates about their experience with segregation in their own sororities. This comes after the school’s student government voted to desegregate their Greek sororities and fraternities just four months ago after denying the motion initially. But like desegregation’s first attempts in America at large, passing a law is one thing but enforcing the action it requires is an entirely different matter.
"We were told we do not take black girls, because it would be bad for our chapter—our reputation and our status," says junior Yardena Wolf, 20, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi. "There was a list of girls who were to be dropped from rush," says senior Caroline Bechtel, 21, a member of Phi Mu. "Anyone who was a minority was automatically added to it. Sometimes they'd say things like, 'Oh, she wore an ugly dress,' but it was so obviously wrong, so obviously racism."
University of Alabama’s oldest sorority Kappa Delta isn't doing so hot, either. During rush, the members separate their recruits by rooms in their sorority house and the best selections are seated in the “Rush-to-Pledge” room. Sorority member Kirkland Back says only two African American students ever entered that room and one was there by mistake.
"This past year, a black girl ended up in the Rush-to-Pledge room," Back says. "Someone messed up and seated her in the wrong spot … so you can imagine the sad hilarity of watching a bunch of really privileged white girls freaking out. They were like, 'Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God! What are we going to do? She can't think we actually like her!' So they were like, 'Nobody talk to her. … She's gotta know that she's not welcome. She's gotta know this isn't going to work out.'"
Another co-ed named Melanie Gotz (who was the first to speak out about this issue) says in hindsight, she just wasn’t looking for the racism that was right in front of her face.
"It's not that we've never had black girls come through rush," says Melanie Gotz, 22, a 2014 Alabama graduate and member of Alpha Gamma Delta. "I would see them in the first round, and then they all disappeared. I just figured they didn't make the grades. Until this year, I didn't realize that they were being automatically dropped after the first round. I feel really naïve now—I didn't really think racism existed in such a blatant way anymore."
Webley writes that each organization was given the chance to respond to these statements but simply pointed to their policies opposing discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnic background. LOLZ, OK ladies. Elsewhere another sorority member says that her sisters are now disgruntled with the new black sorority members (o.4 percent) that were admitted because they didn't have to work as hard to get in to say, Kappa Delta.
"They thought, I got selected to be in Kappa Delta because I was worthy, and now we're giving these girls free bids because they're tokens?" Back says. "And they're like, 'That cheapens all of our membership and undermines the exclusivity of this organization.'"
In addition, Gotz says that as one of the members who pushed for integration in her house and via an article in the school's newspaper, she became a "villain" among her sisters who antagonized her with Mean Girls tactics of isolation and bullying.
Sounds like the American campus that was integrated by force in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy is still working out its issues; the ongoing campus culture, year after year, is further proof that racism is learned. Hopefully the lesson changes soon.
Image via Alpha Omicron Pi.