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December 02, 1988 - Image 28

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-12-02
Note:
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p

Why

Black and

white greeks

difficulty finding

common

gro

Differing values and traditions work to keep the two
greek systems on this campus from coming together

The greek system's rituals and functions are often viewed
through a cloud of mystery by non-greeks and in many
cases by greeks themselves. Therefore, it is not surprising
that this smoke screen would blur the perceptions that
white and Black greeks have of each other - perceptions that are
often misconstrued and in some cases false.
The roots of these "false assumptions" are recognizable when one
compares the values and traditions of Black and white greek
organizations on campus and examines how the differing aspects of
each group are viewed by the other. For example, many white
greek and non-greek students believe Black greeks "segregate them-
selves." Members of the Black greek organizations on campus -
Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta
Sigma, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta
- say that they are not segregating themselves, but rather observ-
ing different traditions.
"Many whites feel that Blacks just don't want to be involved,"
said Regeana Myrick, LSA senior and president of Alpha Kappa
Alpha Sorority.
LSA junior and President of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority Au-
drey Wright agrees. "Our rules, regulations, objectives, and goals
are different," she said.
Margrette Taylor, LSA senior and treasurer of Zeta Phi Beta
sorority said that much of the misunderstanding about Black greeks
stems from a general lack of understanding and knowledge about
the history of the Black greek system. "They question why there
are two systems when they don't know the background or history
of the two systems," Taylor said.
She and other Black grecks feel that they know more about white
greeks than white greeks know about them because, as Taylor said,
the white greek system is "dominant on this campus.... Part of our
pledge process is to learn not only about Black greeks, but white
greeks as well because they created the greek system."
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Blacks began enrolling in
predominantly white universities - such as Cornell and Indiana
Universities - thinking they were more liberal and able to handle
the inevitable shock waves that new Black students would bring.
But the white fraternities and sororities at these institutions, in
their original documents, set down "similar social and ethnic back-
grounds" as membership requirements.
This excluded Black students from joining. Since there were so
few Black students at these institutions, Black students felt a need
for support and "for social involvement, dating companions, and
relief from the extremes of rigid social exclusion," according to a
report on the. origins of the Black greek system. Hence in 1906 at
Cornell University, the first Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha,
was founded. George B. Kelly, one of the seven founders of Alpha
Phi Alpha, said, "The negro at Cornell, the same as at any other
large university, was set aside, and we couldn't do some of the .
things that the others were doing."
Black exclusion from the white greek systems continued even
through the 1960s. "Twenty years ago, Black greeks and Black
people weren't even allowed to participate in white organizations,"
Taylor said. This history of exclusion led Blacks to form their own
fraternal organizations, and during their 88-year history, they have

It's not like we don't like them
and they don't like us - we each
just do our own thing. It's
reflective of the institution and
society we live in, in particular, the
environment of Ann Arbor and U
of M.'
- Margrette Taylor, LSA senior
and member of Zeta Phi Beta
sorority
established strong traditions and customs which tend to distinguish
them from other organizations. "Now, everybody just expects us to
join the white greek system and forget that we have our own belief
systems just as they have theirs," Taylor said.
There are white organizations that are predominantly service ori-
ented, but overall, Black greek groups tend to be more so and con-
centrate on issues that affect Black people - i.e., community,
education, and social life. "We do socialize, but we're more com-
munity service - giving back to the Black community," Myrick
said.
Charles Heckstall, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity
agreed. "Yes, we're social, but our emphasis is on the Black com-
munity," he said:
Almost all Greek parties involve alcohol, but many Black greeks
on campus think white greek organizations drink too much. There
may be alcohol at Black greek parties, but dancing and socializing
are primary. "We don't have drinking parties. We don't say just
come on in and drink and that's the party," Myrick said.
Jeff Hoekman, an engineering sophomore and a member of
Sigma Chi fraternity admitted that not all, but many white greek
parties revolve "solely around drinking. That's how it is."
John Koktostin, LSA senior and also a member of Sigma Chi,
described the drinking in his house as moderate. "You don't have to
drink to have a good time," he said.
Every year Sigma Chi organizes Derby Days - a series.of
games played to raise money for charity - and invites Black
sororities to participate. During this fall's games, however, the
controversy over alcohol was further fueled as members of two
Black sororities accused Sigma Chi of being unfair.
The sororities said that many of the games - like the "dizzy re-
lay" and the "charity chug" - involved consuming larger quantities
of alcohol than they desired. When the sororities saw a white
sorority drinking Kool-Aid as a substitute for alcohol, they ap-
proached Derby Days organizers and asked if they could refrain from

drinking alcohol. They were tol
drink the substitute.
Hoekman said the other sororil
because their national branch pu
forbade them from drinking alc
pants weren't obligated to drink
drinking punch. Why can't we?"'
Hockman said that the Black
notice. "When they told me that [i
the spot, I wasn't ready for that,'
couldn't make a concession becat
rules to drink. He said that their
groups."
"It kinda got outa hand because
We're not making anybody drink
pate in that event," Hoekman s
sent the participating sororities
beverages would be provided. Bi
ceive one.
Myrick said the Black greek or
to receive information about activ
of the deadline, and I don't like b
Some white greeks said they v
greeks if Blacks were more acce
hand, argue that they are visible
claimed that they couldn't find n
to MSS," Myrick said. She refer
dent Services which has the phor
nization and their leaders on camf
"If Morton Downey can get r
Myrick said. She said she had be(
Morton Downey Jr. Show and as
Detroit.
Koktostin said he would be w
greeks if he "knew where their
greeks, due to the economic situa
have houses whereas most whi
somebody asks you about your :
is, 'Do you have a house?"' said
ing and a member of Phi Beta Sig
Many houses of predominantly
the national chapter of the organ
yearly dues to help finance it's
Minority Student Services' Black
zations do not have the economr
have. Robinson also said there
parts of the country but "Black gr
whole.... Our nationals aren't int
more on [community] service wh
Neither Black nor white
discriminatory in terms of who
that over the years, her sorority h
"mixed" members.
S

By Sheala Durant

Durant is a WEEKEND co-columnist.

PAGE 8 WEEKEND/DECEMBER 2, 1988

WEEKEND/DECEMBER 2, 1988

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