Diversity increasing in black greek organizations

Eve Dempsey doesn’t look like her sisters.

When she joined the Zeta Phi Beta sorority in the spring of 2007, she joined because she believed it was an organization with the same values she had, the same dedication to community service and sisterhood.

She didn’t care about the fact that she would become the sorority’s only white member.

Zeta Phi Beta is a historically black sorority in the National Pan-Hellenic Council. When Dempsey joined, she did something rare, but not something entirely unprecedented. Her sorority had integrated before – in the 1980s – but integration hadn’t become a trend.

After Dempsey “crossed” – the term for joining – she saw she wasn’t alone.

“There was another Caucasian girl who crossed the year after I did,” she said. “She joined, as I did, because of her own personal reasons. It didn’t have anything to do with race. It wasn’t to put a spotlight on the organization.”

Having a white member did make Dempsey’s sorority stand out from the others, she said.

“I’m sure at some point somebody was like ‘Oh, that’s the Zeta chapter, they have a white girl,’” she said.

White students join black fraternities and sororities on a somewhat regular basis, said NPHC President Xavier Burgin.

“It’s actually a lot more common for a person of a different background that’s not an African-American to join a black fraternity or sorority than it is for a white fraternity or sorority,” he said.

Burgin estimated that NPHC organizations have accepted about five or seven white members in the last ten years, but that their diversity efforts do not just involve white students. Alpha Phi Alpha has a member who is Filipino, and people of every race are welcome in the organizations.

“What I’ve come to find is that, for someone who’s not an African-American to join a sorority or fraternity, we pretty much welcome it with open arms,” he said.

Burgin said most NPHC organizations were founded in the early 20th century, when black students were kept from joining white fraternities around the country.

“The reason why a lot of people were brought into that is because a lot of white fraternities and sororities did not want us in their system, but we wanted to have a greek system as well,” he said. “We started this because we were discriminated against by the white fraternities or sororities, so it would be hypocritical for us to discriminate against anyone of any race.”Dempsey said the racial divide was not something she was used to after growing up in Tallahassee, Fla.

“The way a lot of people in Alabama are brought up, in the school cafeteria, the white children sit with the white children and the black children sit with the black children,” she said. “Where I was brought up, everybody sat with everybody.

“Because of that, I’ve always befriended everybody, and I’ve sometimes had people who are white discriminate against me because I associated with people who weren’t white,” she added.

Dempsey also came into contact with a lot of people she may not have met if she hadn’t joined the sorority, she said.

“Me and four other girls all came in at the same time, so I was really close with the girls who joined when I did,” she said. “One of the girls, her father was a Black Panther, so that was an experience, growing close to her and her growing close to me. We had to overcome not only stereotypical differences, but things that are instilled deep down in our childhood.”

Burgin said the opportunity to join a traditionally black fraternity or sorority is available to everyone, regardless of race.

“With us, it’s open to anyone and everyone,” he said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidblakejones David Blake Jones

    So Alabama is the only place where the races self segregate?  I doubt it.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYET73EDWVTJFCFGGZ7XSAPR7Q ChellG

      No! MS, LA, GA, SC, KY, MO, AR, OK, TN, many parts of TX, FL, VA and NC…and yes pockets of areas in other parts of the country as well. Hawaii is majority Asian, but pretty much integrated..you see, Asians dont believe in separating themselves except a few who may join so-called Asian interest houses. And yes, it is always white Americans, but mostly white southerners who set the example. Many white Americans are obsessed with race, so much so they created a new category called Hispanics back in 1970. In Australia all so-called Hispanics are considered white. White Australians have a good laugh when a Chilean tells them that he is considered not white in America. The white Australian Policy of the 1960s did not exclude the white American invention and delusion called the Hispanics. They were considered white and Christian…just like white Australians (unlike the attitude of most white Americans).  Even in Asian countries white southerners particularly from Alabama segregate themselves. There was this Alabama woman who got pretty mad when her daughter brought home a local Chinese female friend in Singapore…and seven years later this girl is sitting inside a southern sororitiy and shutting out minorities based on what her mother had grilled into her. Yep, everyone segregates but white southerners began the process and lead by example. As one former President told the country after 9/11, “they started the war and we will end it in our terms.” Perhaps the minorities are saying the same thing to the whites in Alabama, but it appears that the minorities have begun to end it well before the whites even give it a try!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7VA2CVBUSCPPIQYSZPIKXV7T5Q newlifexc

        So that is why out of all the universities in the country you chose to come to one in the deepest part of the Deep South chock full of all those white southerners you seem to have such a problem with.  I’ll bet it didn’t prevent you from taking all that scholarship money they offered you.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYET73EDWVTJFCFGGZ7XSAPR7Q ChellG

          Nope. Not part of Alabama. But, I deal with Alabamians though. Some of the most racist ones are not living there. They happen to live in places like Japan, China and Singapore and teach their children the same crap that they teach back home.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t know about the other states, but TX isn’t really segregated so I don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYET73EDWVTJFCFGGZ7XSAPR7Q ChellG

          “I don’t know about the other states,”

          You are bamagirl…you should know about Alabama…pretty racist and segregated.

           ”but TX isn’t really segregated so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

          Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston are definitely not segregated but get an Asian date and walk with him through through some towns in East Texas, Huntsville, Katy, Corsicana or even some of the outer Dallas suburbs…you will know what I am saying.

      • Anonymous

        Not to be harsh here, but “white southerners” aren’t the ones obsessed with race. White southerners don’t call the race card everytime something doesn’t go as planned. I’m so sick of hearing people whine and complain about not getting their way and blaiming it on their race. Believe it or not, this is the 21st century and people don’t care about your persecuted ancestors. Work hard and prove yourself to be a deserving individual and you’ll get far in life. This goes for people of all colors but some are too hung up on what they don’t have. Rather than finding someone to blame for your lack of success, maybe figure out where YOU went wrong rather than chalking it up to be your skin that made you fail. That’s crap.

      • http://www.facebook.com/davidblakejones David Blake Jones

        What nonsense you write. Your argument is non White good, White bad.  I have lived in the South and California, and I can assure you that the South is much more integrated than California.  Try to find illegal immigrant families living in the “nice” neighborhoods of West LA.  Hell, even Venice is segregated. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYET73EDWVTJFCFGGZ7XSAPR7Q ChellG

    Yep, absolutely right…it was in California a 19 year old and a bunch of other white kids beat up a black man and ran him over with a car. Yep, it was in California that executed a Neo-Nazi yesterday for dragging a black man to his death yesterday. Or was it in Seattle, WA or Minneapolis, MN? Yep, California is very bad…white southerners are all innocent, god fearing people. Evidence is very clear, right? Me bad!