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Black Women Calling Out Racism in White Sororities

Claims of racism in white sororities and fraternities aren’t a new issue. Both have made headlines for their apparent racist antics, parties, and membership selection over the years. There have been instances where members were outed for wearing blackface, dressing as mammies or slaves, and were alleged to not give bids to women of color.

For Natalie Wilson, one of a few Black members to speak outwardly about racism in her Sigma Kappa sorority, her experience is not unique. After 2020’s push to call out racial offenses, the National Panhellenic Conference is attempting to address the issue within its ranks. But, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, sorors like Bria Jones, a former member of a sorority at the University of Arkansas, believe those statements ring hollow.

“I don’t think it was sincere,” she said. “I don’t think they even cared. It’s kind of scary though because I don’t know who actually cares enough to change it.”

Many Black women are beginning to speak out, demanding that white sororities either reimagine how they operate or continue to be on the wrong side of history regarding its Black members. Ameena Challenger, a former member of a sorority at St. Louis University, told BuzzFeed News that the former is needed in order for women of color to feel truly welcomed.

“If sororities come from protecting, validating, and sectioning off white femininity and white womanhood, then it can only change so much,” Challenger said.

Dani Weatherford, CEO of the National Panhellenic Conference, retorted via BuzzFeed News, hoping to squelch some of the angst within the ranks. “The [Panhellenic] conference has been clear about the need to recognize and correct the ways the sorority community has historically benefited and centered the experiences of white women and women of privilege,” Weatherford’s statement read. “We believe that we must acknowledge the impact of past and current policies and systems that stand in the way of the inclusive communities we seek to create. But we’ve made and are making crucial progress at the NPC level, member organizational level, and chapter level to make our community more diverse, inclusive, and culturally competent – while seeking to break down systemic barriers.”

This remains just words only as social media has amplified sororities’ continued issues with racism. The hashtag #RushTok, which dominated TikTok heavily last month, served as a cogent reminder of the hazing violence, exclusionary practices, and protests that have happened within the fraternity and sorority community. Most recently, Rachael Kirkconnell, a contest on the reality TV show Bachelor, was embroiled in a scandal after photos of her at an Old South fraternity party went viral.

In it, she was seen wearing an Antebellum-style dress for a plantation-themed ball, which reignited the discussion about Greek life below the Mason-Dixon line.

Victoria Liverpool, a Black woman who was in Sigma Delta Tau at the University of Rochester, said that the racial justice protests from last year have not served as a wake-up call to her sorority to change its practices, even describing a moment where she faced microaggressions while as a board member.

Liverpool claimed that she asked the chapter’s board if she could write a statement in response to when the BLM protests were happening across the country. Instead, she said to BuzzFeed News, the chapter president wrote one on her own and posted it with a photo of the sorority’s motto, “One hope of many people.”

“I can’t even call it a statement,” Liverpool told BuzzFeed News.

It was Liverpool’s final straw with Sigma Delta Tau. Liverpool sent an email to the board, which she posted on Twitter, announcing she would resign.

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