I was featured on a panel this morning in front of a group of recent LAUSD graduates who are all on their way to four-year institutions. (Congrats!) After discussing time management and the importance of office hours, a young lady raised her hand and asked,
“Are any of you involved in sororities or fraternities? Can you tell me about your experiences?”
Contrary to popular belief, I am not anti-greek. I couldn’t stop my lips, however, from tightening and my eyes from expanding. I shifted to yet another uncomfortable position in my rolling chair and waited for someone else to answer the question. Another panelist explained her role as a “sister” to a fraternity that I don’t remember the name of and how they assist their “brothers” during the pledge process. After a lighthearted conversation on her fun-filled duties, including encouragement, lunch dates, and overall support, I couldn’t stop myself from shouting, “Say no to hazing!” These kids need to know, I thought. The facilitator then asked the class, “Do you all know what hazing is?” And the awkward silence began.
The students nervously looked around the room and individually raised their hands, giggling at the overwhelming apprehension. “Well, I’ve heard stories, but you know, no one is really supposed to talk about it,” one student said. I nodded my head in agreement. Haven’t we all heard stories? The panel soon lit up with horrifying descriptions of naked encounters, sleep deprivation, verbal abuse, and, of course, physical assault.
To be clear, this post is not about why people willingly participate in such nightmarish activities. [I could write a full essay on why people do it.] I’m more interested in why hazing is so prevalent in greek organizations (as well as bands, sports teams, etc) and why my peers have allowed it to continue.
As a hyperactive, socially conscious and progressive African-American young woman, I found a number of traditionally Black greek orgs appealing in my freshman year of college. I had multiple conversations with friends, asked questions at “information” sessions, and even made an effort to arrive at chapter events on time (aka early, haha) I was genuinely interested in learning more about the historic organizations that have and continue to do great work.
I was disheartened to find that many women in my organizations of interest weren’t willing to have real conversations. When I asked about the intake process and, more specifically, hazing, I was given side-eyes and was prompted to “do my research.” I didn’t care to study the lives of founders and initiatives, however, without first knowing if I would have to get beat up in order to join the sisterhood I would potentially spend my life contributing to.
Needless to say, I grew tired of the run-around and realized that God would place any sisters and connections I need in my life without requiring them to “break me down to build me up.” But my story is semi-irrelevant; I want to start the dialogue and encourage those who have remained silent to speak up for their rights!
To those in greek organizations: Do you plan to continue the hazing cycle? If so, why? How does physical, emotional, and verbal abuse enhance sisterhood/brotherhood? Can the same, or even stronger, bonds be made without hazing? How do you justify beating a brother/sister into submission with boards, belts, fists and other instruments to teach him/her that he is becoming a “man/woman” by allowing himself to be punished like a child? In what ways can you uphold the rigor and seriousness of the intake process without committing a crime? (Yes, hazing is a crime.)
Before you recite that your sorority/fraternity is a “non-hazing organization,” do yourself a favor and GET REAL! I am not asking these questions for fun. Whether or not you choose to participate in the online discussion, I urge you to talk with your fellow members and consider altering or completely restoring the procedures that are currently in place.
In case my words aren’t enough, I shall turn to the Word of God to further encourage you:
On Taking a Stand
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5: 13-16 (NIV)
“But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” -Jeremiah 1:7-10
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” -Ephesians 4: 29-32
“Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person- such a man is an idolator- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” -Ephesians 5: 4-7
“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” -Colossians 4:1 [No, I am not suggesting that greek life is slavery. This scripture addresses power and responsibility.]
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is the light that makes everything visible…” -Ephesians 5: 11-14
“…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” -Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
I could go on, but do I really need to convince you that abuse is abuse and that it’s wrong? I am more than willing to speak and work with anyone who wants encouragement, support and/or suggestions for implementing change in their organization. PLEASE continue this dialogue. People are dying and suffering through the unthinkable; the least we can do is acknowledge it.
Lastly, I hope that everyone receives this message in love. This post is only a beginning. I clearly do not have all of the answers, nor am I claiming to understand everything about hazing rituals. I am simply a young, Christian woman who wanted to participate in this much needed public discussion. I only want the best for my brothers and sisters. God bless!