College Life as a Black Girl

Who Says You Can’t? How I Found My Place in a White Sorority

By:Shaina Hall

I’m sure whoever said ‘sisters for life’, didn’t envision a black girl with long Havana twist running down her back and Kendrick Lamar bumping in her headphones to be included into the “sister” part of their historically white sorority; but here I am. In the midst of one of the most critical times in racial history since I’ve been alive, most of us are forced to have an opinion and a stance on the current state of the black community.

Yet, with so much occurring in the black community right now, I made the conscious choice to be in an all-white sorority. One might ask, “Are you out of your mind?!” In fact, that’s the exact question I get from other black women on campus when I attempt to proudly wear my letters that represent something that doesn’t necessarily represent me. But true to the purpose of a symbol, what you see is what you associate.

During the fall of my freshman year, I was excited, anxious, and nervous for the upcoming semester but my biggest worry was making friends. I come from a predominately white suburb in Oklahoma, where growing up,  I only had two black friends because, I was “too white for the black crowd and too black for the white crowd”.

I was caught in the middle and could never find a comfortable place to fit in identifying with a large group of black women who had probably been around other black women all their lives, and that was intimidating. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing or dress the wrong way, I felt like an outsider among my own people because I thought they wouldn’t like me because I wasn’t “black enough”.

I wanted to join a black sorority, but I knew I would fit in with a white sorority because that’s what I was used to. I had grown into the role of being the only black person in a group even if I wasn’t comfortable at all times. Even with my background, I wanted something more.

Coming into college, my dream was to find my niche, the place where I could just be myself. I figured that niche would be an historically black sorority on campus, but there were a few issues with that plan. The first issue was that there were only two black sororities on my campus, and one of them was serving a suspension for hazing. I would have thought about joining the other one but at my school you are not able to join any black sorority on campus until your sophomore year, that is, IF they take you.

The other issue was that in contrast to the black sororities on campus, the white sororities on campus gave me 12 different houses to choose from, the only catch was I had to ‘rush’ during my freshman year. I felt that my odds of alleviating the anxiety of finding friends would be solved by being in a “sisterhood” even if no one looked like a sister to me.

Upon joining my sorority my fears and anxiety only heightened. Yes, I was making new friends, and yes I was a part of something, but my identity was in serious question, do I try and fit in with the people around me, or do I embrace my culture and take the consequences that come with that?

For a few months I laid low and did not pick either side of my internal dilemma. The more I fought with whether to embrace my culture or succumb to the group, the more I felt like I didn’t belonged on either side. My anxiety had reached an all-time high; the pressure of classes, grades and just maintaining, on top of the crisis of my identity, took a serious toll on me.

I went home for Christmas break and was bombarded with questions about all of the fun I was supposed to be having in my new setting, and questions as to why I hadn’t joined a Black sorority left me defending a decision I wasn’t all that sure about. I wanted nothing more than to be home with my old friends, with something familiar, something I did not have to think about or work at.

I stayed up every night thinking about the person I wanted to be and what I wanted my legacy to be. What do I want to tell my kids one day, that I did not take a stand to be myself? After returning from the break, my dilemma was right where I left it. I knew I had to make a choice and quickly.

With lots of encouragement, confidence, and prayer, I took time for introspection, and I came to peace with who I am. A whole new attitude swept across me, a certain confidence rose up in me, I really did feel like “black girl magic”. I immediately took to social media, friends, blogs, and anyone who would listen to voice, my pride and my honor to be a black woman.

I boasted my knowledge of hip hop and my opinion on the current state of our community, I started to dress how I felt comfortable, I steered away from the silky straight weave I was hiding under and adorned long crochet braids proudly.

None of these things make you more black than the next woman, but it was a sense of pride I had for some of the things that represent my culture, our culture. I felt like I could be myself and speak openly about being black, regardless of the social consequences, isn’t that what Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, and so many more of our people fought for us to have? Pride.

My sorority sisters began to notice a difference, while most did not understand exactly where I was coming from, some did not hesitate to ask questions. I proudly answered them and made it my personal mission to educate them on not only me, but the community.

I explained why wearing cornrows and jerseys of black athletes Is appropriation, I explained how To Pimp a Butterfly was a message to our community meant to influence, not “that boring Kendrick album”, how Beyoncé is not the only beautiful black woman, and how I do not want to be like her, I want to be ME.

I also educated them on how saying “I don’t see color” is more offensive than they had thought. I wanted to be seen for what I am, a PROUD black woman. My message was relayed, and there is still so much more to say, and it is a work in progress, which is okay. I am prepared and excited to eliminate some of the ideals and ignorance that separate us. By truly embracing my identity, I overcame my anxiety, have become more a part of my sorority and even made some new black friends in the process.

Coming into college I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to become. What I didn’t know is that I would be tested in way that would make me reevaluate everything I knew. When joining a sorority, they talk so heavily about sisterhood and eternal friendship. It sounds cheesy, but through my experience, I have received nothing but love.

I went into this year filled with doubts and anxiety, and my sisters have always been there, even when they didn’t understand. There may have been times when I felt excluded or apprehensive, but when I expressed that, they were right there to remind me that this is a sisterhood, even if I didn’t look like I could be their sister. I am proud and optimistic about my choice to join a white sorority, and I know now that I made the right decision.

Being black you are expected to act and be a certain way, but you don’t have to conform to that. If you want to join a white sorority, with some courage, introspection, and patience, you can do it. Don’t let anyone, not even yourself discourage you from following the road less taken.

It may be scary but the outcome of having a group of people committed to genuinely caring about you is worth it. You do not have to be in a black sorority to confirm your blackness, YOU confirm your blackness by seeing yourself for what you are and who you are and who you want to be, and that’s a black woman who makes her own rules.

But, most importantly, while I do have sisters now, I am proud to be a sista.

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3 Comments on "Who Says You Can’t? How I Found My Place in a White Sorority"

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5 years 16 days ago

Your Father and I
Are proud that we raised a PROUDOMENAL young lady that belive in her faith,and have the courage to make her own decision. You keep trusting in the lord while reaching for the stars
We love U .Mom & Dad

4 years 8 months ago

you go girl!

Rashida Bell
4 years 5 months ago

You are beautiful and insipiring. Thanks for sharing…chaaaanged my life #courageous