The Inter-Sorority Council stands in solidarity with black lives, not just today but always.
The past weeks have been immensely difficult for so many of us in this country. There is a fount overflowing of digital messages, posts, and other statements of support for black lives and black folks across this country, and we are seeing many communities start to have discussions about the generations of institutional racism, anti-black or otherwise prejudiced, that underlie our systems. Greek life is, of course, no different; we come together to form new friendships and find community every spring under a set of organizations with a clear history of racism, elitism, and exclusion.
At this time, many of us not in the black community are faced with a juncture: whether to see this moment as just a passing news cycle phase, address it in the moment, and move on, or whether to take the opportunity to listen to narratives that have been silenced for too long and, most importantly, take action to make anti-racism a norm and a lifestyle that we choose to practice. I've seen a lot of folks from our inter-sorority communities choose to take action by donating to important causes, signing petitions to reform unjust laws, posting on their social media platforms in support of Black Lives Matter and black lives in general. I especially want to highlight the Justice 4 Black Lives Fund organized by our sisters in Alpha Kappa Alpha, and encourage anyone reading this to donate now. The work of many women in Greek life here at Stanford these past weeks has inspired and uplifted me. I am in awe of how many women are rallying their sisters towards important causes in support of black lives everywhere.
But there is one vital component of this fight that isn't always outward nor social media-friendly, and that is the process of introspection and accountability. In Greek life, we're not always confronted with our complicity in systems built on the principle of exclusion, whether it be by race or by socioeconomic status or even sexuality. These organizations largely emphasize community and social purpose, to unite women of different majors and other "diverse" backgrounds under one set of unifying principles of "sisterhood". Confronting racism or any other injustice isn't always baked into the fabric of these organizations' charters or rituals, nor does it seem second-nature to think of activism or advocacy in the same breath as non-multicultural Greek life. But that doesn't mean that racism is any less damaging in this system to its members and its leaders. As a dark-skinned woman of color, I've experienced racism in many shades through my organization; some of this racism is overt and likely would receive near-universal condemnation if it came to light publicly, but much of it is sinister and subtle, and less obvious. Whether you're thinking secretly about who your "token" dark-skinned minority, often black woman, is going to be in determining your next pledge class, or whether you're placing the burden of educating a mostly-white pledge class on racial issues exclusively on women of color, if you are engaging in those discussions at all, you're likely complicit in this kind of injustice as well. This recent article does a fantastic job of describing just some of the ways that our system is quietly complicit and inherently prejudiced against black women especially and women of color generally. I also know that I'm not alone in experiencing hurt, discomfort, and outrage at some parts of my sorority journey; in fact, I find fewer and fewer women of color remaining in our pledge classes over the years, often leaving because of hurt and frustration with the way this system and, at times, its members, have consistently devalued women of color.
If we really want to seize this moment and do more for black women and black folks across our organizations, we must take steps to personally, and unequivocally, commit ourselves to active allyship and anti-racism. What does that mean? It means doing more than just donating money or signing a petition; it means having frank, uncomfortable conversations with family members and friends and sisters about what it means to support black lives and to stand with them by calling ourselves and our communities out on their prejudices and working actively to change our behavior. I've seen far too many statements in past weeks that claim solidarity but fail to acknowledge the rot of racism within their own organizations. To that end I say that it is our job as sororities, as sisters, of women who are hurting right now to listen actively, educate ourselves on our own, and commit wholeheartedly to combating racism after the news cycle moves on and especially when this isn't a trending topic. This may be, and I sincerely hope it is, a time of empowerment for sisters of color or any sisters who have noticed racist behavior or practices in their own sororities to speak out and share their stories. What is owed to their bravery and vulnerability in sharing these stories is at least self-reflection and clear solidarity, if not definitive action to identify and work to change our own microaggressive behaviors and learned prejudices. If you know something, now is the time to say something to identify and clearly condemn racist behavior in your chapter.
To women of color, especially black women, in these organizations: I know that historically, and perhaps even in the past weeks, majority-white sororities haven't always felt safe for expression, sharing, or finding solidarity. We join these sororities to find community and sisterhood, and that means having support and safety and truly stepping into community- I'm hopeful about the possibility of change, but acknowledge that it doesn't always come swiftly enough. We weren't able as an Executive Board to implement all of our planned reforms as a result of the circumstances of this year, but we cannot wait any longer to take action. As our leadership transitions to what I'm sure will be a continuation of our values of diversity as a norm and increased accessibility, I hope I can leave behind a seed of institutional support in the form of supporting a group of incredible women in forming our own Women of Color Collective for organizations under the ISC umbrella. I know that having a safe space to step into community with more women of color would have undoubtedly changed my experience in Greek life, and I hope it can grow to do that for others who are in our organizations and who are going to join them in the future.
With that being said, I remain immensely thankful for all the women in our organizations who are showing up massively for black lives and expressing their solidarity, not to mention doing the difficult work of self-improvement and speaking out. I also want to recognize the countless women of color and black women especially who have til now been burdened with the task of carrying this fight on their shoulders; I see you, I hear you, and I am so proud to be in community with you. Together, I hope we can do more to amplify these voices and continue to actively fight racism within our institutions going forward.
-Adithi Iyer, ISC President 2019-2020
Resources you can use and contribute to:
Women of Color Collective Sign-Ups
Justice 4 Black Lives Fund and Alpha Kappa Alpha campaign updates
Starter links for self-education: