There has always been a slight schism or mild debate in the Black community between those who choose to go through the intake process of an organization of the Divine 9 and those who choose (or are denied the option to) not join a Black Greek Letter Organization (BGLO). Whether it is the debate on if the productivity of BGLOs in today’s community or the stance some of the organizations have taken in light in of recent civil rights action, there has been an ongoing critique and scrutiny long before VH1 premiered it’s new reality series, Sorority Sisters. At the root, BGLOs are inherently elitist because everyone can not be a member, and the selection + intake process leaves more than a few with failed attempts of being accepted. As a member of a BGLO, I get some of the arguments that are made against them. I just do not get the argument some unnecessarily make when trying to explain why they choose not to join one. What VH1 provided last Monday night was more fodder for the taking.
Originally announced in June 2014 as a Mona Scott-Young back production, Sorority Sisters quickly sparked a petition to ban the show from airing. Nothing more was heard of the show until December 11th, when a few clips with a press release from VH1 were posted announcing the December 16th premiere. No mention of Mona Scott-Young being involved, albeit her business partner Stefan Springman is still an executive producer. There was never any official word issued by any of the BGLO sororities with regards to the Sorority Sisters show nor was the petition formally backed by any of the organizations.
So let’s address the actual show. We already knew it was going to be an hour of hot garbage and it did not disappoint. In the age of animated gifs and glorified shade, the women that constitute the cast of Sorority Sisters took no time in drumming up catty drama that would give them plenty of opportunity to throw snarky one liners at each other. There are 5 members of Delta Sigma Theta on the show, I imagine this is because who ever spearheaded this concept is a Delta, I’m hedging my beat on Adrene being the one who round up the initial concept/cast. I am Delta. Yes this is embarrassing. It’s so wildly disrespectful that I don’t understand the thought process of any of the women who signed up for this show. Specifically Priyanka Banks who broke so many official rules (that will essentially get her letters snatched) in the first 15 minutes of the show, did she ever learn her oath? To note, Minerva is public information dear, you can Google it, she even has her own wikipedia page. If Priyanka had taken her time to do proper research of the organization she supposedly “went in the cut” for (was she working to get her whole chapter, Beta Eta, snatched?) then she would have realized how idiotic her cheers was considering the context.
My personal perspective on the matter, is that I as an adult who pays bills have never engaged in the “icky icky aka” banter that these women picked over as they created a faux beef with a woman that is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. I also don’t go around ooo-ooping in non-Greek settings. I don’t care what organization anyone else is, most of the time the conversation is “Oh you’re a Zeta” “Oh you’re a Delta” “What school did you go to? When did you cross?” As we try to see if we know any of the same people, otherwise the conversation moves on to other topics. There’s no beef, no shade, no lines drawn in the sand. There are white people in each one of the BGLOs. Seeing a white Soror does not leave me aghast in surprised disgust.
Now let’s move on to this divisive argument that Black Greeks have no right to be up in arms about #SororitySisters if they are not up in arms about any other ratchet reality television. The problem with this argument lies in the fact that many non-Greeks are getting their information from social media, where they follow their peers and given the false impression that they live in a big expansive world, rather than the small bubble that they actually exist in. Unless you are a member of an organization you will never have the privilege of attending a chapter meeting where many of the issues you think are not being discussed, are talked about. What I will give you, with regards to the organization that I am a member of, they have been extremely slow to catch up with technology and leverage social media platforms to their full potential. Most correspondence is kept within the sorority via chapter emails. Meaning you have to be a financial member of a chapter, whether undergrad or alumnae, in order to know what’s actually going on. So while the outside world might decry why aren’t these organizations mobilizing protests and action around current civil rights matter, you would never know about the Social Action Commission being one of the largest and most active endeavors of Delta Sigma Theta. There was a petition passed around last year against the Love & Hip Hop series that many of the Black Greeks I know were encouraging their chapters to share. If you don’t exist in that world, you’re just not going to know what’s going on. So you can’t sit and make any argument about the Black Greeks not being active in their communities.
With regards to the national organizations of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) and Delta Sigma Theta (DST) making official statements about the wearing of letters during the #BlackLivesMatter protesting, AKA did rescind their statement under pressure from their members. And much kudos should be given to their Sorors standing up for a cause and letting their leadership know that they couldn’t stand behind it. DST has kept with their urging Sorors to not wear their letters and there’s been a good bit of push back with that. Delta is a very large political machine, run much like Congress, so while I’m not happy with the current decision, it still isn’t a viable argument to make in conjunction with the dissidence against #SororitySisters, when you don’t know how the organization is run. You’re attempting the argue the opinions of members of the organizations against the official actions of the national executive boards of these organizations.
The argument that those who enjoy Love & Hip Hop don’t have the right to be mad with #SororitySisters is very similar to the smoke & mirrors argument people try to throw up about “black on black” crime when discussing the murder of young Black men at the hands of the authority. You can’t tell people when or how to be offended. And as previously mentioned the offense has already been taken and acted on for many. So again, what was the point? The offense really comes in because this is something sacred and the women of #SororitySisters are disparaging entire organizations on the backs of their actions. I’m no fan of K. Michelle on #LLHATL or #LLHNY and she is also a Delta. But I can remove myself from her actions. What she does as K. Michelle has nothing to do with the ideals of Delta, they aren’t done in the name of Delta, nor do they represent me or what I am about. It’s much easier to remove myself from her as an individual, I can’t remove myself from individuals who are picking cat fights, throwing glasses and cursing each other out in the name of the sorority that we are both members of. All of the Deltas who appeared on #SororitySisters are attempting to speak for something that is part of me on national television. Just as I was upset with Lifetime’s short lived BAPs reality series, that set to showcase how the Black middle class live (again throwing glasses and cursing at each other). Yes I am a Black Woman, and the image of black women on TV is a troubled history that is lampooning into a caricature of itself in modern day television. But as a black woman I can do things in my life to counteract these maligned perceptions based on clearly soap opera style shows, that I already do not watch.
I know I’m opening myself up for the argument that being a black woman is inclusive to the plight of all black women, and that’s a standard that I’m unwilling to uphold as it is unrealistic and with out regard to the diversity that exists from lifestyle, culture and ethics in the vast world of black women. I am also able to enjoy fictional television with complex characters who have extensive hubris, even when they are Black women. Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder are both fictional tales with Black women as the lead character. Both characters are sinful human beings with major character flaws, as are most of Shonda Rhime’s characters regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. Just as characters are in my other favorite series like House of Cards and Game of Thrones. For all their adultery and conniving we can still celebrate seeing Black women in powerful and complex roles (emphasis on complex) like Annalise Keating and Olivia Pope, just as much as we celebrate seeing a cool, calculated, and powerful woman in the equally sinful and adulterous Claire Underwood. I refuse to engage any further on the apples and celery argument against reality television and fictional scripted shows like Scandal.
There’s always going to exist a certain amount of low brow television that allows people to escape into the tragic crashing wrecks of other peoples lives, whether it’s scripted or offered up as faux reality. There will always be a fight to ensure that that same low brow programming doesn’t become the definition of a particular community. And that fight comes in many forms. Whether it’s movements that are celebrating the diversity of women of color like #SmartBrownGirl, or the push to support more diverse depictions of Black people through shows like Black-ish, or the push towards community service and involvement to provide positive images in real time…it is there.