Roy Exum: Alabama’s Racial Flare-Up

Saturday, September 21, 2013
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When the University of Alabama football team plays its first home game of the year today, some Crimson Tide fans will be sitting in different seats. Tonight the fraternities and sororities will not be allowed to sit together in “blocks” of seats as they have at every game for many years – they will instead be scattered apart from one another in an attempt to “foster togetherness” between the students.

Exactly 50 years ago Governor George Wallace tried to prevent two black students from attending the university. Now there is now a concerted push to force the university’s fraternities and sororities to issue invitations to minority students, most specifically blacks who fail to get invitations from the various chapters.

This is touchy ground. Can the state of Alabama, or the Department of Justice, decree who you can invite into your home for dinner? What about a membership process that has famously been determined by a vote of 50 or so sorority sisters? Or is it time for our future leaders to survey society’s landscape and realize they might be better with a diverse mixture of students in a fun, social setting? Either way, the U.S. District Attorney is now monitoring allegations of racial discrimination and segregation in the Greek system in Tuscaloosa.

But – wait! -- on Friday at least two sororities presented open invitations to two black girls. In a warm turn of events, Halle Lindsay accepted what is known as a continuous open bid from the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. Cami McCant, a senior at the university, accepted a bid to Kappa Alpha Theta and more bids are expected.

Last weekend black activist Jesse Jackson showed up to spew and stomp and, on Wednesday, nearly 400 students, carrying a huge banner that read, “The Final Stand In The Schoolhouse Door,” to the Rose Administration Building in an effort to encourage change and acceptance in the fraternities and sororities that contribute to student life.

An article in the student newspaper, “Crimson White,” claimed that the first (and last) time a sorority pledged a black was in 2003 and apparently the “investigative journalism” hit a raw nerve on campus. The newspaper reported that four sororities had denied two well-qualified black girls. According to Alpha Gamma Delta member Melanie Gotz, the black girl she knows was denied a bid because she was black.

Gotz told the newspaper, “That's stupid, but who's going to be the one to make that jump? How much longer is it going to take til we have a black girl in a sorority? It's been years, and it hasn't happened.” Yardena Wolf of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority added, “I think that the only time the administration or the sororities would ever take accountability for something is when there's all this outside pressure, I wish it could be coming more from a place of love during real rush, and I wish this had happened a month ago.”

Matthew W. Hughey, an associate professor of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut who has studied racism in white sororities, told Inside Higher Ed magazine, “It’s de jure illegal, but de facto in practice,” Hughey said. “The bigger point here is that the Greek letter system – all over the United States, not just in the deep South – has traditionally been based on exclusion…. We shouldn’t think organizations based on exclusion will all of a sudden become inclusive.”

Inside Higher Ed knows many clubs and groups are exclusive and had a side-story about Smith College. It seems a girl who is straight wants to start a club for her minority friends who are also not lesbians. The magazine printed a letter that said, in part, “Hello, this is (name) and I am sending this message to girls I think might be interested in this idea and I would also love to hear your opinion on this so I have this crazy idea.

“I want to start a sorority at Smith (Delta Gamma/DG), which would basically just be an exclusive group for straight girls, a little friend group,” the letter read, “We would have sorority mixers with Amherst men, weekly dinner dates, weekly photo-shoots where we would dress up nice, baking nights. We would also get Sorority apparel (even Lily Pulitzer has the cutest DG stuff!) and we’d have traditions, like every Wednesday we wear pink (haha.)

“I got this idea because personally as a straight girl at Smith, I feel marginalized and I feel like the minority,” the Smith student wrote, “and I think this could be a really great way to socialize with people we identify more with at Smith, and to meet more guys.”

While it is thrilling Alabama seems to have closed an ugly page of history, I don’t quite know what to think about Smith. A sorority for straight girls sounds as stupid as the National Association for the White People or something. And if a gay student wanted to join Delta Gamma, would it be discrimination if she wasn’t offered a bid? Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

royexum@aol.com


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Local Nursing Homes

So glad to see laws changing to regulate nursing homes. That is if it is for real. Just had a terrible experience with a Chattanooga area home. My aunt was only in this place for a few weeks with Alzehimers before she passed away. The food was horrible, the place was under-staffed and what help they had was terrible, for the most part. Someone from our family was there on ... (click for more)

1 Arrested, 1 Sought In Shooting On Rawlings Street

One man is in custody and another is being sought in the shooting of a man in the 2000 block of Rawlings Street on Sunday morning. The Chattanooga Police Department responded to a local hospital on reports of a man suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound he received during a verbal altercation with two other individuals. Police said 29-year-old Kenneth Dixon ... (click for more)

Woman Stabbed By Husband In Dalton Dies From Her Wounds

A woman who Dalton Police say was stabbed Thursday by her husband has died of her injuries.   Glenda Dyer had been transported to Hamilton Medical Center. She initially was listed in stable condition.   The incident happened at the couple's home at 1603 Elaine Way.   Police said a murder charge will be added to the counts already facing ... (click for more)

Regoin 3-AA Boys Final At Chattanooga State Monday

The fifth meeting between the Brainerd Panthers and the Central Purple Pounders will be held at Chattanooga State on Monday night with the tipoff set for 7 p.m. This upcoming game will be the biggest to date as it's for the Region 3-AA boys championship. Monday's winner will be at home on Tuesday for a sectional game while the loser will be on the road Tuesday night.  Brainerd ... (click for more)

Brainerd, Central Boys Advance To Region 3-AA Hoop Finals

LOUDON, Tenn. -- Brainerd won both regular-season matchups while Central won at the Best of Preps third-place consolation game before capturing the District 6-AA title last week at Red Bank. The season tally is now two wins each against each other and now they are ready for Round 5 following the Region 3-AA semifinals here at Loudon High School Saturday afternoon. Brainerd ... (click for more)