Although Beautiful, A Photo Does Not Denote ‘Greek Unity’
By Tim Carthon (Blog #29: Greek Life)
Greek-Life is a magical world where the strength of one’s courage and loyalty are tested; where strong minds and quick wits can be the difference between staying on the path that leads through the burning sands, or being swallowed up by the at-times raging fire along the way. And for those who can harness these character traits; wielding the immeasurable fortitude of their ancestors to withstand the barrage of unforeseen trials and tribulations, from that, families and life-long bonds are forged, unknowns become legends, and new generations of leaders are repeatedly unveiled.
And it is almost all captured through digital snapshots in time.
The easy accessibility of quick, crisp photos nowadays through smartphones and mobile apps allows us to capture moments that would previously have gone unnoticed without planning and hiring a professional photographer. And, if you didn’t know, there is absolutely nothing like capturing Greek-Life moments, especially when the journey of the forging of a life-long bond has reached fever pitch right there in front of you at a Pro(bate) Show. The raw passion and emotion. The fire in the eyes of those who will soon be crossing those burning sands toward which they so vigorously fought. It is an experience like none other.
A temporary one, though.
The path to Greekdom is, in part, suppose to teach us self-awareness, selflessness, perseverance through adversity, and brotherly and sisterly love, which we are suppose to use in the short and long-terms going forward to the betterment of those we love and mankind as a whole. Once done with the intake process, the real work of Greek-Life is suppose to begin; positively building the reputation of the national organization, of which you are now a part, through academic excellence, community service, peak performance prowess, career achievements, and just all around random acts of kindness. However, along that path to Greekdom, something else creeps its way into the psyche of our fellow brothers and sisters…something more unconsciously-sinister:
During the organizations’ intake processes, the training to be loyal (to your organization above all else) is intense and necessary, but can also seem gang-like. Loyalty is a key component in holding together the lifelong bond of brother-and-sisterhood. Unfortunately, that level of loyalty sometimes causes us as Greek-letter organization members to shun other organizations’ members unconsciously.
It is as though the pushing away of other “Greeks” in other organizations (primarily of the same gender class) is something done by default. We, in essence, hone being a clique without realizing the damage that is indirectly done to us by that cliquishness instead of being taught the art of mastering organizational collaboration; TRUE #GreekUnity for the good of our organizations and the community we are charged to serve.
Take for example the most powerful example of TRUE #GreekUnity that has been seen in recent years. It was when historically African-American Greek-letter organizations came together in a firestorm of backlash against the VH1 “Sorority Sisters” reality television show, which these organizations felt was doing a disservice to their reputations. The backlash was so swift, so calculated, and so devastating to where not only was the show canceled with extreme prejudice, but most of the individual members of the Sororities who were cast members were either suspended or, in five cases, expelled from their sororities.
And no, it wasn’t part of the show.
There was no script that saw the suspensions or expulsions coming, but there should have been. Who thinks that you can go on television where millions of people have the opportunity to watch you, then negatively represent organizations that bring them millions of dollars a year from hundreds of thousands of members , tens of thousands of which are very prominent members of society, and that the organizations and their members are going to just sit idly by and watch you destroy something that took them close to and over a century to build?
Reality, meet real life.
This was an example of TRUE #GreekUnity. However, how often do we see such a positive collaboration to negate negativity and not the ‘unity facade’ which we as Greek-letter organization members have been telling ourselves daily for decades now? Unfortunately, we are usually the ones helping to spur on the negativity through what’s call ‘trash talking,’ in other words, competitive insults. Yes, yes, I understand that in many cultures, trash-talking is part of the game, and yes I understand that there is a difference between undergraduate members and graduate members. Being a made member of two Greek-letter fraternities (Kappa Kappa Psi® N.H.B. and Alpha Phi Alpha® Fraternities, Inc.), none of that is lost on me. However,…
…with the massive amount of negative press that has been given to Greek-Life as a whole this past 2 years, so much so to where members of the American economic elite have called for fraternities and sororities to be abolished, isn’t it high time that we dispense with a lot of the trash-talking (that a lot of times unconsciously divides us) and start actually pulling ourselves closer together, if only for survival’s sake?
Look, we can take photos and label them #GreekUnity all day, but if as soon as we walk away from each other we begin downing each other’s paraphernalia, the amount of members they have compared to us, or the look of their members, then aren’t we slowly eating ourselves from the inside-out?
So be wonderful. Be unique. Be pretty. Keep the loose in your neck and the hump in your back. Be finer. Have your wood today, and everyday if you’d like. Don’t ever fix your broke leg (Just put ice on it). Get your lean on. Shoot or ‘throw dem bows’ (and arrows). Be diva-esque. Shimmy your heart out. Heck, BE owt! Be all of the things that make you and your organizations what they are. However, don’t be one thing:
REMEMBER: The visuals are nice, but they are just a piece of the collective puzzle. The respectful, kind, and collaborative nature of Greekdom through brotherhood and sisterhood toward not just each other, but a better life for our fellow Greek-letter organizations, their wonderful members, and the less fortunate non-Greek-letter-organization-members in the world, are the most important pieces of our Greek-Life puzzle. Master those, and labeling a photo #GreekUnity will become much more than a symbolic hashtag.
Tim Carthon; Advocate, Speaker, Author, Educator