Originally posted on HBCU Lifestyle June 24, 2014. Revised July 1, 2018.
The struggle can be quite real for many of us Black Greeks. As proud as we are of our letters, at some point many of us ask, “Does it matter what GDIs think?” GDIs (“gosh darn” individuals) cannot and should not be ignored as much as many of us would like to, because there are two sides to this discussion.
The first side makes me wonder how aware many of us in the Black Greek system are. The second side demands that GDIs be thoughtful about how they view Black Greeks.
Black Greeks Are Walking Billboards
In the Black Greek Success Program, I talk about the importance of a being a strong individual within Greek life. I remind my fellow Black Greeks that we are walking billboards and that makes us prime targets for cynics. We wear our letters with our chests stuck out, we proclaim our love for our organizations from the mountain tops, and we speak vaingloriously about our respective fraternities and sororities. We even wield social and political power in some communities. That also means we bear significant responsibility. Let’s be real. Those who view Black Greeks as a waste of space are keenly aware of these dynamics.
We have a responsibility to listen to GDIs’ feedback about us. Let’s get out of our feelings, folks. We don’t have to like it; but if we are true servants of our communities, we owe those outside of the Black Greek community the opportunity to be heard. By the way, it is foolish to assume that people know nothing about servant leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and the concept of family just because they don’t wear letters. After all, does one have to be a master chef to know he or she is eating nasty food?
I tell Black Greeks in college that there is a difference between investing in our letters and becoming a slave to our letters. We become slaves to our letters when we become narcissistic and fail to honor the missions of our respective fraternities and sororities. That gives our critics loads of ammunition to appropriately and accurately take shots at us.
Do Your Homework, Sir (or Ma’am)
On the other hand, a GDI’s criticism is not always on target. Actually, some of it is just plain silly. Because of my advocacy for my Black Greek family, I consistently have exchanges with people who come with these “gotcha” arguments about the uselessness of Black Greeks.
Like the New Jack Swing hit group Guy sang, “leeet’s chill” (cue “sangin'” face and cool finger snaps).
The problem often is the GDI, in question, has personal reasons for his or her criticism. That may not be fair to us Black Greeks but people have reasons for how they feel. That does not excuse a GDI, however, from being thoughtless. When one bases an opinion of thousands on the five-to-20 people in his or her community, that is far from a well thought-out opinion.
It is also unbecoming to be a sideline critic. When I got to college, I swore I would never be in a “stupid fraternity.” Then a future Alpha brother approached me, I listened, I liked what I heard, and gave Greek life serious consideration.
I hesitated, however, because I had questions about the chapter. Ironically, my brother who described himself as an anti-Greek, was the one who advised me that the chapter would never improve if I did not give it a shot. What started as turbulent foundational years for my chapter later turned into an award-winning and highly respected group. All of that started with my putting my money where my mouth was.
Engage in Discourse
Neither side is completely right or completely wrong. There is no battle between good and evil. Ultimately, it matters what people outside of the Black Greek system think. But it is important for both sides to engage in discourse, conversation that is intelligent, respectful, and free of personal feelings.