White Girl with Curls
I’ve been waiting to write a comprehensive post about my education and thoughts on race and racism in America, but I realize that I will probably never be able to create an exhaustive list of all the concepts I have learned and theories I have analyzed. That being said, I’m going to address a major part of my life that has influenced my view of the world and my place in it.
I have been a sister of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. since the Fall semester of 2014. It has been nearly a year since I have joined this illustrious sisterhood, and I have experienced some of my greatest joys in life due to the experiences I’ve had with my sisters and with the sorority as a whole. It should be noted that AKA is not just a sorority. AKA is a historically Black sorority within the National Panhellenic Council, the first sorority made by Black women for Black women. I am not the first White woman to have joined, but I am the first to join my specific chapter at the University of Florida.
I get a lot of looks. Which, I should say, I was prepared for. I have been surrounded by Pink and Green my whole life, learning as I grew older more and more about the rich history of the sisterhood and its involvement with incredible movements in this country’s development. I knew that, if I were lucky enough to be able to join, I would be a White woman in a Black woman’s space. I knew I would be taking up the space of a Black woman, when there already is so little space for them in this society. I often see on the internet, when I succumb to my curiosity and read YouTube comments on our FISS performance and Membership Presentation, the comment that goes a little something like this: “why does the white girl have to have this? Don’t white people get enough? Why can’t they let us have our sororities?” — and I have to say, they’re right. I, as a white woman, get so much in this world without it being as easily accessible to others. It’s called white privilege. White privilege is it’s own entire blog post (or book), so I’ll just say something to address this type of comment here.
I went into this organization with so much respect for it as an entity, that had any single one of my predecessors been against my joining, I would have respectfully pulled my interest. I am not in this sisterhood to make people feel hostile, or like something is being taken from them. I am here to love, learn, and serve. I am here because I love this sorority. This one in particular. I love my sisters, I love our service, I love our initiatives, I love the directors, I love the quality, I love the ambition, I love the business, I love the attitude, I love our motto, I love the symbols, I love every. single. aspect. and I pour my heart and soul into it every single day. I use my platform on campus to reach out and educate White people who may never have had a chance to be educated before. So much ignorance comes from no exposure to diverse culture and proper schooling (white-washed textbooks, anyone?) and my literal life goal is to use my skills and my background to educate White people about their own privilege and how we can combat social regression.
Not even 48 hours ago my chapter Facebook page posted a video of us strolling on The Set (Turlington, for my Gators out there), and it has gotten more than 385,000 views, 5,000 likes, 1,200 comments and almost 7,000 shares. I was in the center. This was fun at first, I always get excited when our chapter posts videos and pictures — it gets to show the world how we have fun (and pictures showcase our programming and service events). In fact, this wasn’t the only video shared within that time period, but the attention it garnered is unparalleled on our page. I’ll be honest, it’s flattering getting attention for doing something I love (dance has been a lifelong passion of mine) but I also need to be honest about something else: it has made me a little uncomfortable. I succumbed to my curiosity again, and this time it got even worse than YouTube. The comments on this video switch from hateful to support to just outright confusion. While I love the attention our chapter gets for this performance, my sisters have worked hard both on and off campus to make a difference in our community and deserve it, I have to say I am not a fan of the personal attention I’m getting.
A lot of the comments are negative, and while I’m trying hard not to take them to heart, it also forces me to reflect on how people may view me if they don’t know who I am. I think that’s the worst part: people don’t know who I am. Maybe it’s the whole internet anonymity phenomenon, but I can see these people’s faces and names when they comment. They don’t know how hard it was for me at UF my first two years, they don’t know how many books and classes I’ve taken trying to rid myself of the societal conditioning America places on me as a White citizen, they don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with my sisters about inequity, how many conversations I’ve had with White people about the same — without going on forever I think you get the point: they just don’t know. That’s what hurts the most. Edit: I realize that this paragraph was a lot about me. It sounds a lot like I’m trying to draw pity and attention to how I’m feeling, and I want to make it clear that that is not my intention. I am in no way under the impression that this instance measures up in the slightest to the pain that People of Color go through every day. My only justification of sharing my personal thoughts and feelings, is that is my personal blog. However, I really want to make it clear — I am not asserting that I am undergoing any sort of racism or oppression in this situation. (I’ll blog about the ridiculous notion of “reverse racism” at a later date). I am human, but I am not ignorant (at least I’m working every day towards getting rid of ignorance).
Luckily I have amazing sisters and friends who have comforted me within the past day or so, telling me to focus on the people who know my heart, intentions, and beliefs. It brings me such peace to know I have such a support system, and that’s really what this sisterhood is about: support, love, and growth. I am, and will always be, grateful for my letters, and I will always wear them with pride.
I’m going to take this experience and have it fuel my purpose in life: to educate White America about what it means to be White, and how we can work towards racial equity. I have about 8 months to figure out the next step in my life (May 2016, I’m lookin’ at ya!) but knowing I have my sisters by my side is one of the greatest feelings.