Editor’s Note: Cydney Adams was my kids’ babysitter for five years, and I love this young woman like a daughter. In light of the University of Alabama story about African-American girls not being chosen by white sororities, I’ve asked Cydney to share her experience being a minority in a “white” sorority at a large Southern university.
By Cydney Adams, Senior at the University of Georgia
I read an article this week that was hard for me to digest. Not just because it was about two young black women who were denied membership to majority white sororities at a prominent southern university, but because the story I read all too easily could have been written about me.
I went through recruitment at the University of Georgia in 2010, against the advice of most of my family but encouraged by my close friends. People ask me why I made the choice that I did—to join a “white” sorority instead of a “black” one. The truth is I didn’t really decide. When I was accepted to UGA, I had honestly never heard of rushing. The thought of being in a sorority of any kind had absolutely never crossed my mind until a friend mentioned that I should go through recruitment. I decided to give it a try my freshman year, knowing that the traditionally black sororities don’t officially recruit new members until they are sophomores. I entered the process with very few expectations, and planned to look into a black sorority the next year.
Obviously, I was nervous. I knew I was going to a big, Southern, majority white school. I was reared by two California-native parents who taught me skin color is just that — only a color, but not everyone was brought up that way. I didn’t know how I would be treated. Would I get nasty looks? Be dropped from every sorority? Would people ask me uncomfortable questions or be downright rude? I know my mom had the same worries, and other family members could not understand why I would even consider joining a traditionally white sorority.
Thankfully, I had an amazing experience. I met girls that I really connected with at multiple houses. At the end of recruitment I happened to find an organization that I could not imagine my college career without, but I didn’t choose “white” over “black.”
In the years since, I have been an active member of my sorority. I served as the Vice President of Philanthropy. I was chosen by my sisters to represent our sorority in a local philanthropy pageant, Delta Sigma Phi’s Miss Sorority Row. I write as one of our representatives for a Greek life newspaper. My roommates and lifelong friends have been made during my time here. They were there for me when my dad lost his job, when my aunt passed away, when I was stressed over a busy week, heartbroken, or when I made mistakes. They are my closest and most trusted friends. Not once— literally not a single time—have I ever been treated poorly or differently by a member of my sorority, or any other sorority for that matter, based on the color of my skin.
Of course, all of this is not to say I haven’t had some odd experiences at UGA. Some things I didn’t even realize were happening until afterwards, like a guy dressed as Robert E. Lee hitting on me to be “ironic.” I distinctly remember going to a private sorority-fraternity event at a venue downtown. The bouncer at the door was in charge of making sure that only members of our two organizations entered. As my friends and I were walking in he looked at me and said, “This is a private a event,” assuming that I, a black girl, was not a member of the sorority. But don’t worry, my sisters had my back.
I am so proud to be a member of my sorority. I am one of about 10 women of color or biracial women to come through our organization since I have been a student here. It sounds like a small fraction of the 250 girls in our chapter, but the numbers continue to grow for every sorority every year. In fact, we pride ourselves on seeking diverse women during recruitment. When any woman of color comes through, we are thrilled that she has come back to our house.
I’ve realized in the past three years that by joining a Panhellenic sorority at UGA, I am part of something bigger than I intended to be. We are changing the status quo here. It’s no longer unacceptable or taboo to extend a bid to a woman of color. In fact, it’s unacceptable not to.
Almost every single sorority at UGA has multiple bright, intelligent women of color from black to Asian to Hispanic. Why can we successfully integrate our Greek system, no matter how small the numbers are, but other big southern schools can’t? I am walking proof that it works. No one is going to take away our funding or stop hanging out with us because I am black.
Had I joined a traditionally black sorority, this would not be part of my story. I respect and greatly appreciate the history of the black Greek system. It was founded to give black men and women a place in the Greek community, and that is so deeply important. However, I think it is equally as important to recognize that young men and women looking for that Greek bond should have a choice. We should not, and do not, have to choose one or the other based on the color of our skin and the expectations of others. I am proud to be an example of that, and I am so sad that those two beautiful young black girls were sent a different message.
To those two girls, I say they are better off. They will find their place, and it will be exactly where they were meant to be. There are about 100 things to do in college outside of the Greek system, and I am sure they have the best four years imaginable ahead of them.