First person: An African-American in UGA ‘white’ sorority

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.”

Cydney Adams and her sorority sisters. (Courtesy of Cydney Adams.)

Cydney Adams and her sorority sisters. (Courtesy of Cydney Adams.)

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.

86 comments Add your comment

joan

September 13th, 2013
1:16 am

lets just keep the race card going. thats right it all boils down to that.. noting else can be an issue. LET IT GO!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 13th, 2013
1:19 am

Joan — That’s the whole point. In Cydney’s experience at the UGA sorority, race wasn’t an issue.

Logical Dude

September 13th, 2013
1:22 am

joan: lets just keep the race card going. thats right it all boils down to that.. noting else can be an issue. LET IT GO!

If only people would “Let it go”, then it would not be an issue. But since some people still see the color of someone’s skin and make a judgement before getting to know them, then yes, race is still an issue. Please read the last article about the women at Alabama. Sororities there have not “Let it go” yet.

catlady

September 13th, 2013
5:47 am

Which young woman in the photo is Cydney?

catlady

September 13th, 2013
5:50 am

I am reminded of when my younger daughter was in first grade. She had a friend named Lakeisha. One day I said, “You and Lakeisha are like twin sisters!” She sighed in exasperation, “no mom, we can’t be twins. Lakeisha is TALLER than I am!”

Cold Tuna T Shirt Smell

September 13th, 2013
6:00 am

Me

September 13th, 2013
6:30 am

I agree that skin color should matter not BUT, with that said, I find that a “double standard” exists. If color is of no importance then we there should not be a Congressional “Black” Caucus; there should be no group geared soley toward the advancement of “colored” people and there should not be a reason for a “Black” Miss America pageant. Those who seem to want color to matter the least are the same ones who create this color-biased organizations while screaming should those of another race, primarily white, attempt the same.
Just my two cents and I will now step down from my soap box.

mom2alex&max

September 13th, 2013
6:39 am

I’d just like to say: the rushing process at UGA (at least for sororities) is color blind. Every single incoming female freshman is invited. Every. Single. One.

RJ

September 13th, 2013
7:11 am

I have a friend that pledged a traditionally white sorority years ago. I don’t recall her having any problems. This should be a non-issue but there will always be one. @ME, perhaps you need to review our country’s history to get an understanding as to why these organizations exist. If blacks didn’t create their own groups, we’d still be isolated. Any history book should do.

derp.

September 13th, 2013
7:12 am

color me surprised. this is almost real journalism. a first for this blog?

catlady: im going to guess that the author of the story about being a minority in a sorority is probably the black girl in the picture full of white girls? just a guess though.

Annie

September 13th, 2013
7:13 am

After yesterday’s post, I would have thought if you were going to get anyone’s opinion it would be someone who attended the University of Alabama, not someone who attended a different school in a different state.

DB

September 13th, 2013
7:14 am

Cydney — well said! I enjoyed reading your take on this topic.

Rev. Jesse Jackson

September 13th, 2013
7:33 am

Cydney is a sellout, ashamed of her own kind. I guess a historically African-American institution was not good enough for her.

motherjanegoose

September 13th, 2013
7:45 am

Great read! When our son was 3 he saw a boy his age and said, ” I want to play with that chocolate boy!” That young man went to Vanderbilt on a scholarship and is now an attorney. Awesome! Great family that we have had the pleasure of knowing! My daughter is not in a sorority. She works part time and did not feel she had the time nor $$$ for it. My son is still active in his fraternity and most of his pharmacy peers were of another ethnicity. It is fascinating to see where life takes you…if you let it.

FCM

September 13th, 2013
7:50 am

Cydney very well written. Thank you for sharing.

I think you hit it right on the nose: “I was reared by two California-native parents who taught me skin color is just that — only a color.” We parents have to teach our children to judge on the character not the outside.

@catlady–my older child has a good friend (who does happen to be a different skin color than her) with the same last name. They tell everyone they are sisters (no blood relation at all actually). In fact they told ME we are sisters. I said “Yes, I can see the family resemblence. Now if this one here keeps her room clean and is willing to do her chores without a fuss, I will let her come to my house and you go live at hers.” That was about 4 years ago, and the friend comes up to me everytime and says “Hi Mom!”

AJC is not a quality paper

September 13th, 2013
7:59 am

And this story matters because….?

Color Blind

September 13th, 2013
8:17 am

Anything that deals with “race” ends up in the AJC.

If you seek actual news, go elsewhere.

Techmom

September 13th, 2013
8:23 am

Cydney – well written article. I hope you continue to break down the stereotypes and be a great example to ALL young women.

K's Mom

September 13th, 2013
8:29 am

This was really interesting. I was Greek, as was my husband. He had a fantastic experience, I had a mediocre one. My ok experience had to do with a terrible adviser. The rush/recruitment process is severely flawed for sororities on many levels and race is only one of them. I have no problem with sororities choosing to reject women that they do not like, but if it is only based on race and nothing else, it is ridiculous. My husband and I have talked about this at length because we live in AL and the governor is even commenting on it. We feel it is time for Greek Life to be color blind, but at the same time the segregation is not only wanted by some whites, there are blacks who want to only belong to traditionally black greek organizations.

This I will say. Every time I see Alpha Kappa Alpha represented in any way, I am amazed at the class and poise of all of their members. They are doing it right. They are turning out philanthropic leaders and the “white sororities” could learn something from them. I know our sorority is not doing as good of a job as they are on a national level to turn out successful women.

Brett

September 13th, 2013
8:31 am

Cydney is great. Guaranteed to be successful in life.

ATL Born and Raised

September 13th, 2013
8:31 am

Why do so many of you comment with absolutely nothing but negativity to add to the discussion?

Anyway, here is an article from yesterday with personal anecdotes from various womens’ experiences with soroities and race spurred by the Alabama expose.

http://jezebel.com/tell-us-about-your-schools-racist-sororities-and-frate-1300421893

Shaquitta Jackson-Lee

September 13th, 2013
9:12 am

not a real sista

Big_black

September 13th, 2013
9:13 am

hey TG enjoy your blog. most of the time. I have a few suggestions.

first, why don’t you find a white girl and invite her to write an essay on being in a “Black” sorority. Im sure you’ll find that the white girls were received warmly and without trepidation.

secondly, I would suggest that “Cydney” look up the word, “self-loathing” . Here’s a clue honey, being in a white sorority does not make you white. Never has, never will. If you only had love for “your people” you would discover that you are special. Life is not a “Friends” sitcom.

FCM

September 13th, 2013
10:04 am

TWG: “Editor’s Note: Cydney Adams was my babysitter for five years, and I love this young woman like a mother. ”

Did you mean she was the kids babysitter for 5 years and you love her like a daughter?

SJ

September 13th, 2013
10:09 am

Theresa, I really don’t know how you stick with this blog sometimes. Such negative and hateful comments.

On topic, Cydney’s essay is thoughtful and well-written. I’m sure she has a very bright future ahead.

Drew

September 13th, 2013
10:38 am

The only reason she got a bid is because AXO is a bottom tier sorority. Stop using the race card to promote yourselves. There’s a reason the other fraternities and sororities look down on you.

We should strive to be MORE like Alabama.

Signed,
Georgia Greeks

Ok

September 13th, 2013
10:45 am

You can’t have it both ways. There are black churches, black advancement groups, black sororities, etc. They don’t integrate. People often forget black people are just as racist if not more than white people.

APhiA

September 13th, 2013
10:56 am

Actually Black Frats/Sororities, Black Colleges, Black advancement groups (NAACP has white members), do integrate.

Shaquitta Jackson-Lee

September 13th, 2013
10:57 am

Cydney is trying to act white

Brown Eyed Girl!

September 13th, 2013
10:57 am

@OK, Go to a “black” church and you will see all races there. NAACP is the advancement of “colored” people. Black is not the only color! My husband is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and tells me all the time about their white brothers. Each of these things were created because blacks did not have the opportunities in the other organizations. They remain in place as a reminder of the pride of a community to move forward in spite of!!

Black

September 13th, 2013
11:10 am

Black people are literally more racist than whites….

catlady

September 13th, 2013
11:33 am

Derp, the middle woman might also be African American.

My son’s best friend while we were in Athens was a boy his physical opposite, but they were joined at the heart. He was from a very high SES family. I think if we had stayed in Athens they probably would have married sisters!

Rebecca

September 13th, 2013
11:36 am

There are so many negative comments on this page that I would love to respond to, but the sheer stupidity and lack of respect that makes my blood boil also makes me laugh. Cydney is my sister. Whoever put quotations around her name may not have enough of an education to realize that such punctuation suggests she is not a real person, but amazingly enough she is. Additionally, Cydney never names the sorority she is in, but the fact that someone chose to negatively out her sorority in the comments section by calling AXO a “bottom tier sorority” makes me think someone is stuck in middle school. You realize that the only people that assign sororities and fraternities to tiers are the people that probably are just unhappy with where they ended up or got rejected by a girl who was probably “out of their tier.” I’m getting off track. Cydney is not a sell out. She is an incredible person, a member of an amazing sorority, and a student at a great university. Are you really going to try to knock her down a few pegs just because she was given an opportunity to express her positive experiences with a well written journalistic piece? Shame on all of you who have nothing nice to say. Didn’t your mothers teach you anything? And for all of you who rooted for Cydney in the comments section I say thank you. There may be hope for us after all. And for those of you that think this is just a publicity stunt for diversity how did your thoughts end up there? Those girls at Alabama should have come to UGA because they would have gotten the respect and courtesy they deserve at one sorority on campus for sure and hopefully more. Go Dawgs.

HB

September 13th, 2013
11:48 am

Well said, Brown Eyed Girl! The prevailing attitude seems to be that for these various groups to be considered not-racist, traditionally white associations need to accept members of all races, and traditionally black associations should just dissolve themselves altogether now that their allowed to be part the formerly all-white groups. Simply integrating and welcoming white members (as most did long before white groups did) is not enough. They are deemed racist by their very existence, even though segregation and discrimination are the reasons they existed in the first place. That’s ridiculous!

HB

September 13th, 2013
11:50 am

Post disappeared — T, can you fish it out?

John

September 13th, 2013
11:58 am

WHO CARES?!? This is why people get ticked off at blacks… everything boils down to race. And this quote: “It’s no longer unacceptable or taboo to extend a bid to a woman of color. In fact, it’s unacceptable not to.” WOW. So they should give out bids to non-white girls in the sake of diversity? Once again, who cares? Just go on with life. This girl should be proud of herself, but I guarantee you most of the street n1.g.g@s and black democrats would consider her a sellout and an “uncle tom”. If you want to make a real difference, maybe you should address the fact that white organizations are unwilling to accept blacks (including most sororities and fraternities at UGA and in the south) is that the majority of crime and problems arise wherever blacks predominate. I have seen Yankees come down to Georgia who have never seen black people before in their life. Most people in Atlanta’s suburbs probably haven’t either. They never understood the way we look at blacks until they experience a black area first hand. And as I said before, this girl is outstanding but her fellow blacks do not look at her as successful because she isn’t living the thug life.

A

September 13th, 2013
11:58 am

I don’t really see how this whole topic fits in a “mom” blog. Maybe a teen/college blog, but not a mom blog.

John

September 13th, 2013
12:02 pm

Oh and trust me, fraternities might not come right out and say it, but having a black girl at a social does raise some eyebrows. Its kind of like having a fat girl, they exist but don’t get too much attention.

John

September 13th, 2013
12:04 pm

Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.

When Blacks commit crimes of violence, they are nearly three times more likely than non-Blacks to use a gun, and more than twice as likely to use a knife.

Hispanics commit violent crimes at roughly three times the white rate, and Asians commit violent crimes at about one quarter the White rate.

The single best indicator of violent crime levels in an area is the percentage of the population that is Black and Hispanic.

Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year involving Blacks and Whites, Blacks commit 85 percent and Whites commit 15 percent.

Blacks commit more violent crime against whites than against blacks. Forty-five percent of their victims are white, 43 percent are Black, and 10 percent are Hispanic. When Whites commit violent crime, only three percent of their victims are Black.

Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a White than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery.

Blacks are 2.25 times more likely to commit officially-designated hate crimes against whites than vice versa.

Only 10 percent of youth gang members are white.

Hispanics are 19 times more likely than whites to be members of youth gangs. Blacks are 15 times more likely, and Asians are nine times more likely.

Between 1980 and 2003 the US incarceration rate more than tripled, from 139 to 482 per 100,000, and the number of prisoners increased from 320,000 to 1.39 million.

Blacks are seven times more likely to be in prison than Whites. Hispanics are three times more likely.

John

September 13th, 2013
12:09 pm

Let’s compare Detroit vs. Pittsburgh. Both lost its major industry that many citizens depended on (Detroit lost its automobile industry, Pittsburgh lost its steel industry). Both are of the same size. One had “white flight” and now the city is majority black and the other is majority white. Detroit was called the “Paris of America” but now more closely resembles Mogadishu. Want to take a guess at which one was voted the one of the most livable cities in America?
Also, South Africa is another interesting case study. One of the wealthiest countries in the world, but once the “savior” (Only seen by Westerners) Mandela ended apartheid, had whites kicked out and murdered it is now one of the poorest. Same thing goes with Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) which had all the benefits of a modern civilization but once they kicked the white people out they could no longer maintain what technology the whites created.

DebbieDoRight - What this country needs is more unemployed politicians

September 13th, 2013
12:23 pm

Wow! Succinctly — Go Cydney! All of you talking about no whites in the NAACP, etc. — google the NAACP founders and their present members.

Whites in black greek clubs? Google that too.

Also, google Joshua Packwood — you know who he is right? Joshua Packwood, 22, first white valedictorian of Morehouse College.

Ignorance is NOT sexy folks. Seriously!

Big_black

September 13th, 2013
12:28 pm

LOL! @ John.

hey John! You gone burn down yer trailer with all them werds yer typin. LOL!

ignorant hick. LOLOL!!!!

Yes!

September 13th, 2013
12:47 pm

THANK YOU JOHN! Haha I love the comment about the black girl at swaps. It’s spot on. I think that’s the best/most realistic comment on the article.

Yes!

September 13th, 2013
12:49 pm

@Big_black, you didn’t have to tell us you are big and black. I’m pretty sure we could all tell by your language and grammar.

Ryan A.

September 13th, 2013
12:54 pm

#zetaphibeta

DebbieDoRight - What this country needs is more unemployed politicians

September 13th, 2013
1:05 pm

Thank you Rebecca for your insight and amazing words!! You give us hope for a bright new future.

thank you John for your comments too — You can pick up your robes from the Dry Cleaners at any time; you’ve done your good deed for the day!

Its always good to know who the virulent racists are so that they can be avoided at all costs.

thanks again!!

NYC Transplant

September 13th, 2013
2:17 pm

Great article but so many ignorant and racist comments. Shame on you and get a real life!!!!

Ann

September 13th, 2013
2:21 pm

Great article! I think the title may be wrong though. I do not believe that she is the first African American to join a mostly white sorority. I know for certain that a few bi-racial women joined before this, and I’m pretty sure that she is not the first African American. I loved her story though!

janet

September 13th, 2013
2:43 pm

Sororities and Fraternities – black, white or what ever are so last century.
Why do people need to “belong”?
I was a GDI in college. So were my daughters. We are all successful, well adjusted women living in the 21st century.

@Ann

September 13th, 2013
2:49 pm

First-person narrative is a mode whereby a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive “voice” and represents point of view in the writing.