Within the past week, there has been a substantial amount of local and national media attention directed to an article in the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, The Crimson White (CW), entitled “The Final Barrier.”
The article, written by Abbey Crain and Matt Ford, chronicles the attempt of sorority alumnae to block the recruitment of a certain potential new member.
The woman, by all accounts, was someone who met and exceeded all of the standards required of the members of Panhellenic sororities – she was salutatorian of her high school class, graduated with a 4.3 GPA and came from a politically-connected Tuscaloosa family.
Many people quoted within the article stated that she would have received a bid from any sorority of her choosing, but there was one factor that provoked certain alumnae advisors to block her recruitment.
She is black.
Crain and Ford’s account of the events that transpired surrounding the woman’s recruitment is one of the most well written (and damning) pieces of investigative reporting I have ever read.
To preface the rest of my remarks, I want to be perfectly clear that I am not writing this column to criticize anyone or any group at Troy University, Greek or non-Greek. The only people I wish to openly criticize are the sorority advisors at the University of Alabama implicated in the CW article, who will apparently stop at nothing to deny a person membership to certain organizations on the basis of race.
The purpose of this column is not to rebuke, but instead to offer a question to ponder.
At which point do we say “enough is enough?”
At which point do we draw the line in the sands of time and begin to fundamentally change the society we live in?
It is no secret to anyone that discrimination has been a thorn in the side of the state of Alabama for decades.
I would offer that discrimination is a problem so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that we fail to recognize the many forms and places in which it exists.
It is present in our workplaces, our own homes and, yes, even in our religious institutions.
Let me be forthright in informing you that I have not always been a torchbearer for racial, ethnic, gender and social equality.
Indeed, I have occasionally found myself in some way, shape or form in a similar frame of mind as those sorority advisors at the University of Alabama who chose to perpetuate racism and discrimination in the South instead of seeking to eliminate it.
Recently, however, I have found myself changing from within.
That change has been the product of extensive amounts of self-evaluation and self-reflection.
The color of a person’s skin, their personal beliefs, sexual preferences or religion does not matter to me.
It is not my place to judge someone according to such factors.
There are those who criticize me for thinking in this manner, but I will apologize to no one.
It is my challenge to you – my hope and prayer – that we as a student body, and a university as a whole, may seek to find a solution to this problem that continues to cast a dark cloud over the state in which we live.
Robert Kennedy once wrote that in order to incite change in a society, the answer is to rely on youth.
We are a generation that has long supported a more inclusive society – a society that chooses to judge someone by the content of his or her character.
Change starts with us.
We find ourselves in the year 2013 having made great strides in the interest of equality for all.
But judging by the article written in the CW, we have a long way to go.
You and I have all the resources at our fingertips to make the necessary changes that will pave the way for a more equitable society for all.
In order to incite such change, however, we must first search within ourselves and ask all the hard questions.
We must look at ourselves objectively and be our own, and society’s toughest critic.
For if we do not live in a society that is kinder, and more compassionate than those sorority advisors implicated in the CW article, we have failed.
If each of us individually chooses to change within ourselves, to eliminate our own biases and prejudices, to see everyone as equal, and to embody the change we wish to see in the world, we might provide the society we live in with a healthy dose of something it so desperately needs.
Former Troy University SGA President