In the midst of multiple killings of Black men and women, namely Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, and George Floyd; many have felt compelled to use their voices in protest. Black people have begun to refuse to accept silence or indifference from family and friends, asserting silence is complicity.
Today, as I scrolled my Facebook and Twitter timelines I came across the predictable call for outraged white voices that occupy Black spaces. A number of tweets filled my screen that read “Dear non-Black sorors, I’m Paying attention to your silence.” or something very similar. I do not completely disagree with this message, but it does beg the question, why do we have non-Black members in Black organizations? I’ve said numerous times, I do not understand why we have white or other non-Black members in BLACK organizations. If we kept the D9 (Divine Nine) Black, you wouldn’t be paying attention to the silence because these non-Black members would not only be irrelevant, but would not exist.
Some explain their silence as a means of remaining neutral, or not getting involved in politics. However, these organizations are grounded in the fight for the rights and livelihood of African American people. Joining these organizations is stamping oneself with the notion of equity among races especially in this country. Today we have visual representation of the continued fight for Black people to be represented and respected. As a member of these organizations, you’re not only agreeing to the fun times, but you’re agreeing to uphold the values they maintain. If you don’t agree with the bettering or care for the livelihood of Black lives, then why join? Your membership reeks of inauthenticity and mirrors the notion of “wanting to be black until it’s time to be Black.”
A few years ago, Gerald Jerome Huggins II was at AGP (Atlanta Greek Picnic) wearing a shirt stating “Make the D9 Black Again.” Huggins faced some criticism online by many for wearing this shirt; in particular he was featured in an HBCU Game Day post where Eric M. Price, an Alpha Phi Alpha member, stated “You [Huggins] worried bout the wrong things.” Price provides commentary on how as a culture we need to be more concerned with making the D9 financial again than making it Black again. While, Price may have some merit in stating that the financial aspect of our organizations should be of concern, I wonder why we can’t look at both issues. However, for the sake of this post, my focus is on the re-niggafication of the D9.
Given the history of our beloved organizations, I truly find it puzzling as to why we are so open to accepting non-Black members to be a part of our very Black organizations. Why can’t Black spaces be left explicitly for Black people? There was more outrage over trans-men/women joining our organizations than there is for people who are not Black joining our organizations. Not only do we welcome them, but for some odd reason we praise them for being in our spaces. As exemplified in the Sam Whiteout era; a white Kappa who shimmied across our screens on seemingly every social media platform and was praised for doing nothing but being white, a member in a Black org, and having the ability to stay on beat. I’ve been guilty of awe-ing over him too, but thank God for growth, because now I have clear eyes to notice this weird fetishization, or better, fascination of white or other non-Black members joining organizations made for US.
If you look around your yard (campus) you would easily see that amongst all of the different organizations there is some sort of cultural specification; whether it strictly be multicultural, latinx, asian, white, etc. Among those, with the exception of multi-cultural organizations, how many anomalies do you see? They only exist in Black organizations; these other fraternal orgs hold true their founding and the core of the cultural heritage; making it a requirement to join their organizations. So why is it different for us? Why do we have to make our spaces inclusive rather than making and keeping them as sacred Black spaces?
I will not offer an apology for calling us out on this. It may seem “divisive”, but that is my point, division isn’t always negative. Look at Korea town, China town, little Italy, little Mexico, little Puerto Rico, etc. Should they be forced to integrate “others” into their communities and economic strongholds? These historically Black organizations, although different were founded for the same reasons, and for the same group of people: BLACK men and women. I know I know, “what about allies?” What about them? An ally can be active in our fight without dominating our sacred spaces.
As mentioned above, when non-Black members join our organizations we go as far as to glorify them and prop them up on a pedestal. In school, I’m taught that white supremacy is not real, simply a myth constructed by whites to feel superior. However, we do a pretty damn good job of bringing this constructed notion into physical 3D form by revering these non-Black members in our organizations. This practice of inviting outsiders into our sacred space is nothing new, and we’ve seen the outcome many times. The world already hates us; we have created spaces specifically for us, therefore we should protect those spaces.
We’re so quick to metaphorically invite whites (in particular) to the cookout for doing small things that they should be doing. Without realization, raisins in potato salad won’t seem so bad, too much mayonnaise will become a good thing, meat won’t need cleaning, and cookouts will become BBQs. The topic at hand was non-Black members not being vocal about the horrendous murders of multiple Black people. If I were yall I’d be less worried about these non-Black members and more worried about the non-Black partners in your beds every night. Because in my opinion we shouldn’t be looking for the white outrage within our organizations since there shouldn’t be a white presence within our organizations to begin with.
Temple Grad Student
“I’m not a writer, but I write a little bit.”