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According to an article written by Jay Reeves, administrators at the University of Alabama are getting involved in integrating sororities and fraternities by imposing rules and punishments for those organizations that do not comply. Since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960?s, Americans like to think that segregation does not exist in the United States. However, sororities and fraternities across the country are being viewed as segregated. Many people in society feel that it is the administrators job to enforce integration among fraternities and sororities, but others feel that it should be up to the students to integrate themselves and that the faculty should stop interfering.
Many of those who feel that integration should be left untouched by the administrations of the school know that historically Greek organizations have been segregated. For almost a century the groups have remained segregated naturally, or by choice. Since this has never been an issue before administrators should not even bother to integrate sororities and fraternities. Furthermore, what happens of no members of the opposite race want to join a traditional race oriented frat or sorority? How can administrators justify punishing Greek organizations if members of the opposite race truly have no interest in joining?
However, over the years this segregation has blindly detained people from limited backgrounds to be able to engage themselves with people of other backgrounds. This is the case for the family in Rodriguez?s ?Aria.? The family?s background limits them to having interactions with people of other backgrounds. Rodriguez says, ?it never occurred to my parents that they couldn?t live wherever they chose?despite their accomplishments the confidence of ?belonging? in public was withheld from them? (658). Richard cannot interact with the other children at first because his background uses a different language, which prohibits this interaction. These examples show that segregation causes barriers to be built, and once constructed are very hard to overcome if interaction takes place at a later time. Forcing integration reverses this problem by giving a chance for various backgrounds to interact with each other.
This forced integration can also bring many more options to those students who are interested in joining a sorority or fraternity thus increasing the overall memberships of the Greek community.
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It is true that the historical segregation of the fraternities and sororities can also be viewed as racism still alive and at it?s best in America. At the University of Alabama there are still instances where confederate flags are displayed in the windows of fraternity houses. Many African Americans are opposed to this symbol because to them it represents slavery. So if the motives and attitudes of sororities and fraternities are racial administrators feel that they are taking another step towards abolishing racism and discrimination from our country by forcing integration amongst these groups. Without readily admitting it, the Younger family made an early step of integration that would later help to abolish racism and discrimination by moving into a completely white neighborhood. At one point in the story Beneatha even admits that ?there are two things we, as a people, have got to overcome, one is the Klu Klux Klan? (Hansberry 528).
On the other hand, the forcefulness of the integration can also be seen as another form of Affirmative Action. Greek organizations may potentially face the problems of filling a quota if the university controls integration. Many may feel that this is a violation of the rights of a social organization. A Greek organization should be allowed to decide the membership criteria just like any other social group. Mr. Linder again provides another example when he says, ?a man has the right to want to have the neighborhood he lives in a certain kind of way? (535). People move into neighborhoods with common criteria much like the people who join fraternities and sororities have common criteria. If forced integration happens and membership criteria cannot be determined by the organization itself then traditions that the fraternities and sororities were founded upon will be broken. No longer will the Greek community be able to recruit legacies, relatives of alumni, and members of certain communities. Their entire founding principle will have to change and the groups will indefinitely lose meaning. For example, a sorority founded by black women for black women would lose its purpose if integration took place. This is what happened in ?Aria?. As the children of the family were integrated with Americans, they continually became more and more distant from their Spanish language and heritage. Eventually they are completely Americanized.
However, some may say that the segregation among the Greek community is not racism at work; rather separation is based upon cultural differences. In other words, people tend to associate with those they can relate to best. Oftentimes this relation is to people of the same heritage and background. In both stories, it is evident that the families only associate with members of their own race. The narrator in ?Aria? ?grew up in a house where the only regular guests were [his] relations? (658). The only white person mentioned in the play A Raisin in the Sun is Karl Linder, the representative from the Welcoming Committee, of which the Youngers cannot stand. Even Mr. Linder says, ?people get along better when they share a common background? (535). Thus, the segregation is a comfortable grouping of people and if it is changed by administrators uncomfortable situations will arise. When the children in ?Aria? were forced to speak English at home rather than Spanish they faced a whole new series of problems. The narrator describes how he had trouble communicating with his parents. ?I no longer knew what words to use in addressing my parents. I would try to get their attention with eye contact alone? (665). When integration did occur in A Raisin in the Sun conflicts also occurred. Mrs. Johnson relays the news to the Youngers from the local newspaper, ?You mean you ain?t read ?bout them colored people that was bombed out their place out there?? (526)
Then again, leaving the students to group themselves based upon cultural differences creates misconceptions between the two groups. For example, the confederate flag issue does not have to be viewed as a racist act. The confederate flag can be a symbol of history and heritage to one person, and a symbol of slavery to another person. Without knowing the truth people of different backgrounds formulate misconceptions about the symbol. As Mr. Linder says, ?most trouble exists because people just don?t sit down and talk to each other. We don?t try hard enough to understand the other fellows problems? (534). If sororities and fraternities were integrated by university faculty they could prevent misconceptions altogether because members from different backgrounds would be able to directly and easily confront issues.
It is important to keep in mind that forcing integration will not necessarily change attitudes. Students have to want to make the change for themselves. This is apparent in A Raisin in the Sun when Mr. Linder says, ?You just can?t force people to change their hearts, son? (536).
A final point on the matter is that integration regulated by the administrations of the schools looks good for the universities. Why not do something that will increase public relations?
There are many issues to be debated about the segregation of fraternities and sororities not only at the University of Alabama, but also across the nation. While there is no one right answer it is important to consider all of the issues before deciding what is right or wrong for yourself. Knowledge is power. Information is how you get there.
Hansberry, Lorraine. ?A Raisin in the Sun.? Making Literature Matter: An
Anthology for Readers and Writers. Eds. John Schilb and John Clifford.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin?s 2000. 483-552.
Reeves, Jay. ?Crossing Racial Divide: University of Alabama Tries to Change
Attitudes.? Valley News Dispatch. 31 Aug. 2001: A8.
Rodriguez, Richard. ?Aria.? Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for
Readers and Writers. Eds. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin?s 2000. 657-667.