Black Greek-Lettered Fraternities and Sororities and Hazing

On college and university campuses across the nation, a phenomenon that has been going on for a tremendously long time persists: hazing. While hazing happens in non-Black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities, the particular focus of this article is on the hazing that takes place in Black fraternities and sororities. The reason that I am electing to focus on Black fraternities and sororities is I am seriously concerned about how dangerous practices engaged in by some chapters of Black fraternities and sororities may not only be putting the emergence of new Black leadership at risk, but also continuing to put the lives of young Black men and women at risk. Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, President of Philander Smith College, a historically Black college in Arkansas, has penned a book that does a fairly decent job of highlighting the problems with hazing and other problematic behavior of some chapters of Black fraternities and sororities across the nation: Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs, and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Black fraternities and sororities played a significant role in participating in the struggles for justice and equality. After all, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a member of the first Black fraternity to be assembled, Alpha Phi Alpha.  Even during the 1970s, Black fraternities and sororities were playing instrumental roles in positive dimensions of the Black Power Movement. While hazing was taking place during the 1950s and 1960s (and even before the 1950s and 1960s), the constant occurrence of such egregious hazing was not as serious as it is in our contemporary moment. As a strong supporter of Black fraternities and supporters, I want to see them abandon hazing. I have many friends and family, including my father who is a member of Omega Psi Phi, who are members of Black fraternities and sororities.

Meaningful relationships can take place without engaging in hazing. Hazing is a violation of criminal law and is grounds for immediate expulsion from the academic institution in which the violators are situated. Black men and women have been murdered, made permanently handicapped, placed in comas, rushed to emergency rooms, taken to intensive care units, and etc. because they have been hazed in such brutal ways. Each Black fraternity and sorority has policies that forbid hazing. The reason why so many people have been victimized by egregious acts of hazing is many of the leaders in these organizations are allowing hazing to take place. Many of these leaders will say in public that they are against hazing and will punish those found guilty of hazing, but many of them are the main ones who participate in hazing.

Higher education institutions and state legislatures are going to have to place harsher penalties on fraternities and sororities and the individuals involved in hazing. People are dying and/or having their lives severely altered by being victimized by hazing. For those who were tricked into being hazed, I feel sorry for them. I do not feel sorry for the individuals who already knew that they were going to be hazed and ended up having something terrible happen to them. We have to assume greater individual responsibility.

I call for national and local leaders of Black fraternities and sororities to become more active in supervising and monitoring the activities of your membership. If you are really serious about being against hazing, then you will take serious actions to help to dramatically decrease hazing incidents. We are losing some of our potentially great American leaders because we are allowing hazing to continue to take place. To those who are involved in hazing people, stop beating your fellow brothers and sisters! Stop trying to alienate those members and new members who refuse to be hazed! I think that it is really crazy that many members of Black fraternities and sororities would not have the same respect for members who refused to be hazed. I know that the founders of your organizations would be ashamed of the egregious acts of hazing that have taken place in the last 10 years.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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8 comments

  1. VERY much needed article! Thank you for speaking on this because the stupid, childish tradition of hazing must be stopped. I never even thought about joining a fraternity because of the thought of this subject. I would have murdered or seriously injured one of them dudes if I had been place in such a situation you discussed in your article.

    1. Hazing is such a childish act. When you really think about it, you got grown men and women sitting around beating on one another like they are some immature kids on the playground. I agree with you very much about murdering or seriously injuring someone who would try to haze you. It would be self-defense. These organizations need to stay devoted to their founding purposes and not this silly hazing stuff.

  2. I would think that with just a bit of education for the students at the start of each school year about standing united against hazing, ALL fraternities would fail if they continued this stupid, illegal process. And if the fraternities were unable to gain members, they certainly wouldn’t be around long.

    What am I missing, Antonio?

    1. You’re right on, Goose! If fraternities and sororities made a commitment to making sure that they only accept members who have no interest in hazing, then we will start to see much more confidence placed in them and the membership of these organizations will begin to significantly increase with people who evince higher character and commitment to service.

  3. Fraternity members and those who choose to be hazed don’t seem agree with any of your views. To villainize the Fraternities and Sororities is part of the reason why the situation has gotten out of control in the first place. No one is holding a gun to anyones head and making them “be hazed”. We are talking about young adults who have the choice not to participate in a process that involves hazing but yet they continue to do so despite the fact that it is illegal and they can join without being hazed at all. i understand how dangerous hazing can be when there are idiots doing the hazing, but alot of these problems have become worse because judgement has been already been passed on these individuals, and they have been labeled as “bad people” by people who are ingnorant on the subject in which they are so strongly opposed to. For every serious incident that you read about, there are thousands that go on every semester without anyones knowledge. We only hear about the most extreme cases of hazing when someone is hurt or injured, which go unreported because serious consequences may arise from any given report that is brought to light, so the people involved are scared to report a problem even when they know they should. i was hazed during my college years, so i am experienced in this matter and can speak from my own personal experience. Done the right way it is not such a bad experience looking back upon what i went through and it actually helped to improve my life for which i am grateful that I experienced the process. Luckily for me, I didnt have any idiot trying to shoot me with a BB gun, or Throw canned goods at me, or make me drink an entire bottle of alcohol, or 10 gallons of water. Those are cases of stupid people with no authority figure around to step in and put a stop to the behavior that could cause serious harm to a person who genuinely wants to be a part of the organization. Let me tell you that Hazing is not going to stop in college organizations, and a better solution to this problem is not forcing it underground by throwing the people involved in jail, but by making more avenues available to these young adults, a hotline, or an advisor that can give advice without fear of going to jail. If my guys called me right now and said they were having a problem with Hazing , I would be forced to alert the school and Nationals of their activities, to insure that I would not go to jail. Now all potential serious problems which i might be able to give advice that might possibly save a life will never be heard , and all life and death decisions will be left up to 20 year old kids to make. Its like a parent child relationship, in where a child might foolishly try to drive home intoxicated as to not get caught by their parents out of fear of punishment. As a result you have more kids who take this chance and often have fatal accidents as a result . The parents often say afterwards, “they could’ve called me, I wouldn’t have been mad” but by then it is too late. The kids didn’t realize that, that line of communication was available to them, and made a bad decision even worse. A line of communication needs to be opened between organizations/schools, and the members, so that potentially life threatening situations can be avoided before someone dies. As crazy as I was in college as a young 20 year old, it took me to graduate and look back years later to see how dangerous what i did was. The punishment needs to be less severe, so that more incidents will be reported, because as it stands now the only time you will hear about hazing is when somebody dies, and by then punishment is too late, it needs to be fixed before then. There was no possible way that I was going to report any incident for fear of being expelled, or thrown in jail. And every kid that participates in hazing feels the exact same way. There is no to talk to anyone about it, and it definately needs to be discussed and the kids need to be educated on this subject

    1. You cannot pretend to speak for all fraternity members and those who choose not to be a part of fraternities. Although you make some good points in your response, what you offer continues the status quo, which leads to more and more egregious cases of hazing.

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