Dictionary.com defines a gang as, “A group of people with compatible tastes or mutual interests who gather together for social reasons… Some gangs, but not all, have strong leadership, formalized rules, and extensive use of common identifying symbols… The activities of gangs are characterized by some level of organization and continuity over time.”
You know what that sounds like to me? A sorority or fraternity.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit my blatant and brazen ignorance when it comes to the ins and outs of sorority/fraternity life, but from what I can tell, it’s definitely not for me. From my extremely biased outsider’s perspective, it’s just seems like one big gang that runs around hazing and spanking pledges, chugging beers, pulling school pranks, and stomping the yard, which is all complimented by heavy doses of barking and “eewing.”
Maybe it’s because I didn’t go away to school or attend an HBCU, but that’s not my idea of a good time. I know, I know, frats and sororities do a lot of community service and provide lifetime membership to an association that can potentially benefit you in the “real world.” Sounds nice, I’m NOT knocking that at all. Major kudos and props, but I like the idea of free will more.
I know it sounds like I’m giving frats and sororities a bad rap, but can you really blame me? My first memory of that world was Spike Lee’s School Daze. I was just 11 years old when that movie came out (I may have actually seen it for the first time a few years later) and the images depicted of college life and the world of fraternities/sororities weren’t very flattering to my young mind and that’s what stuck with me to this day.
Half-Pint and the rest of the pledges went through immense hazing that included shaving their heads, squeezing soggy bananas in the toilet while blindfolded (so they’d think it was a doo-doo log), getting spanked, and basically losing all semblance of their dignity just to join some gang called Gamma Phi Gamma (or G-Phi-G). Then there was the issue of self-segregation based on skin color between the Wannabes and Jigaboos, who at the end of the day were all Black. If I had a choice, I’d much rather be a Jigaboo than a member of G-Phi-G.
Of course this was an amplified Spike Joint so everything was exaggerated, but the film, along with countless others that exposed sexual assaults and drug use in college, didn’t make for a positive image of fraternity/sorority lifestyle in my young mind.
Flash-forward eight years to when I was actually in college and SOME of my preconceived notions about fraternities and sororities began to manifest as reality.
It all started with my homegirl Malika. Sometime in the winter semester of our junior year she started acting funny. People would see her in the hallway and say hi, but she’d just ignore them. She stopped wearing makeup and getting her hair done. Some strange girl moved into her single dorm room and rumors began to circulate that she had become a lesbian. No one had a clue of what was going on with Malika until the end of the semester when she revealed that she had “crossed the line.”
Oh, snap, Malika just joined a gang!
Again, I’ll call ignorance on this one, but the fact that you have to lose so much of your identity and individuality to join SOME gang sororities/fraternities doesn’t sit well with me. Although she was unable to talk about the specifics of her hazing process for fear of getting jumped by fellow gang members, Malika explained that she wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone, wear makeup and had to be watched 24-7 by one of her “Big Sisters.”
All that just to be part of some “elite” group? Sorry, I’ll pass.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get what the secret hazing and branding (WTF!) has to do with all the positive aspects of joining a sorority or fraternity. In fact, a few years ago I actually tried to get some answers. Problem was I was a bit tipsy drunk and my inquisition came off a tad more ignorant than I intended.
I was out for drinks with a group of friends and my homegirl brought along two of her friends from school, Tiffany and Jasmine. Somehow or other it came up that they were part of some sorority.
In a slightly inebriated state of mind, I joked, “Which one, Zeta Theta Ziggy Marley Phi Fo Fum?”
These girls took their gang sorority membership very seriously and were in no mood for jokes about their set.
“What,” Tiffany asked, shooting me an ice grill that pierced my soul.
“I was just joking, ma,” I replied. “Let me guess, you’re a Delta.”
“Oh, hell no,” Jasmine interjected. “We’re AKAs.”
The two of them proceeded to make this piercing “eewee” sound, topped off with a raised pinkie.
“What the hell is that, your gang sign,” I chuckled.
My side comment was perceived as blatant disrespect to Tiffany and Jasmine’s gang sorority and they let me have it.
“What’s that supposed to mean,” Tiffany barked.
“You better show some respect, fool,” added Jasmine. “We are not a ‘gang.'”
By this point the ladies had risen from their bar stools and were getting all up in my face. Since my boy, who was wise enough not to get in the middle of this particular conversation, had excused himself to use the bathroom, I was on my own and outnumbered by these rabid gangbangers sorority sisters.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I pleaded. “I was only joking. Can’t we just get along like the great alcoholic speed racer Rodney King once said?”
Apparently that joke went over much better as the tension levels dropped down considerably, and the ladies couldn’t help but crack a smile.
The one thing about when I’m drunk, though, is my alter ego Taco Meat never knows when to quit while he’s ahead.
“Can I ask y’all one thing, though,” I said.
“What,” said Tiffany.
“What’s with the branding,” I began. “I mean, do the girls get branded, too. I’ll be damned if I let somebody put ‘Grade A Beef” on my arm just because.”
Although it was a genuine question from the heart (the branding part at least), it was the final straw. Rather than even pay my drunken ass any more attention, Jasmine grabbed Tiffany by the arm.
“Come on, girl,” she said. “Let’s go before we have to hurt this boy.”
Needless to say I escaped unscathed but it marked the pinnacle of my love/hate relationship with this unknown way of life. So it’s not really fair to say I don’t date girls in gangs sororities (I definitely got love for y’all if you got love for me), it’s just after conversations like these they rightfully have no interest in dating me.
Am I the only one that doesn’t fully understand the dynamics of sororities and fraternities? For anyone that’s an actual members, can you explain the meaning behind the branding? What are the benefits of joining a frat or sorority? Do you feel that movies like School Daze paint an unfair picture of your lifestyle? For outsiders such as myself, do you wonder what the big deal is about joining? Do you feel that some people in these organizations act as if their better than others? Would you consider joining a frat or sorority if you didn’t have to go through any hazing? Would you have a problem dating someone that was heavy into a frat or sorority? Do you think it’s fair to call sororities/fraternities gangs?
Speak your piece…
***60 BLOGS IN 30 DAYS COMING SOON***
There’s only eight days left until Ramadan, which signals the return of my annual 30 in 30 Blog Marathon. No food. No liquor. No cursing. No negativity. No sex. No Wet Wednesdays. Just two blogs a day for 30 days straight, as I embark on a spiritual, mental and physical journey that begins anew Saturday, August 22, 2009 at sunrise.
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