Greek organizations on campus have recently been in the news because of COVID-19 outbreaks inside houses. Since moving back to campus, more than 30 greek houses have been required to quarantine. IU recently requested they all close.
The discussion surrounding greek houses has made the lack of Black greek houses even more apparent. The Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., founded here on IU’s campus had the only official Black greek house. It was sold in 2005 after being vacated in the late ’90s.
In 2008, the building was repurposed to hold the IU Police Department. The department has a plaque outside the building and a display inside devoted to the fraternity.
It is unsettling a building that once fostered a safe environment for Black students is now representative of something so harmful to Black people. The house on 17th Street used to be a place for Black students to come together and take refuge from the microaggressions and blatant racism they faced elsewhere on campus.
Now no other National Pan-Hellenic Council organization has since had an official house on IU’s campus.
It might seem beneficial right now due to COVID-19 restrictions, but IU senior Anya Johnson, a Tau chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., member and NPHC president, said its not beneficial in the in the long run.
She said this is because of the historical and systemic inequality in the distribution of wealth over race and class lines.
“It is a macro-level issue within this country that IU perpetuates by instilling these societal functions on campus,” Johnson said.
Though Black Americans have long fought to gain and keep wealth, we have continued to be impeded in a variety of ways — from slavery, to the destruction of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma to redlining.
The wealth gap is prevalent today because of past and current issues pertaining to systemic racism. They contribute to an absence of generational wealth and monetary inheritances in Black families, which make up a large part of the current wealth in the U.S. today.
Johnson said she also believes there are inequalities in IU greek community affairs.
She said greek organizations are grouped together, and consequences of other councils’ actions, especially those who do have houses, negatively affect NPHC organizations.
She said there is often little to no accountability on the part of those councils.
“I would say during this time, it is distracting to the primary goals of the NPHC and the organizations within our council. We are service organizations first, and we strive to make a visible effort on campus as leaders in our community," Johnson said.
She said she believes it is frustrating to sort through problems that aren’t theirs.
It is unfair for Black and Brown greeks to face repercussions for the actions of their white counterparts, especially when those repercussions are specific to greek house improprieties.
This kind of failure to regulate fairly will create continued tension and mistrust within the IU greek community.
IU is relearning and teaching topics like racial equity, diversity and inclusion. But it is time to extend the same consideration to its Black greek community.
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