Alabama's Greek System is Still Racially Segregated

By DJ Byrnes on October 18, 2013 at 12:53p

From VICE:

In 1963, in the midst of the heated debate over the desegregation of American schools, the University of Alabama announced that it would for the first time allow African Americans to enroll. Fifty years later, in September 2013, two University of Alabama sororities rejected an African American student because of her race. As a result, an anti-racist student group called the Mallet Assembly and other members of the community took action to prevent segregation within the university's Greek system.

And here's Alabama's recent President, Robert Witt:

 Approximately 25 percent of our student body participates in the greek system at UA. [This] includes traditionally African-American, traditionally white and multicultural sororities and fraternities. As independent social organizations, it is appropriate that all our sororities and fraternities – traditionally African-American, traditionally white and multicultural – determine their membership.

The University offers a wide range of options for students to become involved on campus. I encourage all students to take advantage of the many academic, social and volunteer opportunities available at the University during their time on campus.

Remember the firestorm when E. Gordon Gee made some off-color, off-the-record remarks? Witt was very on-the-record with this statement, and even more incredulously, wasn't joking. Not only was he not fired, he was promoted to chancellor of the University of Alabama system. It's verrrrry slightly better under the new President, but this situation in Alabama is as ridiculous as it is disgusting, and actually has real-life consequences. 

Vice gets its fair share of well-deserved flak, but hidden amongst the OMG ISN'T THIS CRAZY puff pieces, is quality stuff like the video above. 

And before anybody attempts to defend this: no.


Comments Show All Comments

mh277907's picture

Slavery was a tradition in the South, too, once upon a time. By his reasoning, that should still be acceptable.


DJ Byrnes's picture

"Tradition" is the last card to play for people defending something that they can't otherwise defend. The idiocy of that logic is noted above.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

mh277907's picture

It is truly unbelievable. I've said this before- thank God the North won.


ATXbucknut's picture

To many folks down here in the South it ain't over yet.

GregB's picture

They only won "on the field" so to speak
I would argue that much of what has happened to our country since 1980 has been the "south rising again".  Look at the political power of the southern Senators and Congressmen, they can hold the whole system hostage when it suits them...... and make no mistake, it IS primarily a southern thing.
Letting a few blacks into frats/sororities in Tuscaloosa isnt going to change that.

Alpo's picture

Absolutely sickening that racism is still an issue in this country. It's 2013!!! Disgusting...

Earle's picture

Alabama, you got
the weight on your shoulders
That's breaking your back.
Your Cadillac
has got a wheel in the ditch
And a wheel on the track
How long, how long?


Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

stevebelliseeya's picture

I could listen to that Neil Young song all day never gets bad. That music > anything today.

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

Earle's picture

Took a little creative license and combined lyrics to make the point.  The last line is obviously from Southern Man, but Alabama is a little lesser-known.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

BuckAlum35's picture

There will always be racism in some form because ignorance will never go away. This major issue is when it goes beyond an idiot here or there and is present in people with positions of power like the UA President. Although defenders will say that he is just standing up for their rights as an independent group, that is the same bullsh$# argument people who support the Confederacy had....its pathetic.

BuckChi's picture

Umm, VICE, why did you use (unnecessary) subtitles only when African Americans were speaking? Kind of discredits your reporting.

TheBadOwl's picture
  1. It's Vice.
  2. They try way too hard to be edgy/hip sometimes all the time.
  3. This article is still credible.
  4. It's still a travesty that Alabama has segregated Greek life.

Also, there's a pretty great parody account on Twitter (linked in the story) that makes fun of how edgy Vice tries to be. And most of the time, they sound like actual Vice headlines. Example:

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

jeremytwoface's picture

Totally agree with this... 
I will say that they hit some really good stories sometimes though.
Like thisthisthis and this just to name a few of my favorites. (WARNING: These documentaries are very political and/or graphic... just to give you a heads up)
You should also check out the "Fresh Off the Boat with Eddie Huang" episodes. They are pretty good.
They don't post too many YouTube videos anymore... probably because of their HBO series. 

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

Unky Buck's picture

Uncle Buck was really cool the first time...I should know...

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

BuckChi's picture

I agree that the report is still credible, however, the way they chose to present it in the example I cited before allows others to dismiss (and ultimately discredit in their own opinions) their reporting.

jestertcf's picture

When i moved to South Carolina ten-ish years ago. The undercurrent of racism in the culture was and is disturbing at times.
I sometimes shake my head thinking "Come on people its 2013.... let it go and grow up."

~Because we couldn't go for three~

Idaho Helga's picture

This is Alabama, there's nothing to see here...move along, move along.  SEC! SEC! 

hodge's picture

"...traditionally African-American, traditionally white and multicultural..."

He said it himself, traditionally.  Historically Black Colleges traditionally  are African-American; but it doesn't mean that other races cannot enroll.  This is bullshit, and Whitt and his archaic opinion should be taken to the woodshed.

Bolt's picture

And Alabama's greatest tradition of being on the wrong side of history continues.

Nicholas Jervey's picture

Robert Witt doesn't even have the excuse of it being a new issue: he was aware of it in when he arrived in 2003 and basically stonewalled for a decade. I guess if the athletics money keeps coming in, the powers that be don't really care what else you do.

Ceci n'est pas une signature.

Orlando Pancakes's picture

Yeah I can't say that I agree with this. So taking this to its logical conclusion, we should get rid of affirmative action. I will surely lose helmet stickers for that comment but feel that it is worth it when responding to a Buckshot that is talking about the basis of such a policy (i.e, I didn't bring it up). Racism-it's wrong no matter the motivation or basis of it.

hodge's picture

I'd say that the two topics are very different and I'll leave it at that.  We're way too close to talking politics here.

Orlando Pancakes's picture

Hodge, I agree with you on the politics part. The rest....????

hodge's picture

Heheh, just realized this could be misconstrued as me advocating racism, that wasn't my intent at all.  I understand where you're coming from on affirmative action, though, and find it a fascinating topic -- if you'd ever like to discuss it, feel free to pm me.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

MLK was a prophet speaking to entrenched cultural injustice. I still think some of the greatest words ever spoken were on the National Mall 50 years ago. Part of that speech said, "I have a dream ... (people) will be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin."
May it be!

Orlando Pancakes's picture

AMEN on that and MLK's message!!!

kyletp2's picture

So basically all these white people highlighted are racist?? If someone has a problem with who the fraternities/sororities let into their membership then you obviously must have a problem against the NAACP and the Hispanic Caucus. And you obviously have a problem with any exclusive male/women's club!

You are lame if you tweet!

hodge's picture

William English Walling, Henry Moskowitz, and Mary White Ovington are widely credited as parents of the NAACP -- due in part to a January meeting in 1909 where they solidified the idea of an African-American advancement and support group, which would lead to an inaugural meeting in February of that year.  They were all white.
Those three would also serve as founding members of the group, along with W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimké, Oswald Garrison Villard, Florence Kelley, and Charles Edward Russell -- the last three of whom were white.  

GregB's picture

The NAACP doesnt exclude white people from its membership. I'm a member.  The organization is simply about promoting advancement of colored people. There are whites down with that too.
Dont know about Hispanic Caucus but Ill bet its the same.  Those two organizations are open about their goals and as a white person if you want to help...... great!!  
The farts and sororities?  Their goals are exclusion of those they dont like......period!

JasonR's picture

Ha ha...farts.

jeremytwoface's picture

I love VICE's reporting. They always do some crazy things and cover some issues that a lot of people are afraid to.
Anyway, this is just gross and it tells you how far some places still have to come.

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

TheBadOwl's picture

I also love Vice most of the time, but they try too hard to be edgy sometimes. But hey, at least that spawned the hilarious Vice Is Hip parody twitter. (EDIT: Didn't realize that they linked it in the story. Just when I thought that I was hip...)

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

jeremytwoface's picture

Yeah I totally agree....
But some of the time they hit some awesome subject material and it's a great read/watch.
I loved their North Korea documentaries and I watched every episode of their show on HBO. They were all pretty good IMO

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

It's very strange. I live in a part of Texas that's culturally as much "Southern" as it is "Texan," so I've seen a little of this attitude myself. Very few people seem nostalgic for the days of enforced segregation, but this kind of segregation of cultural institutions is extremely widespread, to the point that folks seem surprised that anyone would think it's an issue. If you tried to pull something like this in Ohio (excluding blacks from an organization on the basis of race), I think people would be conscious that they were doing something that it would be embarrassing to have to admit; but I would bet the members of the offending sororities in Alabama honestly have no idea why anyone has a problem with what they've done.
And yes, I concur with irritation at the double standard regarding Witt and Gee, and I say this as someone who thought Gee's comments were really dumb.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

rihmds80's picture

Just another reason to HATE the $EC!!!

Hovenaut's picture

I can't say I'm completely surprised, but also find it very hard to believe an individual with such a prominent role in higher education would try and dumb down any "reasoning" behind this.

Witt's use of the word "appropriate" seems anything but here.

OSUStu's picture

Pro tip: don't be an activist in jorts.
DJ - I commend you for bringing this topic up for the second time.  It is a disgrace and needs further publicity.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

brandonbauer87's picture

I think this is the truest definition of a touchy subject.  There's a whole lot of the discussion that needs to be left unsaid. 

OurHonorDefend09's picture

It makes sense if you don't think about it.

Don't give up... Don't ever give up.

Maffro's picture

It's sad, but I can't say I'm surprised. I always chuckle a little when people say things like "it's [insert current year here]! How does this happen?" as if they really believe it's feasible to reverse 400 some-odd years of an attitude in less than 50. The work isn't done, y'all. Systematic racism isn't something that gets immediately eliminated with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, or with the election of President Obama, or with whatever event people choose to mark as the "end" of racial discrimination. Both of my parents went to segregated high schools. That's one generation removed from me -- racism isn't something that's been exclusively relegated to the history books, it's something that we lived through and continue to live through.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I would hope systematic racism by people in power of certain entities such as companies, governments, and schools would be completely gone by now.  There will always be individuals here and there that are racist, and that'll never change.  But at least those individuals hopefully will keep their thoughts to themselves, and push those feelings aside when working in a professional capacity. 

Class of 2010.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

The words Witt seems to be looking for, but should wisely pass over, are "separate" and "equal" when determining memberships of social groups. The man seems amazingly ignorant of Brown v. Board of Education.

xrox's picture

Man, what a good piece from VICE. I've liked all their stuff that I've seen. Admittedly, I only pay attention to the stuff that interests me. Their travel pieces are pretty good.
To the institutionalized racism in the piece: I wonder if the same could be said of Greek life on any campus. Obviously, Alabama fits into a certain narrative. I'd think that the problem extends beyond even Greek life. I mean, look at our own neighborhoods in Columbus.
I really like what the one Mallet member said. As I was watching, I thought 'Wow, there's a lot of support for the group in those shots.' And he says something to the effect of "I hope this movement doesn't end because we had one successful event."
I am very encouraged for the future of racial relations at Alabama, based on what I've heard from these students and other reports on the story. From other reports I read earlier, it seemed that the students wanted the African-American girl to join, but that decision was blocked by graduated members of the sorority. It's been a slow process, and I hope some of these students end up with the power and the position to make their goals happen.

BenedictineBuck's picture

I hope Erik Smith and Marshon Lattimore are considering this kinda stuff when they think of going to school down there!!

Because we couldn't go for three!!!

northcampus's picture

I often wonder why African-American recruits don't consider the history of the schools they are choosing to play for when going through the recruiting game.  Ohio State had an All-American African-American player in 1942 and Alabama didn't even allow an African-American student for nearly 20 years after Bill Willis suited up for OSU (and Willis wasn't even the first African-American player at OSU).
In the 1990's, Ole Miss still had an abundance of rebel flags flying inside the stadium during games.  As an African-American player, why would you even want to be around this type of culture (in the 1990's or even now).  And I don't want to hear anything about how the southern schools have 'grown' in terms of their multicultural awareness and acceptance.  The indirect, underlying racism in the south is alive and well at these southern schools.  Not that Ohio doesn't have racism in some parts (it does), but I don't think it compares at all to the south.  The SEC (and ACC) are modern-day plantations for the athletes who suit up for these schools.  And these schools (Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, LSU, etc.) are not doing the players any favors by passing them through the academic system either because when their playing days are over, they'll have nothing to show for their time on these campuses.

Sherm's picture

"Are we really not going to talk about the black girl?”
The story broke (and was done much better) in The Crimson White, Alabama's student newspaper. One of the best pieces of student journalism I've seen in a long time. A great read.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

"I cannot take away the disappointment a potential new member or chapter member may feel, I can share that all women were treated fairly and consistently in our process.”
Disappointment? Wow. That is insulting and shameful. How dare you dismiss blatant racism as reflective of the candidate.
Emily Jamison, you are a zit on the ass that is the Greek system.

BrewstersMillions's picture

If there's anything worse than a Greek system at a college, its a racist Greek system.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

A couple weeks ago there was a Buckshot post on here about Pat Dye's reaction to Condeleeza Rice's consideration for the Playoff Selection Committee. At that time I mentioned that Dye was a product of his culture (based on my experiences as a Northern boy who lived 12 years in the South).
Some Southern Buckeyes took umbrage at that comment, and, to be fair, there are plenty of racist idiots in the North. However, the CULTURE in the South has more of an in-grained, almost-invisible-yet-detectable racist under-current than the North (again, based on my observations/experience). That was evident in NC, GA, East Texas & FL (the states and areas in which I lived).
Kudos to Ms. Gotz and others who have tried to change that. And props to the U of A student paper for a great job of reporting.
Also, 'Bama only allowed Black students on campus after George Wallace was forced from the entrance to the school by Federal troops. It's hard to imagine the kind of sh*t those twp students went through! Talk about quiet heroes...