Pushing for spaces that center and emphasize the experiences of marginalized groups is not a new experience for those groups. Sadly, this is often the norm, especially across predominantly white institutional spaces. Knox is certainly not exempt from that reality, so seeing the creation of more black organizations on campus is a welcome sight.
Props to Khadijah Clark, Shamecia Pullem and fellow sorority sisters for planning Sigma Theta Nu, which will be the first and currently only black sorority on this campus. If we are a campus that will continue to maintain Greek Life, we must make that experience one that is safe, welcoming and valuable for all students.
Any time there is split between an organization and marginalized students, that should be taken as a time for those organizations to reflect on the spaces they create and for whom they are created. Since we go to a predominantly white school, each space created is 99% of the time automatically created to accommodate and center white people. Because of this, an intentional commitment to creating an anti-racist, pro-black and pro-POC group must be made from the jump and consistently maintained.
That means constant introspection into who is in your organization and who isn’t and why. That means creating events, opportunities and structures within the organization that privilege marginalized voices over those that aren’t. That means checking your members and yourself when they act in ways that make spaces unsafe for marginalized members.
This sentiment extends to all other parts of the campus as well, administrative and otherwise. Oftentimes any move to carve out space for marginalized groups is ever only championed by those groups themselves. Reformations on anything from courses to faculty makeup to resources available to guidelines set are usually only made so when something violent has happened to said marginalized groups. A place to start could be a consideration of senate rules that may bar groups like Sigma Theta Nu or also Sisters of Excellence, who may not always have events open to everyone, from receiving event funding.
Anti-racism is not reactive, it is proactive. The school, its organizations and particularly its privileged members need to take on more of the weight of making this campus inclusive and welcome to all. Saddling oppressed groups with that responsibility furthers exclusion and unwelcomeness on our campus.
Nonetheless, organizations that are made by and for marginalized groups must be understood complexly. In addition to their usually being necessitated by oppressive spaces meant for the same thing, the experiences of marginalized students is divergent enough from those of more privileged students that they demand an organization all their own.
People need a space that can fully recognize and validate their struggles and experiences. When so many different lives and intersections are in the mix on our campus, sometimes a more acute environment is necessary. Given this, the presence of such a new sorority will open up new opportunities for black women to be more seen, heard and live fully on this campus within Greek life.
With all this in mind the Knox campus should welcome the presence of a new and vital sorority eagerly, but with an eye for some of the context that may have made their existence necessary. Sororities are certainly not the only place where such struggle persists.
Connor Wood and Samuel Lisec did not appear in this Embers as they contributed stories relating to Sisters of Excellence and Sigma Theta Nu