The University of Alabama recently received complaints that the selection process for its sororities was discriminatory. In response, the university began “continuous open bidding” where sororities can accept members at any time, instead of just during rush periods. So far, six minority students have accepted bids to traditionally white sororities. While there are no longer actual policies enforcing segregation in Greek life, it is still mostly divided into traditionally black and traditionally white fraternities and sororities.
The Panhellenic and Inter-fraternity Council are traditionally white Greek organizations, which have existed since the time of enforced segregation. In response to this, the National Panhellenic Council was formed in 1930 to create the “Divine Nine”, four historical African-American sororities and five fraternities. While whites are allowed to join these, and minorities are now allowed to join traditionally white Greek organizations, it is still extremely rare.
Part of the reason for this is cultural. Traditionally white organizations usually start recruiting members when they enter college, while the traditionally black organizations start in high school. Traditionally black organizations have a stronger emphasis on community service, and often have are more emphasized as a permanent brother or sisterhood as opposed to one that is primarily a college organization.
The other issue faced by students attempting to cross the “color line” is that they can have trouble fitting in. Others of their same race often question what is wrong with them that they would not choose the obvious group. They can often feel isolated. Blacks and minorities who join traditionally white organizations have to face issues of Anglo-conformity and backlash from others who view this as abandoning their culture. Greek life requires a great deal of conforming to tradition.
The Guardian, Black University of Alabama Students Join Traditionally White Sororities: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/20/black-students-university-alabama-sororities-segregated
U.S. News, Following Controversy, University of Alabama Sororities Accept Minority Students: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/09/23/following-controversy-university-of-alabama-sororities-accept-minority-students?s_cid=rss:following-controversy-university-of-alabama-sororities-accept-minority-students
U Loop, The History Behind Segregation in Greek Life: http://uiowa.uloop.com/news/view.php/85398/the-history-behind-segregation-in-greek-life
Academia, A Paradox of Participation: Nonwhites in White Sororities and Fraternities: http://www.academia.edu/419756/A_Paradox_of_Participation_Nonwhites_in_White_Sororities_and_Fraternities
Xomba, Racial Divisions in Sororities and Fraternities: http://emilydomrose.xomba.com/racial-divisions-sororities-and-fraternities