Why am I still in my fraternity? Throughout various points of my college experience the answer would be completely different. Now as a senior the answer is one a combination of old (friends, stability, social clout, etc.) and one strikingly new – I’m needed to teach.
What I mean by that is that fraternities now more than ever have become imperative for the environments they can provide. An atmosphere in which men let their guard down, open their ears, and speak candidly is much needed. It is no longer acceptable for men, as social power-holding individuals and as a collective to sit idle – unmoved, unbothered, and uninterested in the plight of all those around us. I realized that a fraternity may just very well be the ONE place where men are obligated to stop taking up so much space, to leave their patriarchic ideals at the door, and to have real, vulnerable, authentic conversations about how they view themselves and society. Combine that with the values we swear to uphold and you have the perfect and crucially necessary critical mass to get major social points across. I solemnly swear that I have learned more in my time in college from extracurriculars and organizations than I ever did in the classroom – social education.
Fraternities are supposed to be places where men grow, learn, and connect not only to their brothers and the Greek community they’re apart of but society as a whole. When you emerge from your alma mater you should be prepared to face the world and that means each and everyone in it – with dignity, respect, and fairness. My fraternity preaches brotherhood for all, service to the individual, and democracy – well, that entails literally everyone, and that’s deeply important. The way I treat and interact my brothers is how I should any stranger I may come across. That’s truly profound. How can I apply the same compassion, and camaraderie of people I spent substantial time with to someone I may not know at all? Easy – remember when a new member would join your chapter and instantaneously you had this connection with them? You could joke around, hang out without knowing anything about them, and accepted them as your friend – that quick lesson in social education as in that ability to immediately value a person is one that you must know. You’ll need to apply that to just about anyone you meet because that’s what it means to be HUMAN. We all have immeasurable worth and inherent value – don’t ever forget that.
So what do I teach? My membership in specifically my chapter I think has come to mean a lot. Along with me comes all my experiences, what I’ve learned, and all my complications. Those complications particularly those that challenge my brothers to think about their unearned social privileges, how they’ve played into and benefitted from -ist systems/institutions, and most importantly how they can be allies to subordinated identities, mean more now than ever before. Fraternities are the place to have tough conversations, check yourselves, explore topics, share your beliefs, and to learn about yourselves but also the world around you. The other stuff supports it like understanding how to be a lifelong friend, and doing service of our own volition. With or without brothers who identify as queer, transgender, person of color, modest income, have a disability etc. your fraternity is where you have the freedom and the obligation to talk about what it all means.
Talk about the stuff you usually don’t. Be curious about sexism, racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and all the rest. Figure out what you can actually do about it. Realize that all of it AFFECTS you too, maybe not negatively but then you’re indicted as benefitting from the putting down of others. I don’t know about you but that’s unacceptable. I promised to be a better man, and in this modern day and age (as it should have always been) that means embracing social justice.
How does your chapter incorporate social justice into their lived values?