What Rushing a White Sorority Taught Me

Getting accepted felt great, but then I pledged Delta Sigma Theta.

Generic image (Thinkstock)
Generic image (Thinkstock)

As with most college freshmen, my singular goal that first semester was to fit in, in whatever way I could. For the next four years that campus would be more than just a house of higher education; it would also be my home. So I tried out for the cheerleading squad because I’d cheered all through high school. I auditioned for the dance ensemble to put the previous decade’s worth of ballet lessons to good use. Everyone I knew was doing the same thing: planting a flag to make this unfamiliar world manageable, more their own. Greek life was a part of all that.

As clearly as I saw myself as a member of Delta Sigma Theta when I got the call from Delta Gamma, I remember feeling proud of myself for having been accepted. Of course I wasn’t going to join (and I’d have to explain to my future prophytes why I went to that rush event), but the power of acceptance can’t be overestimated.

Certainly a sorority is far from the last bastion of racism on American college campuses. Most of us can tick off long lists of things that desperately need more diversity, chief among them the student population, faculty and school administration.

In a place where most of the students and faculty didn’t look like me, it was beyond encouraging to know that our differences weren’t insurmountable. I hadn’t been anything but myself at that first-round rush event, cracking corny jokes and complaining about the coed bathrooms, and that had been enough. That said something to me about my place not only within the safe walls of my campus but also in the world waiting for me outside them. I had something to offer. And isn’t that the type of deliberately hopeful notion that universities are supposed to be instilling in their students?

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.