09/29/2013 10:56 am ET Updated Nov 29, 2013

What Does a Change to the Greek System Mean for the Historic Black Sororities and Fraternities?

I recently read, here in the pages of Huffington Post, an article by Jay Reeves entitled, "University of Alabama Orders Changes to Greek System to Combat Sorority Discrimination"

It immediately reminded me of a piece I wrote back in 2005, titled "What Might Have Been the Difference if Major League Baseball had 'Integrated' with the Negro Baseball Leagues Rather Than the Other Way Around?" ("What Mean These Stones?" - iUniverse)

Among the ideas I shared in the article were as follows:

  1. Black institutional life that has been shaped by racial attitudes and actions in the United States provides insights and learnings that are important to the growing maturity of our nation on matters of race;
  2. The reluctance of many white persons to be "in the minority" in historically black organizations and institutions must be overcome if they are serious about being effectively present in a world that is predominantly colored; and
  3. My grandfather once said to me, "Some black folk think the white man's ice is colder than the black man's ice. Black folk, and those who are not, should learn this is not true, by first hand experiences of its untruth."

Reverse racial integration, as some describe the integration of whites into black organizations and institutions, when actualized, has values, too numerous to describe.

The history, heritage and hope that is deeply embedded in black organizational and institutional life is lost when it is assumed that racial integration is a one-way street: blacks becoming members or participants in historically white-only organizations and institutions. It ignores and devalues the concept of whites becoming members of black organizations and institutions. In fact, many historically black institutions have been consistent in their welcoming of those who are not black; this fact should not be overlooked.

Does the publicity coming out of the University of Alabama response to the rejection of black women by historically white-only sororities provide an opportunity for black sororities and fraternities, not just at the University of Alabama, but nationally, to become more visible through reverse integration? And, for them to review and re-consider whether the importance of their history is best preserved through self-segregation, or through more active recruitment of those who are not black?

I believe the Three Hs -- history, heritage, and hope -- are best served and preserved by racially inclusive recruiting, rather than giving the impression that black history is diminished when those who are not black, through their actions, embrace it.

Recently, while going through the boxes that have accumulated through my years of married life, I came across a sweater that had on its sleeve the date 1953. It was a living reminder that 60 years ago, I became a member of Beta Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at North Carolina A&T State University.

Although my Methodist preacher-father was a member of Omega Psi Phi, as was Bishop Edgar Love, a man to whom I looked up and performed my wedding ceremony 55 years ago, I became an Alpha, pledging when I was a student at Samuel Huston College, in Austin, Texas, and becoming a member at A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was active briefly when I was a pastor in Boston, but since then I have been inactive.

Meanwhile, Alpha Phi Alpha was a leader in the initiation and implementation of the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC. And Martin Luther King himself was an Alpha. Is there any better testament to the importance of the continuation and racial expansion of black Greek organizations than that?