I have been a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated for nearly thirty-three years. Like many of you I am deeply troubled by Sorority Sisters, the latest addition to the endless parade of reality shows. I have also read with great interest recent posts criticizing African Americans for mobilizing against Sorority Sisters while turning a blind eye to other reality shows that disparage and degrade the women in our community. I agree that, to a certain extent, our community's fervent support for these reality shows makes us somewhat complicit in perpetuating negative stereotypes about African American women. However, I invite you to view the show Sorority Sisters through a different lens.
African American sororities were founded during the first twenty years of the twentieth century; a period marked by race riots, the proliferation of African American newspapers, ongoing lynchings, the women's suffrage movement, the formation of organizations such as the NAACP, the retrenchment of segregation, and the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North. The women who founded Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Zeta Phi Beta established each organization to serve and support our community at a time of great difficulty, danger, and distress. As members, we not only stand on the shoulders of our founders but are keepers of the organizations that these courageous women created and the community they sought to protect. Whenever we do anything in the name of our respective sororities we do not act as individuals. While we may step forward as one, we, to quote the late Maya Angelou, "stand as ten thousand."
Viewed through this lens, Sorority Sisters does not simply televise the lives of the individual women on the show but, by extension, the great sororities that they represent. As keepers of our respective sororities we cannot be silent when our organizations are attacked and maligned. Indeed, we should not support any person, television show, network, or institution that undermines the integrity of organizations that have faithfully served and supported the African American community for more than one hundred years. To argue, that our "moral barometer is only activated" when "our letters are disrespected" trivializes the historical significance of our respective organizations. Sorority Sisters is problematic not because it perpetuates stereotypes but rather because this show compromises the credibility of well established organizations that contribute to the African American community through service, scholarship, training, and education.
African American sororities were established, in part, to challenge long held beliefs about a woman's role in society, advocate for formally educating women, and develop women leaders. Perhaps African American sororities should lead an effort to eliminate reality shows entirely or change the narrative that these shows communicate. However, African American sororities cannot effectively engage in, challenge, or support any effort to address the adverse impact of reality shows or any other issue affecting our community if our reputation is in tatters.
As always be encouraged, enlightened, and empowered.