“Nunca me sentí como parte del grupo”: los estudiantes de color critican el racismo en las hermandades de DePaul

Kay Smith was one of two African American girls in DePaul’s Phi Mu sorority. When he saw how his brotherhood responded to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, he knew that he could no longer remain silent. Smith left the sorority and took to social media, drawing attention to the complacency of his former group. 

“I told them that our diversity was shameful and that is why multicultural brotherhoods do not like the panhellenic community, that they are failing to meet their goals and [are] not showing any indication of change or action,” Smith said. “This group will not be too racist, but they surely are not anti-racist.”

Smith, a senior at DePaul University, spoke about the racism, micro-assaults and insensitivity of Phi Mu’s sorority amid Black Lives Matters through her Instagram account

Smith, who, according to his Instagram post, lives 20 minutes from where George Floyd was murdered and in an area experiencing civil rights tensions, said his sisterhood had been silent in response to the act of injustice. 

“I felt like they disrespected me to say the least,” Smith said via his Instagram post. “I’m still confused as to why Phi Mu thought it was the best idea to just re-post a shit reply on the Instagram story that said ‘In a world where you can be anything, you have to be nice’ and to do nothing else, I was speechless. 

In response, Smith wrote a statement to a member of the executive board to raise awareness of the wrongful act. 

“I saw my sister’s social media fill with black screens, repetitive posts, and do activism as a performance,” Smith said. “I suggested a fundraiser, a donation meeting, coinciding with another sisterhood that approached me, I even offered to do the work, and yet it was still not clear enough for them.” 

Farai Madondo, a young woman from Phi Mu informed The DePaulia that tensions began to rise when Smith discovered that Robert E. Lee was an honorary member of the sorority.  

“Things started to get serious when Kay found out that Robert E. Lee was an honorary member of Phi Mu. She was legitimately angry,” Madondo said. “While the executive board said they were working to resolve it, some other members were on the defensive and didn’t understand why other members were so angry about it.”

Madondo, who left Phi Mu in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and due to a lack of response from her sisterhood, said that while she never felt left out, it was a challenge for her to find a community within the group.

“Being the only African American girl, I felt like I was there as a kind of diversity quota because a lot of the girls never spoke to me,” Madondo said. “I never felt comfortable just going to a group of girls in my sorority and talking to them. Last year I even thought about leaving it because I never really felt like a member. “

According to Madondo, a Phi Mu member discovered that there are six members in the sorority who consider themselves people of color out of the 64 who set up the chapter page, representing less than 10 percent of the total chapter members. 

Madondo said that his experience towards the end of his Phi Mu membership was wearing thin after witnessing another former member being treated for speaking out. 

“After seeing the way Kay was received defensively and you hesitate because she cared enough to get everyone’s attention and was clearly angry, I was even more angry because she had become the ‘angry African American’ in his eyes. “Madondo said. “I felt like I had to make myself more friendly and non-threatening just so they could hear me. I had to take into account his feelings, which is ridiculous. I wanted to yell and curse, but if I did, they’ll just fire me like Kay. ” 

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Madison Casarez, DePaul’s Phi Mu president, said the chapter is working to update its bylaws, looking to host workshops and provide more resources for the chapter. 

Ella dijo que Phi Mu de DePaul ha hecho varias donaciones a diferentes organizaciones locales que apoyan el movimiento de Black Lives Matter. 

“En cuanto a las consecuencias que se están produciendo, el proceso de Phi Mu es confidencial y no podemos compartir ningún detalle o resultado con respecto a situaciones individuales”, dijo Casarez. “Nuestra esperanza es que durante este tiempo podamos crecer como capítulo y convertirnos en mejores hermanas y aliadas”. 

Al igual que Smith y Madondo, varios miembros de la hermandad en otros capítulos se han presentado para hablar sobre su experiencia de racismo dentro de la comunidad panhelénica de DePaul.  

Annie Lee Carroll, una joven en ascenso y ex miembro del capítulo Chi Omega de DePaul, le dijo a The DePaulia que actos racistas como estos no son eventos aislados en la comunidad panhelénica. 

Carroll abandonó su hermandad después de publicar un gráfico en Instagram sobre el racismo dentro de la comunidad panhelénica y promoviendo que varios miembros de la hermandad se comuniquen con ella sobre sus historias. 

“La [comunidad panhelénica] de DePaul intenta pintarse como súper diversa porque es una escuela de la ciudad”, dijo Carroll a The DePaulia. “Pero tienen un asesor panhelénico blanco, un coordinador blanco [de fraternidades y hermandades], una junta ejecutiva blanca mayoritaria y una organización completa llena de niñas que no ven el racismo como un problema”. 

Carroll dijo que ella misma ha experimentado la micro agresión y el racismo dentro de su hermandad. 

“Una vez una chica me preguntó si era china o asiática, lo que obviamente no tenía ningún sentido”, dijo. “[En] la apropiación cultural del Año Nuevo Lunar donde el atletismo de DePaul se convirtió en el ‘tema’ del Año Nuevo Chino en lugar del Año Nuevo Lunar, la sección de estudiantes pasaban alrededor de una estatua de Buda por cualquier razón, la escuela organizó mini juegos entre cuartos con palillos y el maestro de ceremonias llevaba un Qipao tradicional para el juego. Respetuosamente le dijimos que no estaba bien y ella les dijo a nuestras chicas que éramos estúpidas y que era una apreciación cultural ”.

In response, Carroll said she wants to see more self-awareness and more women of color in higher positions in the Pan-Hellenic community. 

“Above all else, I want the Pan-Hellenic DePaul community to stop depleting people of color from the women in their community for information when they want to appear conscientious,” Caroll said. “Being anti-racist should be one of the main ‘targets’ for girls during recruitment because most girls are actively racist or complacent.” 

Hana Holman, president of the DePaul Panhellenic Council , said an action plan has been created in hopes of combating acts of racism and micro-attacks within the community. 

The action plan that was created for the return of the fall quarter of 2020 includes the addition of a ‘zero tolerance policy,’ the creation of a community incident report form, a required general body meeting on implicit biases and micro assaults, and much more. 

“Our hope in creating the Community Incident Report Form is that our board will be able to recognize these situations as quickly as possible to consider the consequences as needed,” Holman said. 

Holman said the consequences will be to create sanctions that will benefit the chapter rather than punish them. This includes being required to take seminars that address the root of the incident or leadership training sensitivity. 

“We plan to train our recruiters and recruitment counselors and team in micro-assaults in hopes of educating and preparing them for respectful and genuine recruiting,” he said. 

According to Holman, DePaul’s Panhellenic Action Plan responded to both Black Lives Matter and the issues of racism within the Panhellenic community. 

“When our board joined for the first time in January 2020, we knew the race would be one of the topics that we focus í masters , ” Holman said. “The DePaul Panhellenic Council stands in solidarity with our BIPOC sisters and we plan to take time out of each of our executive board meetings to discuss racism in our community and constantly come up with new ways to combat it.”

Although Panhellenic board members are establishing initiatives in response to the racism found within DePaul’s panhellenic community, former guild members like Carroll do not expect change to happen anytime soon. 

“I knew the change would not happen quickly enough to make me comfortable because Panhel is not willing to be uncomfortable making a change, so I just left,” Carroll said. 

“I will always remember the girls who wronged me and who were complacent during this ‘sisterhood’ experience,” Carroll said. “[I know] that unconditional sisterhood is only offered to you when your skin is white and you keep your mouth shut about problems. and imperfections within the system ”.

Update (July 16, 2020): The story has been updated to include a response from DePaul’s Phi Mu.