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Personal Viewpoint:

"A House Divided Cannot Stand"

by Dwayne C. Dixon

I recently read a troubling article that many of you have no doubt seen by now. I am referring of course, to the article in the August 1993 issue of Ebony Man magazine entitled "Black Greek Fraternities in the 90's: Are they Still Culturally Relevant?"

The article, while presented as a feature story, reads more like an editorial. Actually it reads like a condemnation of the entire Black Greek system. The writer takes great pains to detail and recount unfortunate incidents of violence and hazing that have taken place within the Black-Greek community in the past several years. He makes very little mention of the positive achievements of Black Greek Organizations throughout their nearly 90 year history.

Upon reading this article, I was initially angered, dismayed, and finally reflective. I was struck by the bitter, negative tone of the writer. It was almost as though he had a personal vendetta against the whole concept of fraternities and sororities. Upon discussing the article with several people, some Greek, some non-Greek, I realized the reason for the writer's bitterness - We as Greeks do a very poor job of putting our best foot forward!

As we all know, Black Greek organizations were founded upon some very high ideals and tenets. A review of all the organizations' purposes, goals, and objectives will reveal an intent to develop and uphold that which is the best in all of us. If we each examine our rituals, oaths, and crests, we will find that our organizations give us a "blueprint" on how to live our lives. A wise, old fraternity brother of mine once told me:

"Whenever you reach a crossroads - a decision point in your life, look to the fraternity Shield for guidance. All the answers you seek are right there."

It is my sincere belief that if we all followed our organizations blueprints, the Black Greek system would shine brightly as the example for our people that it was intended to be. Why then, does this not happen? Why do we continue to have so many problems? I submit that the issue is that we are focusing our energies in the wrong places. Consider this: If we take a close look at the ideals and concepts behind all our organizations, we will realize that there is an almost eerie similarity between them.

For example: Each of the Black-Greek organizations speaks of Scholarship as one of it's major ideals. As a matter of fact, in the "Crests" or "Shields" of the organizations, some sort of "light" (Be it a Torch, Lamp, Candle, etc.) is represented in the symbolism of seven out of nine of them!

While I certainly am not privy to the Rituals of each of the organizations, I would be willing to wager that there are other, deeper, similarities. Indeed, the principles of Leadership, Morality, Uplift, and Service are common threads that run throughout our organizations. The point is that we as Black Greeks are much more similar than we are different. We must learn to focus on our similarities and build upon them.

Much of our society is based on competitiveness - We strive to "Cross the finish line first", to "Crush our opponent, to be the "King of the hill", to "Be on the winning team". These concepts are fine, but regarding our organizations, they are sometime taken out of context. We should realize that as Black Greeks, We are all on the same team. When one organization commits an offense, it is not singled out. Instead, the whole system is blamed. How many times have we seen the headline "Several Members of a Black Fraternity were involved in __________ "? (fill in the blank with the unsavory activity of your choice). We must realize that what affects one organization, affects us all!

Along those same lines, consider this; How often do we stop to salute the achievements of our fellow Greek organizations? How often do we think in terms of our "Collective" Fraternalism rather than our individual organizational affiliation? This is crucial because as we all know "A house divided, cannot stand". We must create and nurture a climate of collective support and endeavor. Another of those common concepts that we all strive to uphold is Friendship (or Brotherhood, Sisterhood, etc.). We must realize that this "Friendship" transcends the bonds of our individual organizations and applies to all of mankind.

How then does this relate to the aforementioned magazine article? The answer is a simple one. In order to remain relevant, we must focus on always upholding what we were taught as pledges. We know what it means to be Black Greeks. We know of the expectations and ideals that our founders laid before us. We know the promises we made when we took our oaths of initiation. We must start to "act like we know". As pledges, we were always taught to "look sharp" and "stand tall". The reason that we were given for this was that "we were always in the public eye".

This is no less true now that we are members of our organizations. As members, we are even more significantly in the public eye. We must utilize the teachings and principles of our organizations to set a shining example of the true meaning of Black Greekdom. We must follow our ritualistic blueprints, and support one another whenever possible.

Above all, it is imperative that we govern ourselves in ways that protect and respect the collective legacies of our organizations. Black Greekdom will always be culturally relevant as long as we remember that "A House Divided Cannot Stand".


Dwayne Dixon is the Acting Executive Director of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.Initiated at Alpha Eta Chapter (Southern University), Spring, 1980

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