Navigating Spaces: Being a Minority in a Sorority | The American Word

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Navigating Spaces: Being a Minority in a Sorority

Anonymous | 12/7/15 7:00pm
| Updated 12/7/15 7:02pm

Jaclyn Merica /
American Word Magazine

I am in a sorority. Could you guess by just looking at me? Probably not.

I am not Caucasian and am nowhere near a size two.

“Oh, I never would’ve thought you were in a sorority…”

“You don’t look like a [sorority name].”

“But you are so different?!”

These are all common things I hear when people find out I am in a social sorority. From my appearance to my sarcastic sense of humor, apparently I do not fit the stereotypical image of someone in a sorority.

Going through recruitment was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. Even having friends in Greek life didn’t comfort me, especially when all I could think of was how different I was from them. It felt like a closed space to me, one I didn’t know if I could navigate.

My first conversations with sisters from the sorority did not help. Many asked the same questions I was used to hearing whenever I meet someone for the first time: “Oh, where are you from? No, where are you REALLY from? That is such a pretty name, is it foreign? Oh, our sister [insert name] just studied abroad in [insert country]. You must go there all the time.”

Questions asked in curiosity resulted in me feeling like an outsider. It was like my ethnicity created a barrier between the women I was talking to and myself, and as quickly as the questions were asked, I lost interest in the conversations. However, this changed as the conversations continued, and the discussions turned more personal.

I still remember the exact conversations I had with some girls that changed my mind about Greek life and made me accept my bid to a sorority. Each one asked me my name, where I was from, but then asked me about how my day was going. At the time, I was so tired and honestly stated it. You would think it would create an awkward moment in the conversation or even end it, but instead one of the girls gave a sigh of relief and said, “Me too.” After that we talked about everything from doing band in high school, watching reality shows, and growing up in the same state. My conversation with each person was not the same, and not all of them were easy, but I came out of it connecting with a lot of the sisters in the sorority. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to hang out with them again, and so I accepted my bid.

It sounds cliche, but being in a sorority means you are each other’s support system. You are not all best friends, but you try to help each other become the best versions of yourselves. You can fight and disagree with each other, but there are more times where you aid and spend time together. Some of the funniest and most memorable moments in my college experience have happened with my sisters by my side. Now that doesn’t mean they are all angels and saints. Sometimes there are things that people are ignorant of — from comments that are offensive to people of my race, to emphasizing their privilege through their storytelling. Seemingly simple phrases, gestures or statements can turn into microaggressions. From trying to change my name to an English one because it is easier, or saying I speak English well when I was born and brought up in the U.S. They never do it maliciously, and I usually go out of my way to make it known when they may say something offensive (but that is just me).