Starting in the early twentieth century and still thriving in the contemporary era, Black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) provide social support, networking opportunities, and service for the Black community. Although BGLOs have always been majority-Black organizations, there are small numbers of non-Black individuals who choose to pledge their membership. Diversity in Black Greek-Letter Organizations: Breaking the Line explores the experiences of these non-Black members who have immersed themselves in organizations rich with Black history and culture. Through in-depth interviews with thirty-four such members, Wendy Marie Laybourn and Devon R. Goss reveal how and why these individuals come to identify with organizations designed for the uplift of races other than their own. For non-Black BGLO members, the association with a Black organization provides them the opportunity to consider the meaning of racial inequality and their own racial identities. Although many non-Black BGLO members recount challenges to their membership, the participants in Diversity in Black Greek-Letter Organizations ultimately find a sense of belonging with their Black brothers and sisters, which Laybourn and Goss argue can provide an example of the challenges and promises of cross-racial interactions as a whole.
Table of Contents
Introduction: "Why Would You Do That?": Non-Black Members of Black Fraternities and Sororities
Chapter One: Brotherhood and Sisterhood: What Are Black Greek-Letter Organizations?
Chapter Two: "I’m Not Trying to Be You": Identity and Boundary Work
Chapter Three: On the Yard: Race on the College Campus
Chapter Four: Branded for Life: The Impact of Membership
Chapter Five (Conclusion): "I’m Not the First, and I Won’t Be the Last": Crossing the Line, Connecting the Past and Present
Wendy M. Laybourn is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on the relationship between racial ideology, especially as evidenced through popular culture and raced institutions, and racial and ethnic identity. Wendy’s work has appeared in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Sociology Compass, and the Asian Pacific American Law Journal.
Devon R. Goss is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Connecticut. Her research examines, first, the color-line, particularly in relation to instances of boundary crossing in typically racialized institutions; and second, the impact of racialization in family formation and processes, through an examination of transracial adoption. Devon’s work has appeared in The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science, Sociology Compass, the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, and Symbolic Interaction.
Analyzing interview data from non-Black members of Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO), Laybourn and Goss reveal that there remains much to be learned about integration and crossing the color-line. In this remarkable study, the authors examine what non-Black BGLO members can tell us about race, symbolic boundaries, cultural investments, systems of racial stratification, and allyship. Breaking the Line is an accessible, nuanced, and important piece of scholarship.
Robin R. Means Coleman is Professor of Communication and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan
More than sixty years ago, noted sociologist Alfred McClung Lee published his seminal work on discrimination within collegiate fraternities. In that time, an important question has resounded: How is difference within Greek-letter organizations navigated? In their book, two up-and-coming sociologists--Wendy Laybourn and Devon Goss--answer this pressing question with aplomb and perspicacity. Their work promises to take the study of collegiate fraternities and sororities, and black Greek-letter organizations especially, to new heights.
Gregory S. Parks, J.D., Ph.D. is Associate Dean of Research, Public Engagement, & Faculty Development and Professor of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law