University of Alabama's Greek tragedy: A race problem that won't go away


Here’s the good news: The University of Alabama has its first black homecoming candidate from one of the sororities belonging to the traditionally white consortium of sororities and member groups called the National Panhellenic Conference.

The bad news: Her white sorority sisters are actively campaigning against her.

Halle Lindsay’s sorority voted against displaying her homecoming queen banner outside their shared house, according to Amanda Bennett, a senior at the school writing for Bennett said The Machine, a secret organization of historically white sororities and fraternities on campus, is responsible for making things hard for Lindsay. The group, which has a record of alleged racist attacks and has never sponsored a black candidate, allegedly intimidated some of Lindsay’s supporters into abandoning her.

Lindsay was nominated for homecoming court by BLEND, an organization focused on diversifying Greek life which Lindsay helped to form in 2013, when she was one of 14 black women to integrate sororities at the university. Her sorority nominated a white student endorsed by The Machine.

“It is completely unacceptable for any organization to engage in intimidation and coercion in any fashion. We have worked hard to help ensure the integrity of elections held on our campus and will continue to take allegations of improper activities seriously,” a representative of the university said in an email to Fusion.

If only this were the first time the school struggled with diversity.

In August, a UA sorority put out a blithely ignorant recruitment video that overtook the internet with 500,000 views. After an onslaught of negative attention, Alpha Phi took the video down from its website.

The video opens on an all-white crowd of young, nubile women laughing and waving, giving off the air that they do not, never have, and never will care. Over the course of the four-minute video, young women run around fields, dance in fields, and laugh in fields. They wear white dresses that show off their tanned and toned stems. They laugh a lot while they’re frolicking together. The video’s tone skews sexually suggestive in its mostly wholesome rendering of life in Alpha Phi. Sometimes the white girls appear with daisies. In one scene they’re eating fruit pops and blowing kisses at the camera. There’s even a brief nod to The Virgin Suicides.

The segregation of Greek life at the UA harkens back to a profound moment in America’s history. In 1963 Governor of Alabama and virulent segregationist, George Wallace, stood in the doors of the university as a symbol of resistance and intimidation to the two black students entering the school’s doors for the first time.

It’s more insidious and less easy to call it outright racism, but Halle Lindsay is being faced with a white organization that doesn’t want her.

We’ll just have to wait and whether Lindsay will triumph over history.

Correction: A previous version of this piece stated that the National Panhellenic Conference included fraternities. It does not.

Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.

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