The women of Zeta Phi Beta have taken the fully reasonable stance of wanting their sorority to remain exactly what it was intended to be when it was founded — a sisterhood for Black college women.
In January, the 99-year-old sorority that originated on the campus of Howard University issued a “diversity statement” blocking transgender women from joining its ranks. It was not interested 99 years ago in having biological men as members and it is not interested in that today. They should not be forced by anyone to abandon their tradition.
This news came to light last week, just a week after news that Morehouse College, the nation’s only all-male historically Black college, will begin enrolling transgender men, those who identify as male but are biologically female, in 2020. Adding to the confusion, the school’s admission policy says all students are expected to self-identify as a man as long as they are enrolled at Morehouse. If a student transitions from a man to a woman, that student will be booted out.
Today, self-assigning one’s sex and having the latitude to reject what is on one’s birth certificate is the new normal. If an opponent so much as questions policies protecting the right to overrule one’s biology, liberals will parade the opposition before weaponized media such as CNN and CBS — each with their own troubling history of discrimination — and label the disagreeable as bigots.
Here’s a suggestion: Since we are playing it wild and loose when it comes to self-identifying sex, why stop there? Why not do the same with race? Why should a person who feels trapped inside the body of Black person who wants to enjoy the benefits of whiteness not be able to reclassify as, say, a transracial Caucasian?
It’s no secret that there are certain drawbacks and stigmas attached to Blackness that are completely undesirable. For example, being able to view the police as good guys protecting and serving rather than through a prism of suspicion is something that most African Americans simply cannot relate to.
Studies show that the average white high school dropout earns more than the average African-American college graduate. Imagine the potential benefits to be reaped — like saving thousands of dollars on student loans that some in society apparently don’t require — by simply being able to declare oneself a transracial Caucasian after dropping out of high school.
As a newly minted transracial Caucasian, a former African American, freed from the multitudinous negative stereotypes much of society grafts to Blacks in employment, the court system and access to education, could experience options never before dreamed of.
This, of course, would never happen. Of all the “isms” that divide our nation, racism remains the one around which a civil and honest national conversation is the hardest to achieve.
Colin Kaepernick tried to initiate one when he protested the shooting of unarmed Black men by police and look how quickly that went down the rabbit hole. My sense is that the same people who didn’t want to have that conversation recognize the benefits of being white in America and are not very interested in sharing them.
If transracial Caucasian status isn’t going to be an option like picking and choosing one’s sex is, Black sororities like Zeta Phi Beta and HBCUs should at least have the option of staying exactly what they were when they were formed. Zeta Phi Beta was founded because white sororities would not admit women of color. Other options did not exist.
And while Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos shockingly stated that HBCUs are the earliest examples of school choice, they exist solely because hundreds of colleges and universities for years barred Blacks from enrolling.
While other marginalized groups continue to benefit from the civil rights movement, those who were denied the right to vote, denied access to higher education, and hanged from trees by the thousands are still wondering when their plight will really be acknowledged. Hell, even former President Barack Obama spoke at least as much or more about LGBTQ issues than he did about race.
I’m sure it’s a burden feeling trapped inside of a body one feels he or she does not belong in. In response to this, society is gradually becoming more accepting of this predicament.
But Black people can’t abandon (not that most of us want to) the scarlet letter of color just because it’s not bringing us access to the things we’d like to have in life.
So how about letting us keep our fraternities, sororities and HBCUs just the way they’ve always been? Seems like a fair trade to me.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. They are not necessarily intended to reflect the views of The Philadelphia Tribune.