Gang or Greek?: BSU Greeks Discuss The Similarities And Differences
By Kira Ward
At universities all over the U.S., Greek organizations have become a prevalent part of the college experience. Many of these organizations share the same ideals, platforms, and beliefs as well as do things that are customary to any school organization. There are many reasons why students feel compelled to join a Greek organization and among them are campus involvement, networking, and sisterhood/brotherhood.
In theory, all of these reasons are acceptable reasons to join but at some point the image of Greek organizations shifts and becomes somewhat intimidating to those on the outside looking in. In addition to the fact that many join simply to increase their popularity, the various requirements for membership and the way they are represented on campus can become extremely negative.
A gang is defined as, a group of people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of assemblage, share a common identity. Within this definition it is not difficult to understand why Greek organizations have commonly been labeled as "educated gangs," especially within the Divine Nine Greek Organizations.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. along with other Greeks on Bowie State's campus, felt it necessary to touch on this issue by having a forum open to students, to deplore the myth and discuss the issue in depth. The panel consisted of members of Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Sigma Gamma Rho as well as non-Greek students. The forum discussed the general similarities and differences between gangs and Greeks and how they all started with similar views in building a strong black community, but ended up going opposite ways.
Professor Raymond Shorter, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, spoke about hazing and how it is closely related to gang initiation. The issue of hazing is a serious one that has intimidated and even scared those interested in joining an organization. Early depictions of hazing such as those in School Daze, make people blind to the difference between gangs and fraternities/sororities. In more recent years it has become even more of a serious issue due to the publicity of deaths and serious injuries during many organizations intake processes. Most argue that the concept of hazing has gone to far and that it needs to fail to exist, causing conflict between those that feel like it is apart of a bonding experience for the members, and essential to prove commitment to the organization.
The concept of "reppin," is one of the most prevalent similarities between the two in the opinion of most non-Greek students. Examples of this are the plots, pieces of the campus that are designated to Greek organizations where outsiders are not allowed to go unless invited, the wearing of certain colors, and the throwing up of hand signs. The panel also discussed the secrecy between the members of Greek organizations very similar to that of gangs but how it differs in that with gangs it is usually crime related, where as with Greek organizations the purpose of secrecy is to retain sacred rituals and information.
Greek organizations historically have always upheld a positive image of brotherhood/sister, community service, and racial pride which to most should be reason enough to separate them from gangs who for the most part, have always had negative connotation.