The Bigoted Undertones of Bama Rush

The+Bigoted+Undertones+of+Bama+Rush

Arielle Biran, Opinions Editor

In early August, TikTok was flooded with tens of thousands of videos documenting the sorority recruitment process at the University of Alabama — more commonly referred to as “Bama Rush.” Boasting the largest Greek Life community in the country with over 11,000 active students, the University of Alabama’s rush process is no simple endeavor, stretching two weeks from Convocation to Bid Day. The niche intricacy of this process is what has piqued the interest of so many viewers worldwide, transforming an unsung Southern custom into a global online phenomenon.

 

Yet, when scrolling through the videos on TikTok displayed under #BamaRush (which have collectively garnered a whopping two billion views), one can’t help but to notice the uncanny resemblance shared by the vast majority of potential new members. These young women’s similarities extend beyond just uniform Alabama Panhellenic Association t-shirts; most boast nearly identical fresh spray tans and delicately curled bleach blonde hair. If the former description wasn’t glaring enough, allow me to be blunt: they are overwhelmingly white

 

The numbers speak for themselves. 89% of those who participated in Panhellenic recruitment in 2021 were White, a statistic barely distinguishable from the 85% of the University of Alabama’s student body who also identify as White. By stark contrast, almost 12% of the undergraduate population self-identify as Black, a figure nine times higher than the 1.3% of potential new Association members of the same race.

 

This gross disparity showcases Black women’s clear discomfort with the University of Alabama’s Panhellenic Association, a feeling which is completely justified, considering that the school’s sororities were only desegregated in 2013. This racism doesn’t seem to have tapered over the last decade, as demonstrated by the devastatingly common incidents in which sorority girls have been exposed for spewing slurs or proclaiming their pride at their chapter’s prejudice.

 

Further, such Panhellenic racism doesn’t always manifest itself so overtly. One star of last year’s rush, Makayla Culpepper, gained her tremendous TikTok following not only from her energetic Outfit of the Day videos, but from being one of the only Black women rushing. As fans were sure that Ms. Culpepper would run home to a top sorority on Bid Day, they were shocked upon learning that she had been dropped from the process entirely.

 

Panhellenic officials have attributed Ms. Culpepper’s untimely departure from the recruitment process to a video in which she appears to be drunk. However, Ms. Culpepper has clarified that she was not intoxicated in the six-second clip, which she says was filmed in the bathroom of a restaurant, not a bar. Moreover, underage drinking is the norm at many of the events hosted by these sororities; it seems that citing Ms. Culpepper’s potential inebriation as the reason for her recruitment eviction is a mere facade for the university’s bigotry.

 

Unfortunately, bigotry comes in many forms, and the University of Alabama’s recruitment process has been labeled as transphobic in addition to racist, with the treatment of potential new member Grant Sikes serving as prime evidence. Ms. Sikes, a non-binary person,  took to social media to reveal that she was dropped by all but two of the University of Alabama’s twenty sororities before recruitment had even begun, and from the remaining two houses during primary recruitment. An ejection so early in the recruitment process is practically unheard of.

 

The intolerance that afflicts the recruitment process is not limited solely to the University of Alabama — it seems to taint White sororities at schools all across the country. Sororities like Delta Gamma, which has used Confederate imagery and constitutionally excluded non-White or Christian members, publicly condemn their prejudicial pasts, but little betterment is occurring behind-the-scenes.

 

With calls for the abolition of Greek Life sweeping the nation, one must call into question whether the pervasive prejudice implicit in the system is really reformable. After all, how does one foster inclusivity in an institution built to be exclusive?