When I asked, "What about Soror Rose McKinney, who was the focus of my tweets and how she spoke to me over the phone?" Cynthia didn't bother to answer my question, she kept the focus on my behavior and replied, "There were some past national presidents that were livid. It was the vulgarity of it all."
She sent a message to me loud and clear, how I was treated in private by another sorority sister did not carry the weight of my public response to her treatment. Respectability was more important than hurt feelings. It reminded me of a deeply rooted philosophy in the African-American community "Black folks don't air our dirty laundry in public." The women on Sorority Sisters not only aired their dirty laundry, they broke all the written and unwritten rules of protocol. With decorum at the top of the list, that is, how you act in public reflects the entire sisterhood.
|At Delta National Convention|
As a black woman, it was one of the highest honors you could receive from women of your own race. In all four of the black sororities, the list of honorary members reads like a who's who in black America. To be included amongst such distinction, because of the work that I had done and continue to do, and then excluded over my behavior, hurt as deeply as the love I felt being inducted into the sisterhood.
I will recap quickly, but you can watch the video. Rose McKinney the executive director called and asked me to take pictures off my website that had been up for 3 years, of me and other honorary members wearing our ceremonial robs. Our robes are not private, but the national office reserves the right to publish. I agreed right away to take them down. Rose asked me when, I told her that I just gotten off a airplane to go speak and didn't have my computer with me. I promised to take them down as soon as I could. She however, continued to push me on that point. And when I couldn't give her an exact time she then started hollering at me to take them down NOW. I hung up on her. I was not going to allow her to disrespect me when I had been nothing but respectful to her. And she then called me back to back to back and when I didn't answer, she then texted and told me again to take the pictures down, of which I had already agreed. I was so hurt by this lack of respect and her badgering me like I was a child. I vented on Twitter.
So I just hung up the telephone on the National Executive Director of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Nobody disrespects me!!
She was talking to me like I was a bitch on the street and not an honorary member, WOW
She would have NEVER talked to Ruby Dee this way. I guess I'm not big enough as a honorary member.
When I was asked into Delta I thought it was the best thing ever. But in recent yrs. I hv gotten treated with so much disrespect from national.
My feelings are so hurt. Sisterhood shouldn't hurt!!! #DST she really was talkin to me like I was 5 yrs. old.
I then tweeted, after I received tons of tweets and private messages from soror's that I shouldn't be talking about this matter publicly.
Don't NO One else DM me about what's appropriate or not appropriate for me Tweet about Delta. I do what the fuck I want to
I'm a grown ass woman and NO one is paying my bills but me. Where were you last wk when I was sick with $10.38 in the bank.
In our conversation that night, I felt like I was being admonished, so the last thing I asked Cynthia, "Soror, am I being put out of Delta over this?" She said, "No one is putting you out of Delta," with a chuckle. "I'm going to ask that you don't tweet about it anyone or talk about it in public." I complied with her request.
Fourteen months later, I received a called from Cynthia informing me that my membership had been rescind because of my tweets. Later that day I made a video explaining that my membership had been rescinded. Once it went viral, all hell broke loose. To date, there have been over 84,000 views and people still have an opinion, one way or the other. In the following two years, if I even mention my relationship with Delta on Social Media, I am "put in my place" by Delta's quickly. They still feel me being vocal bout my personal experience is talking about Delta business.
Delta's who I thought were friends, unfollowed me on Twitter and stopped talking to me altogether. The national leadership totally cut me off as if I were dead. I felt isolated and thrown anyway.
Ironically, Shanna McCormick, one of the Delta's on the VH1 show Sorority Sisters, who I was friends with prior to her becoming a Delta attacked me on Twitter. Our history goes back to when she was the chair of Keep A Child Alive on her college campus, I was a featured speaker. After that, she and I remained friends. While she was pledging Delta, she looked to me for encouragement, which I gladly gave.
The night Sorority Sisters aired #BlackTwitter had a lot to say. Members of the Divine Nine (black sorority's and fraternities) had even more to say. The verdict, Sorority Sister's is both an embarrassment and misrepresentation of black sorority life.
I saw the Divine Nine at it's best that night. Before the show had ended, they had tweeted the names of all the sponsors of Sorority Sisters and went to work. By the next day, Honda, Carmex, SelmaMovie, Coco Cola, Crayola, and JBL had withdrawn their sponsorship from the show. I commend them for their activism. It shows what African-Americans can do when we come together around an issue.
Many high profile people in the Divine Nine have spoken against Sorority Sisters. Interestingly, K. Michelle a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, also a cast member of Love and Hip Hop another reality show on VH1 expressed her outrage over Sorority Sisters. She argues, when you represent your organization, there is a standard of behavior. This is true, women are screened by this standard prior to acceptance, as well as, their service to the community. While K. Michelle wants to compartmentalize, Love and Hip Hop is no better than Sorority Sisters, but no one will dare say it because she has taken the respectability position when it comes to the sorority.
The fact of the matter, there is code that all Delta's should live by while wearing or not wearing their symbols. Looking back, I often wonder why they asked me to be a member knowing my reputation of candor and transparency. While I met the criteria as an honorary member in all aspects of my life, I do curse like a sailor publicly thereby breaking a code of decorum. And then I ask, why did Delta allow me to speak at Delta events talking shit to college students and women alike breaking that same code? What benefit did Delta have with their association with me and when did I become collateral damage that needed to be dealt with?
Yes, Respectability Politics among African-Americans, extends beyond sorority life. It is a way of life informed by the belief that African-Americans already have to work twice as hard to get where we want to be, we don't need any more strikes against us. This means we are to never give White America a reason to think less of us. This has been the main critique against some of these reality shows that feature African-Americans; black people are acting like fools for the whole world to see.
Just last week Delta Sigma Theta Sorority asked it's members to not wear paraphernalia while protesting. Ironically, protesting in the woman's suffrage march in Washington, D. C. was one of the first acts of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1913. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority also asked its member to not display sorority symbols in protest, but rescinded after Zeta Phi Beta Sorority encouraged their members to be proud Zeta's, while protesting for justice.
The Politics of Respectability dates back to Post Reconstruction. This paradigm influenced the standard of the nine black fraternities and sororities in this country. Especially the sororities. After slavery, black people spent a lot of time trying to prove to white America that they were not only equals to them, but they could also be good Americans. How blacks dressed to how they worshiped was scrutinized by other blacks. Historian Tera W. Hunter outlines that very point in her book , To Joy My Freedom, a study on black washer women in Atlanta in 1896 during the Atlanta Exposition.
While Respectability Politics has flourished among the black middle and upper class, it has not been accepted by all blacks, both then and now. Trying to be better white people was unappealing to some. Many in the late 19th and early 20th century held onto black culture through worship and how they dressed. Harvard Professor, Evelyn Higginbotham argues in her book on Black Baptist women, Righteous Discontent, that Respectability Politics created tension among middle class and poor blacks in the late 1800's. In recent times, there was some backlash when Bill Cosby wrote his respectability book, Come On People. Nikki Giovanni also an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta articulates Respectability Politics about Cosby best. You can watch HERE
I out line these issues in my book, The Politics of Respectability which addresses Respectability Politics in my own life from my mother to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. By the first generation of college educated blacks in the late 1800's, uplift through education and morality was a prominent theme among African-Americans. Black middle class church women led the Respectability movement. Mary Church Terrell the president of the National Association of Colored Women and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority articulates respectability this way, "I must not neglect to mention another duty which the association owes the race...The duty of setting a high moral standard and living up to it develops us in a particular way. " Respectability Politics seems to have a permanent pace in black America 134 years later.
Non greeks are asking why didn't black greeks lead the protest against other reality shows they portray black people negatively? Did it only matter because black sororities were the target? Do you only care how black elites are portrayed or do we all matter? Will you now extend the boycott of sponsors and Mona Scott Young to the other shows on VH1 that degrade black people?
I'm sure that Sorority Sisters would have met our approval had there had been no vulgarity; if no one had called another a bitch? Or if the women had acted like grown women, instead of the college rivalry we do see among theses four sororities on college campuses. Yet at the same time, I think it's easy to boycott the bad, but do we really support the good? I remember a reality show on BET called Harlem Heights. It was a wonderful show following the lives of four black millennia's, one of them was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. The show was canceled after the first season. I wonder what would have happened if all of her soror's would have tuned in. I know that I supported her. Or, at the other end, if the cast would have acted like the casts on other reality shows would it still be airing?
I think we must also ask questions such as, who are these women on the show? Aren't they a part of the Divine Nine? Aren't they sorority sisters? Delta Sigma Theta had five women on the show and the other sororities Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta had one each. Others are supposed to be added as the season goes. Don't we all matter in the same way?
Do we punish them for airing their dirty laundry in pubic while doing it in the name of their individual sororities, like I was punished for airing the sororities dirty laundry in public or do we try to understand who they are?
If this is true, is shame actually driving the protest. Is shame the elephant in the room that makes us uncomfortable with women being who they are, instead of who they out to be? Well, the cat is out of the bag, you can pretend all day long, but there are "common" ordinary women in black sororities? I argue in my book that we are all shaped by our social location. One that is established long before we enter into sisterhood. I know that I was. My mother cursed like a sailor, and her habit became my habit and 27 years of education didn't altar that behavior one bit. Who we are should be enough.
While I saw the chaos and disrespect of each other on Sorority Sisters, I also saw a single mother, struggling to get on her feet so that her daughter could come live with her; a women who achieved a personal goal of 70 pound weight lost, two entrepreneurs, a woman following a dream to be a dancer and another a professional photographer. I wonder if anyone else saw that, or were they blinded by the vulgarity of it all? Truth be told, these women are us and I will bet that there are some black women who can relate to each of them.
What really struck me was the tears of two women. I heard one say that things are so bad for her, that most day's she's trying to figure out where her next meal is coming from. I sure understand that. For real, for real. Another woman is dealing with issues of self-esteem, having grown up in a home where the expectation for her was to be nothing and do nothing. I know what thats like; having low self worth and over compensating to get approval. Our social location informs our behavior and our decisions.
|At a Delta Convention with other honorary members|
Honestly, I found Sorority Sister's like most reality shows, it was entertaining in the way reality shows are made of, lots of drama. The show received 1.3 million views. Vh1 says it was the number one non-sport show among women in that time slot. People watched the dog and pony show and tons of people are waiting on next week, I can bet my life on it.
|The day I was inducted into Delta!|
These values are embedded in each member, including the women on Sorority Sisters. So what went all wrong? Basically, people are who they are. There are women who would have never considered to do this show, and then there are those who did. The fact of the matter, while our sororities reach for conformity, we are not a monolithic people, we come in all shapes and sizes. physically, emotionally and mentally, Sorority Sisters only verified that fact.
I wonder then if the "commonness" of these women on the show is the real issue? Or maybe, the problem is, being "common" and showing that you are "common" for the world to see are two very different things.
At the end of the day, Mona Scott Young had an idea for a show. These are the women that were chosen and each of them belong to the Divine Nine, just like I once did. I continue to go back to this quote that I put in my book from Delta Sigma Theta's past national president Lillian P. Benbow-1971-1975. I think it speaks volumes.
"When I look at you, I see myself. If my eyes are unable to see you my sister, it is because my own vision is blurred. And if that be so, then it is I who need you either because I do not understand who you are, my sister, or because I need you to help me understand who I am."
|The day I was kicked out of Delta!|