We often hear about Caucasian people joining Black sororities and fraternities, and even more so the opposite way around. This is an account of what it was like for myself, a White woman, to join a Latin sorority.
We, the members of, Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, Incorporated®, aware of the prejudices and obstacles facing the minority women of our communities, dedicate ourselves to improving these conditions and to working towards the betterment of all women. We have unified ourselves through the sisterhood of Corazones Unidos Siempre and by our Founders’ ideals of open communication and community service, as well as the development of political, educational, cultural and social awareness. We devote ourselves to this challenge, to be achieved through hard work, patience and the collective effort to educate, as is exemplified in our motto, ‘Wisdom Through Education’.
I am a CUSSIE. A Woman of Wisdom. I am a White woman, and I have never felt so apart of something bigger than myself in my whole life. I am apart of something sisterly, wholesome, morally just, inclusive, diverse, and something that seeks to change the world around us.
I found myself being interested in something that was way more than just being labeled as a “Spanish sorority”. When I joined Chi Upsilon Sigma (CUS) in 2014, I didn’t necessarily know what I was in for under the realm of public perception. I’m not the first White person to join a Latinx organization, nor will I be the last. But I found myself surrounded in a community of people who would give a double-take, give stares, label me as “the white girl”, or sometimes be hesitant to approach me because I was different. None of these reactions were uncommon, and it was something I got used to as time went on. I got this reaction from both the Latinx and the White community- the White community confused why I’d join it, and the Latinx community hesitant for having someone that was different than the norm. I had one person even go as far as saying that I only joined because I wanted to be more Dominican…what?
CUS was founded as a Latina organization, but has so much more grounded in it’s roots. We stand on the pillars of academic excellence, engagement in the community, serving and educating those around us, and in helping to strengthen the bonds of sisterhood for our members. These are things that all women can abide by and stand upon- not just one particular race. I found that not many mainstream sororities keep these pillars as their focus. Perhaps, one could suggest that the “social” emphasis in “social sorority”, is what the typical mainstream sorority can usually offer.
With this in mind, the workings behind a White sorority and a Latin sorority can at times be rather different in tradition and in practice. Matters of gaining new members, is just one example of this. Olivias (1996) states:
The cultural practice of rush has served to unite white women as unique
individuals within a broader segregated community (the Greek system), which in itself constitutes groups of women who tend to be relatively homogeneous (p. 8).
CUS has allowed me to immerse myself; learn different cultures, understand and seek to accept different opinions, ideologies, religions, backgrounds, and so much more. My education has given me the tools and resources to understand how to be diverse and inclusive, and to help society gain a similar mindset too. CUS was able to be the catalyst for me to do this. Learning how to be diverse and inclusive doesn’t just fall under the realm of the Latinx population, in this case. In a 1996 study, research found that Latinx organizations typically
…see themselves as “different” than White sororities in that they do not believe
themselves to be elitist, or exclusionary as many traditional White sororities have been stereotyped and confirmed by research to be (Olivias, p. 20, 1996).
The minute I sought interest, I was never given judgement from any of my sisters. I was accepted in like I was one of their own. Race, economic status, demographics, religion, and sexual orientation didn’t have anything to do with sisterhood, and I found that to be true within the sisterhood of CUS. Being given an opportunity to join up with Latina women to help fight societal injustices, help our youth gain the resources to gain a quality education and tertiary education were all things that I felt were useful in being a part of.
Olivias (1996) states:
Being part of [this] sorority provides its members with a sense of belonging and
protects them from an environment, and possibly value systems, that may be viewed as hostile and/or contradictory to their cultural gendered norms. The sorority is like a sanctuary, and a place where self-respect fosters a sense of family and safety…(p.30).
Look, the bottom line is that I joined CUS for myself, it was a right fit for me. CUS provided me with all of the traits stated above. It turns out that we are women of many differences, but the unity of CUS is what will always bring us together.
Being part of something that isn’t necessarily what society tells you to do can be a right fit for others too if they are willing to give it a chance. I do hope, however, that I can help to break barriers for more understanding, intercultural engagement, unity, and to serve a bigger purpose than just for myself. I’ve seen the benefits. I’ve seen the change in myself, and in others. I dare other women to try to break out of cultural norms and stigmas, and to take a risk. The best things in life are worth the risk, and not everything worth having in life can be rushed.
For those looking into, or interested in Greek life, I ask that you do your research, the perfect one may be out there for you, especially when you least expect it.
For more information on Chi Upsilon Sigma, National Latin Sorority, Inc. , please go here.
Olivas, M. R. (1996). Latina Sororities and Higher Education: The Ties that Bind. Montreal, QC: Educational Resources Information Center. doi:http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED407194.pdf