How Sorority Women Are Using Their Platform To Support The Black Lives Matter Movement

When I saw Clare McKeone’s Instagram post, I immediately knew that I wanted to interview her. Clare made the difficult decision to disaffiliate from her sorority to promote diversity and inclusion. I’m sure that just as many, I love what she is doing to stand in solidarity with sisters of color. I sat down with her over video chat to hear more about what she is doing.

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What college do you go to? What sorority are you in?

Clare: I go to SUNY Geneseo, and I am the chapter’s president for Sigma Delta Tau. I started the position in January and it lasted for a year. I joined the sorority as a freshman.

Q: What are your philanthropies?

Clare: Our main two national philanthropies are Protect Child Abuse America and Jewish Women International. The sorority was originally founded by Jewish women who could not find a place in other sororities but is no longer a Jewish-only sorority. The chapter also has various local philanthropies too.

Q: What made you want to join a sorority?

Clare: I didn’t have a lot of friends during my first semester of college. I wanted to make friends and find my place. It was kind of my last attempt at fitting in before I would have to move back home.

Q: Did you notice a lack of diversity and inclusion in your sorority right away? Or was this something you noticed in light of the recent protests? (If you noticed before, what made you want to stand up now?)

Clare: My chapter is majority white and white-passing, and I noticed this pretty much right away. However, I didn’t really recognize that this was a bad thing. Our Vice President of Recruitment actually reached out to me about the lack of response from the sorority as a whole on the national level. She is very vocal about it and knowledgeable about the issues.

Q: What would you say to someone who thinks sororities should just be for social gatherings? Why is it important to pay attention to social issues within a sorority?

Clare: I can use my platform and work with my sisters to work for a good cause. Yes, we go to parties and we have fun. But this also allows me to bring about 100 women together for one cause. I think that if you have a platform, you have a responsibility to use it for good.

Q: What made you decide to disaffiliate yourself, and how do you think this will promote change? 

Clare: Nationals actually already responded to us with an email basically saying “we will do better.” They created a new diversity and inclusion equity committee. They included some resources. However, my opinion and the opinion of other girls in my chapter that I have talked to is that it’s not enough. It’s just a lot of promises. Will this be all talk or will there be action? It is hard to tell right now with coronavirus still going on, but we will see once restrictions start being lifted.

Q: What advice would you give to people who are white and want to help, but aren’t sure how?

Clare: At first, I was also apprehensive to speak about this issue because I am white. I have to be able to stand in solidarity with people who are black even though I will never know their exact experiences. As the majority group, you have to be as outraged as the people being marginalized. If we don’t speak up, there will never be change. Just always remember that the voices of black people are the ones we are trying to project.

At this point, Val Chavez joined our video chat to share some of her thoughts.

Q: What is your position in the sorority?

Clare: I am the Vice President of Recruitment for next semester. Hoping to be back on campus next semester so my job isn’t too difficult.

Q: Do you have any advice for sororities across the country?

Clare: A lot of universities with Greek Life are majority white. Unless it is an all-black organization, there is not a lot of room for people who are black to be included. Greek Life should focus on how they can reach out to people of color. There is a stigma behind sororities that they are only for white women. Our sorority was started by Jewish women who felt oppressed. Change throughout the whole campus can start within Greek Life.

Q: How can you create a safe space and let women of color know that they are welcome?

Clare: We are creating a workshop to educate current sisters. We are still planning and figuring it out. Talk to multicultural clubs and friends who are black. Ask them why they chose not to go through recruitment. Ask them how you can improve and do things differently.

Q: Anything that either of you would like to add?

Clare: E-board met over FaceTime, and we are not gonna wait around for nationals. We want to make changes starting within our own chapter. We are reconfiguring our social awareness chair and rewriting responsibilities for the position to be more proactive than reactive. We are adding speakers and events to the schedule.

Val: It has impacted more people in our sorority than we thought it would. Always educate yourself first, then reach out to the public. If you don’t know, you can’t teach.

Q: What would you say to people who think they don’t have a platform?

Clare: Everyone has the obligation to have difficult conversations. You can still donate and sign petitions and go to rallies. You can still talk to friends and family about the issues.

Val: Some people might be scared because they don’t think they know enough about the issues. Even though you don’t think you do, everyone has a platform. If you are afraid of saying something wrong, you can still donate. As long as you have good intentions – even if you misspeak or say something wrong – someone will be there to correct you so you know what not to do in the future.

Clare: If everyone is too afraid to speak up, then nothing will ever change. I would rather speak up and have someone correct me than stay quiet and have everything stay the same.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


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