Let’s talk about Burning Sands. Yes, yes, I know. “It’s so fake, Marcus!” “How dare they expose our secrets!” “Is nothing sacred?” “When they gone make a movie that shows us in a good light?” It’s the same type of criticisms we all heard (and many of ya’ll repeated) when Sorority Sisters was on the air. We’re so bothered by the fact that a movie dare show what we don’t want others to know we act like behind closed doors that we miss the very, very, VERY real message that is in a movie like this: we are KILLING each other ya’ll and that gotta stop.
You still there? You ain't cussed me out and closed the window yet? Good, cuz I got more. So let’s be real for a second. How many of us share and swap stories about how bad we had it on line? How tough our prophytes were on us and how we had to be the truth to make it through? And how we then turned around and passed that same ass-beating on to the folks after us? All of us right? Tell the truth. Hell, I know I do/have done it. If we don’t outright say it we’ll share subliminal posts or “insider” pictures that allude to stuff that happened to us during our processes. Here’s the thing: nobody is stupid. Even the most unaware non-Greek can tell what we’re alluding to with these posts and stories, so why are we so upset when that shows up in a movie? That’s like bragging about how much weed you sell and smoke all the time and getting mad when somebody calls you a junkie; that’s stupid. If we honestly and truly wanted to keep our “secrets” under wraps we wouldn’t brag about them every chance we got. Plus, that is a whole lie about this movie revealing secrets; ya’ll need to cut it. No rituals or any even the movie’s fake org secrets were revealed. Beating ass aint no secret (no matter how much we say "non-hazing organization" so it aint show anything we don't talk about almost on a daily.
And honestly, what the movie did show is something that NEEDS to be talked about. The movie showed hazing at its most brutal and nonsensical. These niggas didn’t know each other’s real names until almost the end of the movie, so you can’t say it was for brotherhood. Their prophytes barely stood at a table handing out flyers so they can’t say that they were good people outside of the process. We only heard glimpses of history so we can’t even say it was for educational purposes: this was just niggas beating ass because they could. A LOT OF PEOPLE DO THAT. Yes, you, you, and even you. A lot of us in these orgs forget what the process was originally built for and just go off a power trip of trying to “make men” that we bring ourselves dangerously close to the climax of the film in real life. So many of us say “that wasn’t my process!” which may (or may not, you have to be honest with yourself) be true, but I guarantee you that was somebody’s process. And isn’t the fact that that happens at all a problem? We can point the finger and say “Not me!” all day long, but is that doing anything about the person who is over here with fractured ribs damn near dead? Nope. Pushing the blame aint doing anything about the issue, just covering it up. In fact, we sound like the good meaning white people who claim they don’t see color but won’t say anything to their racist ass grandparents and aunts/uncles. You gotta call this shit out or end up looking like that blind artist from Get Out (if you don’t get that reference…what are you doing?! Go watch that movie!)
Now, I’m not gonna pretend like we can just all touch and agree that hazing is going to stop tomorrow. I am smart enough to know how deeply ingrained it is into Greek culture. Notice I didn’t say Black Greek culture. ALL Greeks haze, yep even the white ones. In fact, that’s something that needs to be addressed. Search “white Greek hazing” on Google. All that pops up at first is Black Greeks. Don’t believe me? Look. We are demonized for something that anyone who belongs to a social or service organization (even the military and professional sports) does. That’s an issue. That needs to be called out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about our own role in hazing too. Just because other people are acting up doesn't mean we need to get away with it too, see Nate Parker and rape charges. For us particularly, hazing is wrapped up in a bunch of toxic ideas that make it seem like it is an unavoidable part of joining an org. Think back to that scene where Square (the Ace whose name we find out later is Earnest. Ironic right?) tells Zurich (the main character) why he’s pledging. He wants respect. He wants to be popular. He wants to be seen as a “real man”. If any Greek person tells you that that was not at least part of the reason why they pledged they are lying. We have such fucked up notions about respect, hard work, and masculinity that it makes it nearly impossible to fathom having clout as a Greek without a few battle scars. Women do it too, and for Black women that can tie back to the whole “strong Black woman” archetype and “handling your business like a woman”. Let’s not even dig into the intersections of sexuality, class, ethnicity, and popularity that affect wanting to be made. The point here is that this shit goes DEEP, and we as much as many of us want to say to Greeks “Eradicate hazing! Just stop it!” it simply aint that easy. There is an entire culture that has to be interrogated, and I think when Greeks tell non-Greeks to not talk about stuff they don’t understand this is what they mean: the culture breeds the “need” for hazing.
And it is for the culture that we MUST have this conversation. Ya’ll, what happened in Burning Sands is way more common than we want to admit. Folks get serious injuries, PTSD, and even die because we keep trying to sweep stuff under the rug. Everybody wants to ask “Well why aren’t they showing our good parts?”; that’s because we won’t shut up about that time we handed out pamphlets in the caf or that sleep out for the homeless but won’t part our lips to discuss why Jerome doesn’t eat hot pockets anymore or why Sharika can’t squat all the way. It's like police officers being mad because no one talks about "good cops": if they (we) were so good why didn't they (we) call out the bad ones? We HAVE to have this conversation. We HAVE to talk about ways to make this Greek shit better, and we HAVE to stop being so damn afraid of people critiquing us. We aint perfect, we aint untouchable, and we aint the saviors of our race. Stop acting like that and try to be better. I for one am VERY glad that Gerard McCurray was bold enough to force us to have these conversations, because if you’re unwilling to talk forreal about what this movie discusses, then I have to wonder how much you really care about the culture and Greekdom. And not caring about the future of the org is what REALLY makes you cat, regardless of how much you can relate to the ass-beating or having crossed the Burning Sands.
What did you think of the movie Burning Sands? What do we think about the fact that hazing (and often brutal senseless hazing) is so often a part of our processes? Be sure to leave your questions, comments, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!