Stop Being Mad At Burning Sands’ Depiction Of Black Greeks And Wake Up
As a member of a Black Greek Letter Organization, when I heard all the chatter about the Netflix original movie Burning Sands, I was nervous about how the organizations would be represented, yet intrigued. Even though every organization under the National Panhellenic Council is legally prohibited from hazing, the general public is always curious about whether sororities and fraternities truly adhere to this rule. The flick has not only put this question to rest, but it has given people reason to doubt joining a sorority or fraternity.
While watching director Gerard McMurray’s visual, there were a few SMH moments, especially watching how men in Black fraternities were portrayed. The members of Lambda Lambda Phi who were no longer in undergrad were shown to have compassion and great careers. The Lambda men on campus were animalistic, relentless, misogynistic and seemed to not be concerned with anything but the perks of being in a fraternity. Trevor Jackson’s character, Zurich, is given the hardest time, suffering a severe injury at one point. Someone who was wondering about greekdom may have had their curiosity turned into disgust after watching this film. The hazing rituals lacked purpose and there was only one scene showing the significance of learning history and doing community service. Plus, one of the points of hazing, which is to build a strong bond among pledgees, wasn’t really shown in a believable way, like when Zurich didn’t know Square’s real name and they were at the near end of their process. How do you not know your line brother’s real name? Scenes like this give people who have zero understanding of Greek life ammunition to question the principles and purpose of sororities and fraternities.
There was more balance with the depiction of Black women, but it was divergent. Zurich’s girlfriend Rochon, played by Imani Hakim, was empathetic and consoling until she couldn’t put up with losing her boyfriend to the pledging process any longer. She was the “good girl.” Alfre Woodard’s character, Professor Hughes, was supportive and concerned and gave Zurich words of encouragement as her promising student began to slack tremendously. Then there was Toya, played by Nafessa Williams, who was Lambda Lambda Phi’s sex toy. She was open to letting the pledgees have their way with her and had zero discretion. Being the frat’s personal call girl seemed to excite her, as if this is the effect men in Black fraternities have on women. As if sleeping with an Alpha, Kappa, Que, Sigma or Iota is something to brag about. Sorority girl Angel, aka Serayah of Empire fame, is not in many scenes but in one of them, she doesn’t care to catch on to Zurich’s hints that he wants to remain faithful to his girlfriend. Why characterize the sole character in a sorority as thirsty? There is no need for more negative images of Black women in entertainment. There are enough reality shows that do that.
The message to Black Greeks, however, was quite clear and necessary. Hazing makes it to the news once something tragic happens, but it doesn’t stop. The brutal rituals continue with some folks not seeing it to the end or getting badly injured during the process. McMurray has gotten a much needed discussion about underground pledging re-visited. The movie clearly delivers the message that Black Greeks need to wake up. If you’re going to be mad about anything be mad that he’s telling the truth about that.