Ethnic Fraternity Hazing

My source is a current college student who first encountered ethnic fraternity hazing through her brother who would tell the folk rituals involved in an African American fraternity. The story was of one particularly nasty hazing ritual in which new pledge brothers of the fraternity were initiated through grueling and painful processes that were meant to immerse the new pledging class into the hardships of discrimination and segregation felt by the first African American men who created the fraternity more than half a century ago. The new pledge class was bound to one another in a line by handcuffs, forced to strip down to their underwear and walk neck deep into ocean water at night and stand there for extended periods of time. Once brought back out of the freezing water, they were whipped by their pledge master and salt rubbed into their wounds. My source was particularly disturbed by this one story that she had heard and failed to see the rationale behind the extent to which the pledges were subjugated.

Similar to any folk initiation ritual which brings an individual past a liminal phase and into acceptance within a group, the hazing rites of this supposed African American fraternity serve to allow the group of men to enter the brotherhood. The fact that each and every pledge class enters the fraternity in such a way is an extreme display of folk ritualization of the crossing of a phase of one’s life into another of acceptance.