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The Man Who Wrote the Much-Recited Poem “If” Also Wrote One of the Most Racist Poems of All Time

British colonist being carried by African men
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With the decision by Kappa Alpha Psi’s Colin Kaepernick to boycott the National Anthem, our nation has started to question and discuss the meaning of other symbols and practices that seem every day to us.

In an effort to keep the conversation going, we at think that it is time that we as Black Greeks take a look at the much-recited poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. While we strongly all agree that this is one of the best poems that new members and interests of Black fraternities and sororities in certain regions of the United States are asked to learn, it is the writer and not the poem that we find problematic and controversial.

For those who don’t know it, “IF” goes as follows:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Sounds great right? There is a reason that many members of Black fraternities and sororities know this poem by heart, it’s about controlling one’s destiny, being able to lose everthing and start from scratch, be able to converse with important people but not forget where you came from and how to talk to “the little guy.” Its about giving your all, pushing through and being a hard-working exceptional human being.

While all of this is great, it turns out that British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, the writer of “IF” and the Jungle Book also wrote the famous poem “The White Man’s Burden” that just so happens to be one of the most racist poems you will ever read. If “the man” had a favorite poem, this would be his ISH.

The poem proposes that white men have a “moral obligation to rule the non-white peoples of the Earth, whilst encouraging their economic, cultural, and social progress through colonialism until they can independently manage their own affairs.” It literally encourages white men to go out and subjugate and rule non-whites because it is their duty.

Here is the poem:

Take up the White Man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed

  Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives’ need;

To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild—

  Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden, In patience to abide,

  To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;

By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain

  To seek another’s profit, And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden, The savage wars of peace—

  Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;

And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,

  Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden, No tawdry rule of kings,

  But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.

The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,

  Go make them with your living, And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden And reap his old reward:

  The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard—

The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—

  “Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden, Ye dare not stoop to less—

  Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloak your weariness;

By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,

  The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden, Have done with childish days—

  The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years

  Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!

…yeah…that was pretty racist right? Before we got out of the first stanza it referred to non-whites as the white man’s “new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.” The rest gets even worse.

A 1920s map of the global distribution of the races who are "the white man's burden".

A 1920s map of the global distribution of the races who are “the white man’s burden”.

Let’s leave it at this, there is no doubt in our mind that “IF” is an amazing poem, it actually happens to be one of the favorite poems the brother who is writing this article learned while crossing. We just want you to know the history behind it.

To some people, this is important information that might cause their chapter to rethink if having initiates in their Black fraternity learn the words to a poem written by a guy who advocated for oppressing no-whites. Other people can argue that the words and meaning of the poem are bigger than their writer.

What you do with this knowledge is really up to you.

Please leave a comment with any alternatives to this poem that get the same message across.


Share this on Facebook “IF” you think it needs to go VIRAL

Click on the arrows below to see more racist cartoons from the time “The White Mans Burden” was written about “The White Mans Burden”

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4 Actions Black Greeks Must Take Before Joining A Graduate Chapter

Photo Credit: @TheArtHype

Outside of crossing the burning sands, joining a grad chapter could be the second most important decision you could make in regards to showing your commitment to your Black Greek Fraternity or Sorority. But, like with choosing an undergrad chapter, you can’t join any chapter all willy nilly.

Just because your prophytes are in a certain chapter doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you. Nor should you gravitate towards a chapter because they the one that throws the livest happy hours. And most certainly, don’t feel pressured to join for fear of being labeled “Unfinancial”. Rededicating your life, time, energy and resources to a grad chapter is a BIG yet worthy responsibility and you should treat it as such.

If you’re thinking about joining a grad chapter, here are 4 Things You MUST do. Also, just for the record – this isn’t only for current Greeks. For those of you seeking to Greekdom via a Grad Chapter, this goes for you too.


Sampling grad chapters ahead of time will help you get an overall feel for the ideal chapter you want to join. As with undergrad chapters, each grad chapter has it’s own style, culture, personality and customs. Look up all the grad chapters in your area. Take into consideration the distance it takes to get to the meetings, how often they meet, chapter size, how long it’s been established and specific causes that chapter champions.

Then – shop around. Attend a few chapter meetings. Get a feel for their operations and their members. Ask about the committees you’d be most interested in. Join their email list so you can stay in the loop about upcoming events. After all this, do a best fit comparison test based on the top 3 things that you look for in a chapter.

Also, just to be courteous, if the information is available – let the Membership Director know you’re planning to visit their chapter meeting and/or event. You never know if they’ll be discussing sensitive information or if the event is for paid/financial members only.



If you’re not familiar with informational interviews, think of them as traditional job interviews – but in reverse. Informational interviews allow you to get a sneak peak into the culture and expectations of an organization before you decide to proceed with them. This is one of the best strategies you can implement.

Visit the chapter’s website for the Membership Director  or exchange cards with a frat or soror at their next social event or meeting. Then, take some time to jot down your most pressing questions about joining grad. Narrow your questions down to at least three inquiries and contact the member of your choice. See if he/she has time for a 30-minute call or a quick coffee meeting to discuss what’s on your mind. This will give you a glimpse of what you have to expect coming in.


The price is the second biggest concern for people attempting to join grad chapter. If you thought undergrad pinched your pockets, you ain’t ready for the grad chapter. Being “Financial” comes with a hefty price tag. HOWEVER, it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may seem.

Ask the Membership Director about a payment plan, their current dues schedule and any discount incentives they might have. If you’re a fairly new graduate, usually grad chapters offer discounted dues to incentivize younger members to join a grad chapter early. Also, if you’ve been “gone” for an ample amount of time, there might be a Reclamation Campaign discount to encourage “lost” fraters and sorors to come back home.

You’ll also want to ask questions about the average expenses it requires to be in the organization: events, cause based contributions, social outings, galas, savings for chapter trips, anniversaries, fees for acknowledgments and special recognition, etc.

All those things start to add up. Depending on your income, some of these expenses could break the bank if they’re competing with personal expenses like student loans, car notes, insurance bills, etc. Knowing your financial feasibility will dictate certain privileges you’ll have access to throughout the fiscal year. With that being said, ONLY start asking these questions once you are seriously considering joining. If you don’t have the dedicated funds at this time, no worries. Ask your Membership Director what you can do in the meantime to make up where your money can’t – time, advanced volunteerism, etc.


For the love of your Founders, be realistic with your calendar. You thought you were busy in undergrad. TUH! Try having a full time job, paying bills, taking care of a family, paying more bills, savings, planning possible vacations, etc. The point is, you have way more on your plate than you ever did before. You have to factor all of these things into your commitment calendar.

The best way to ensure your long-term commitment is to find a tangible cause and/or role you can be dedicated to. Evaluate what you’re passionate about and align your skill set to areas where you could be of service. Start going to chapter meetings on a regular basis. Narrow down your ideal committees. Let the head of the committee know how and when you can contribute to the chapter. Make your commitments feasible.

Granted these are the end all-be all tips for joining a grad chapter, but it’s a great way to make an informed decision before you reconnect and re-engage in a deeper and meaningful way. And if you can’t join grad chapter right now, don’t sweat it. You have the rest of your life to jump back into the swing of things. Find your groove and then jump in the game.  If you thought this was helpful, let us know. Tweet us at @dptaugthme or drop us a line in the comment section. We’d like to hear your feedback. Until next time fam. Be easy!

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[This piece was written by guest writer Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Lady of Z-PHI-B and Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe]

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chapter leadership

Why You Should Treat Your Black Fraternity/Sorority Chapter Like a Pot of Gumbo

The following was written by Eddie Francis, a public speaker who was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha at Loyola University New Orleans in 1989.

I love to cook and I love it when a dish comes together. Born in New Orleans, I grew up in the Tremé neighborhood (like the HBO show) where my life was surrounded by brass band music and the aroma of delicious Creole cuisine. When my father and brother—both musicians—taught me to cook, I gained an appreciation for how herbs, spices and fresh chopped vegetables create compositions of flavor. I was throwing together a nice pot of Gumbo one day when it occurred to me that fraternity and sorority chapters can perform better if members understood how to make the ingredients work together.

On both the college and alumni levels, I served as a chapter president. Both chapters experienced growth but I always imagine how much more we could have accomplished if I understood how to manage diverse personalities. It made me think about a conversation I had with an old co-worker, J.P. who once told me in his cool Cajun accent, “Eddie, cookin’ takes love.” Mind explosion. When I think of leadership in terms of cooking, I expected to get a great dish without figuring out how each ingredient contributed to the final product.

That’s how I came up with “The Gumbo Theory,” the most popular segment of the Black Greek Success Program. I do the program on college campuses to help students understand how their Greek life experiences translate into important leadership skills. As a professional and former student leader, I want to show college Greeks and those interested in joining our fraternities and sororities how to use those skills to create true impact in their communities.

So, what are these difference-making ingredients?


Water represents the fraternity or sorority. This is especially important for folks who believe their chapters are bigger than their organizations. Just like water is an existing element, your fraternity or sorority is the foundational existing element. Without the fraternity or sorority, you don’t have a chapter.



Fans of Gumbo probably enjoy the meat and seafood more than anything else. Can you blame them? Getting a nice ladle full of Creole hot sausage, shrimp, andouille sausage, chicken, beef or crab is like finding prizes. When that good stuff gets into your system, it just fills you up!

There are frat or sorors who fill the chapter up with their actions. They are first to arrive and last to leave for almost everything—parties, service projects, student organization fairs, inter-organizational events, etc. Because of their work, your chapter gets respect. They give the chapter substance just like meat and seafood give the Gumbo substance.



One of the secrets of Louisiana cooking is how we use herbs and spices. This the fun part of eating Gumbo. You do that child-like butt dance at the table with each spoonful of spicy goodness.

Spicy members bring a different kind of substance. They are flashy, outspoken, energetic, and fun. On a more serious note, they are the communicators who put critical issues that need to be resolved on the table. Because these members have so much personality, leaders must be especially skilled at managing group dynamics just like the person cooking the Gumbo must manage the spices. Too much overpowers the dish and not enough lets everybody down.



The roux is the thickener that creates the broth for the Gumbo. Everyone who cooks Gumbo will tell you that if you mess up the roux, you’ve messed up the Gumbo. The roux is your chapter’s leadership.

The leadership—as in ALL the officers—sets the tone for how the chapter performs. Negative attitudes create a negative vibe and positive attitudes create a positive vibe—simple. I warn students, however, that no one has to be Greek to recognize the effects of certain types of leaders. Chapter leaders must ultimately understand that they accept the responsibility of praise and criticism along with the titles and attention.

Being able to understand the diverse personalities—the ingredients—in your chapter is a great lesson in leadership. You learn the role of character on a team, how to manage pettiness (which is not unique to Black Greek life), and even how to identify key prospects for your team. And if you really pay attention, you understand the importance of your identity and the value you add to any community.

Remember that making ingredients work together is a skill, and skills are learned. My first pot of Gumbo wasn’t nearly as delicious as the last pot I made because of the learning curve. It has been that love of cooking, however, that has helped me improve. Use the love for your fraternity or sorority to learn and develop your leadership skills.

Watch The Gumbo Theory being explained in the video below.

About the Author:

Eddie Francis is a speaker and talent acquisition professional who was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha in 1989 at Loyola University New Orleans. He publishes the Black Greek Success blog and has written about Greek life for HBCU Lifestyle, the Huffington Post, LinkedIn, the H.O.P.E. Scholarship, and the Greek Ladders. He has also provided commentary about Greek life for the HBCU Nation Radio Show, the HBCU Lifestyle Podcast, Al Jazeera America, and College Summit. Eddie is active in the Rho Nu Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha where he is chair of the public relations committee, and he is pursuing his master’s degree in Strategic Leadership from Tennessee State University. Eddie is the proud husband of Halima Leak Francis, a member of Zeta Phi Beta, and the proud father of Stevie. You can learn more at

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9 Truths Every Black Fraternity Or Sorority Neo Needs To Hear But Rarely Ever Does

[This piece was written by guest writer Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Lady of Z-PHI-B and Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe]

AYE FAM! This month, we’re focusing on mentorship since it’s officially National Mentor Month. We’ve talked about 3 ways prophytes can be better mentors, where the lack of deference derives from and now we’re talking to the Neos. Yes, our amazingly hype, over zealous,  extra eager babies! Because we love our newbies, we didn’t want them to hop on this Greek Life wave without giving them the proper tools to ride it. Here are 9 truths our Neos need to know, but we rarely get to tell them:


Majority of the time when you run into NPHC members, especially if you’re new, people are going to ask you a series of questions like, “You’re Greek? What org? What school did you cross at? What Year? How many did you have on your line? …” From there, 8 times out of 10 they’re going to start diving into “your process” and whatever that may or may not have entailed. They’ll engage you with hilarious, horrendous, mesmerizing and sometimes dramatized stories that sound like something out of a movie.

And while all of this is thoroughly entertaining, no matter how long the person has been in the organization, you will rarely hear them speak on what they experienced after they crossed (outside of parties/probates). Even more-so, it’s hard for them to tell you what’s currently going on in their chapter. This could be because they’re inactive (which could be for a variety of reasons). It could also be because regular events aren’t as “sexy” as probates, stepshows, etc. It could also be because no one has ever really asked them about post-process life outside of prospects inquiring about programs.

Even though your process dictates HOW you start, it does not DEFINE how you continue to leave your mark. Don’t be the pre-process person. The meat of our existence is based on you making an even stronger presence after your probate mask comes off. Brag about the awesome initiatives you’re implementing. Highlight the programs that are making a difference on your campus. Got one better for you: ask your Prophytes and Old Heads what their favorite programs are and why. Probe them about what made it special and how they were able to execute events effectively and successfully. Then, populate your future conversations with those talking points. Divulge the things that make your organization purposeful AND popular.



Although Greek Life has its perks (socially and professionally), your letters don’t make you infallible or invisible. We all know the rule of not drinking in our letters; that’s a given. But that same kind of caution should be used for other aspects of our lives as well ( fighting, gossiping, promiscuity – no shade, etc). Perks don’t equate to permission. Every “tradition” that’s deemed permissible may not be appropriate. Every stereotype doesn’t have to be entertained.

We have a responsibility to represent our founders and their mission to full capacity and the best of our ability. Now, that does not void out fun. Don’t get it twisted. However,  it means you must be more self aware. You are not only Frank or Sandra. You’re now Frank the Frat Brother and Sandra the Sorority Girl. Your organization carries weight and you must carry it gracefully, regardless of how others conduct themselves. If you feel like you might be on another tip for the night, refrain from wearing your letters (and colors) just to keep it careful. We all have our moments; bruh, we’re human. Do you, but be mindful.


We ask you to be accountable because our whole existence depends on it. Our organizations are LITERALLY businesses, non-profits at that. That means there is no room for error. We have stakeholders, investors and community contributors who partner with us financially and socially.  Along with our dues and fundraising efforts, collectively, they help us keep our organizations afloat. Each suspension, expulsion, sub-par academic standing, hazing incident, petty politicking, and negative perception of any member, chapter or organization hurts our pockets.  Fraternities and Sororities take a huge hit when they have to pay for pledging lawsuits, lose prospects to other organizations and members drop off after graduation to skip Grad Chapter all together.

Businesses run off of 3 things: their reputation, their employees and their consumers. If employees are displaying a poor image of what the organization represents, the reputation of the brand becomes tainted and undesirable, thus resulting in a digression of potential members, sponsors, investors, etc. The more damaging the reputation- the more costly it is for your organization. We can’t afford to let it get to the point of extinction. Do everything you can to counteract this. Check each other constantly in a brotherly & sisterly manner. Aint nobody got time for shade. If you can’t offer solutions or constructive criticism, let someone else do the talking. PLUS, you’re going to need job experience after graduation. Use your Greek experience to your advantage. This is the professional experience you’ve been looking for. Don’t squander it.


When running a business, not everyone needs to know your business. Know there are times when the Exec Board is going to have conversations that will be more detailed than those in your chapter meetings. They’re leadership and they have to make tough decisions. If you have an issue with decisions made, vote. If you’re out voted, have a talk with the board. If necessary, go to your Grad adviser. Hopefully, it doesn’t get to that. If you have to voice a concern, you can talk to your chapter members. But if you do, keep it factual and less based on hearsay. Gossip breeds dissension, division and distrust. You’re adults. Talk it out. Compromise when needed. Learn how to agree to disagree when necessary.

At the end of the day, the most importantly, keep yo business to yoself! Don’t go talking your business to people outside of your chapter. Hell, there might be people inside your chapter who can’t hold water. Don’t tell them high priority stuff! They might be great people, they just have a big mouth. Accept them as they are, swerve them when it comes to certain info. It’s not petty or sneaky. It’s called insurance. You don’t want your organization’s discrepancies seeping onto the yard for the world to see. THE ONLY time this is ever appropriate is if someone(s) is being treated poorly physically, emotionally, or mentally. If someone is abusing their authority and it is becoming a hindrance to the chapter, talk to the proper uppers in order to handle the situation. And all the while, keep it inside the chapter.


All of us make mistakes, including your Prophytes. There will be times when you find us in a compromising position. You may catch us slipping when we’re not presenting ourselves in the best manner. There will be moments when we’re not as available as we could be (or should be). We may be caught up in other things and you’ll feel alone. This is when you tap into the potential we saw inside of you and your line. Challenge yourself. Challenge each other to be a step above our level. It’s all about progression. Don’t become complacent with our capabilities. Always, ALWAYS strive to level up. Sometimes, we lack because our priors lacked and we reflect the slack they displayed. Although we don’t verbalize it as an excuse, there will be moments where our actions will show otherwise. Learn from our mistakes. More importantly, forgive us.


As the saying goes “A closed mouth don’t get fed.” If you’re yearning for mentorship or leadership, don’t be afraid to ask for it. As Prophytes, we’ll get the notion that you have everything you need to get things started. What we neglect to do is remember how it felt when we were fresh on the yard. Although the sink or swim approach might work for some people, that should not be the only teaching strategy.

Expect more from us. Demand more from us. Ask us questions about what it takes to run a chapter. Make us think about what works and what doesn’t. Inquire about how we can do better and where we can implement these improvements. You don’t have to be a bug-a-boo. But be consistent and insistent about learning how to be an intricate factor in your chapter’s success. This will make us step our game up, take us out of our little world and expand our vision beyond the chapter. Our legacies are dependent on what you take in today. Don’t let us leave without making sure we pass down the scepter and the instructions on how to use it.



We chose you for a reason: potential. Whether that potential is fully grown or needs some development, we saw it in you. It’s your duty to prove us right – show us that the light we saw in you is going to shine, and it’s gonna shine bright. It’s also your duty to prove us wrong – any doubts that we had about you need to be debunked rather than reaffirmed. You can do exceedingly more than we could ever do, IF you APPLY YOURSELF.  Show us that you’re serious. Take initiative. Problem solve. Fill our voids. You are the leaders of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Find your groove and blaze your path. We’re privately and patiently waiting for you to make us proud.


Another reason why we picked you is because you add a unique twist to our story line. Never lose that. If you want to do your own solo dolo thing sometimes, that’s cool. It’s okay to not be with us at every second of the day. It’s fine if you miss a party. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty for attending another organization’s meeting. Spending time with your non-Greek friends isn’t a sin. Dating someone not in NPHC won’t be shunned. Seriously, it’s okay to be a GDI. Also, if you ever feel that Greek Life is impeding on important things in your life (romantic relationships, spiritual relationships, friendships, grades, health, opportunities, sanity, etc), feel free to take a breather. Let someone you trust know you’re stepping off the scene. We want you to be whole and balanced as possible. We’re ONE of the many organizations you belong to, not the ONLY. Don’t idolize us. We’re not that important. Analyze, prioritize and revitalize if you need to step away.

We understand you have a life outside of Greekdom (or you should have one). That doesn’t mean neglect us as soon as you probate. (I mean, we coo-right?) However, we do want to be a part of your life, not the end all-be all of your social activities. Your pre-Greek friends were riding with you before we were. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to bond and our relationships won’t grow. But don’t forget to engage with the things, people, places and spaces that made you who  you are and who we love. That’s what got you here in the first place.


Even though your process is over, you are never, ever, eva-eva-eva done with learning. (If you read that in Chris Tucker’s voice, I rock with you). There is always something new to take in.  Trinkets from history will pop up. Revised and refined ways to do things will be introduced. Words of wisdom will come at a time when you don’t want to hear it, but it’s gonna be oh-so necessary. Greek Life will challenge you and it will come with some interestingly tough jabs. The best way to combat this is to remember, your place – at this moment – is a Neo.

Your education didn’t stop after initiation. Neo literally translates to “New Plant” in Greek. You are in the seed phase. You broke through the soil, but you haven’t established your roots, stem or the bud yet. In order to get to that point, you need nurturing, training and time. You don’t know everything – and you have to accept that. The moment you do, that leaves the door of divine opportunity wide open. The learning curve will be easier to ride, whereas resistance will make it rough. People will be more willing to mentor you. Mentors who will help you avoid the potholes of the post-process and boost your appeal in the Greek world and beyond. Note, we are all in the process of growing into great Greek Life members ourselves, so you’re not alone. We’re all learning together, we’re just a couple of steps ahead. Let us help you so we can elevate our orgs together, mk? Mk.

If I’m missing anything, let me know. Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or IG! I’d be glad to hear from you!

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