For The Culture: What “Step Sisters” Taught Us About Preserving Black Culture

Let’s be honest. We knew a movie about white girls stepping was coming! However, let's look past the obvious and the negative commentary regarding this film. A Netflix original, Step Sisters, opens a conversation about culture appropriation in a humorous light.

If you have yet to see this movie, I encourage you to! The story is based on Jamilah, the president of her sorority and a hopeful student who hopes to go to Harvard for grad school. After her parents inform her that they will not be writing her legacy letter for Harvard, she makes a deal with a Dean she works with to change the negative face of the white sorority, Sigma Beta Beta. This deal involves teaching them to step and compete in a competition. Jamilah attempts to keep this secret from his sisters, only for everything to blow up in her face!

Speaking on the apparent cultural appropriation, many do not believe that white Greek organizations should step. Ritualistic singing, rhythmic calls, rhythmic chanting, and stepping dates back to the time of slavery. The slaves would engage in these activities as a way to communicate, express emotions and feelings, and keep themselves protected. The sense of unity that black sororities and fraternities present through their principles are also shown in the form of chants and stepping, which are taken very seriously. Step Sisters taught us that if we want to preserve black culture, we need to be educated on black culture and understand why certain things take place.

If we also want to preserve black culture, we must be willing to take pride in the culture and respectfully let others know when they have crossed the line. Jamilah attends a party at the Sigma Beta Beta sorority house and meets the president who spits on and makes light of the culture of black Greek organizations. Jamilah stands with her mouth open in shock but says nothing. Incorrect, Jamilah! Now of course I know she was following a script but if this situation were to really occur, she should have said something to respectfully let the girl know that she was out of line and defend her organization and culture. Yes, ignorance cannot always be changed but there is nothing wrong with standing your ground and letting someone know they will not speak on your name and culture in such a way.

The meaning of sisterhood and brotherhood is another backbone of most D9 organizations. After Jamilah’s sisters discover she is coaching the white sorority, they tell her to keep it moving when she sees them on the yard. Her own mother tells her that she doesn’t deserve to wear the colors or letters of their sorority. Granted, Jamilah should have been upfront with her coaching but exiling your sister is never the answer. If we want to preserve black culture, we must band together and be one. Jamilah’s sister's decision to act like she does not exist directly went against their sorority’s values of sisterhood. How do we expect to make a change if we are constantly stepping and discarding each other? There was also a black girl apart of Sigma Beta Beta which has sparked much conversation. She joined the white organization after being labeled as “too white” for the black organization that she wanted to be a part of. Once again, how do we expect to make progress if we continuously label one another?

If we want to preserve black culture and keep others from appropriating, we must take pride. We must be educated on our history. We cannot allow others to speak negatively in our presence. We have to raise our voices and demand the respect we deserve. Happy Black History Month!