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A Belgian black student saw a white fraternity as his ticket. It was his death.

Sanda was starting his third year of school when he undertook Reuzegom, an unauthorized youth club from Antwerp. “They are a kind of social class,” said Kenny Van Minsel, former president of the Campus Student Union. “Predominantly white – that’s a given – and mostly upper class.”

Mr. Van Minsel interacted frequently with the fraternities and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Reuzegom to sign the opposite code of conduct. Reuzegom only had another black member, whom he called my companion, which is the monkey’s name in “The Lion King,” he said.

But Sanda Dia saw Reuzegom as an opportunity. “It has benefits,” his brother recalls. “Being in a club like this.” “If you know them, it’s good for your network. And when you leave school, they’ll trust you much faster.”

If it is odd for a black student to pledge to establish semi-white fraternal relationships in the name of communication, students say it makes sense. “It may sound strange, but for a lot of blacks it can be understood,” said Nuzizoye Dube, a student at KU Leuven who immigrated to Belgium from Zimbabwe as a teenager.

She said one of Flanders’ mantras is that anyone can succeed by learning the language, working hard, and earning a degree. In fact, Research has shown Belgians of African descent are more likely to be unemployed or to work in low-skill jobs, despite high levels of education. She said fraternities can seem like a way to a better career.

Reuzegom was notorious for his disturbing rituals, known as “baptism”. In October 2018, Reuzegom threw a wild party at the Student Association building. Mr. Van Minsel said the brothers had destroyed the place, causing thousands of dollars in losses. Brotherhood members ordered Mr. Dia to clean up, describing it as a racist insult, said Mr. Van Minsel, whose fellow student union was present and informed him of the incident.

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“Their argument was that blacks should work with whites,” said Mr. Van Minsel. “They treated it like a thing.” Two months later, Mr. Dia died.

Earl Warner

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