Can a 'Mean Girl' Be a Morehouse Man?
Judging by the all-male college's reaction to a current article in Vibe magazine, Morehouse expects all its students to conform to a narrow range of self-expression. But some people believe you can be a Morehouse man and still wear high heels (or a do-rag).
Glaude emphasized that the current dress code extends beyond the "women's garb" provision: "It's a dress code that's really all about a certain kind of style that's associated with young African Americans."
He is correct -- the dress code also bans baseball caps and hoods indoors, do-rags other than in residence halls and sagging pants. These bans may seem innocuous enough. After all, with all of the issues that young black men face today, why permit Morehouse men to wear items associated with criminal behavior?
The problem is this: By declaring popular styles to be inappropriate and focusing on a narrow version of respectability, Morehouse and those who support this kind of ban are merely reinforcing the idea that there's something inherently wrong with young men who wear baggy jeans. But as Colorlines discovered, innocent young black men in the New York City neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn, get stopped and frisked constantly because they "fit the profile" of someone who committed a crime.
That "profile" often relies on two things -- skin color and attire -- and has almost no basis in actual criminal activity. Working to legitimize current fashion and self-expression within black communities and institutions could go a long way toward making these things more acceptable within society at large. Perhaps, instead of reacting to what others think, we should embrace street style and nontraditional gender expression as just more of the many facets of black folks.
In the process of marginalizing young men who don't conform to a surface ideal of a Morehouse man, the school is marginalizing itself. And with a ranking of 127 out of the top 200 on the U.S. News & World Report National Liberal Arts College list (Spelman College is at 59), and failing to graduate nearly 40 percent of its students in six years, Morehouse, it would seem, should be using that energy to preserve its academic reputation.
The Morehouse policy, and its inability to embrace all of the men who wish to strengthen and perpetuate the school's legacy, is lazy at best and harmful at worst. A thoughtful, deliberate reaction to King's story would have been a good start if Morehouse were interested in engaging those who would like to see the school progress.