Dear Old Morehouse

Dear Old Morehouse,

I’ve been trying to avoid writing this for some time now. As an alumnus of the institution, it’s hard for me to see you in such condition. Many of my fellow alumni complained of your disrepair and your besmirched image when they heard about students being beaten for their sexuality, shooters graduating, and cross-dressing, but I have bigger concerns. While all these things mattered to me, they did not disturb me because of what was being done to the image of our institution; they disturbed me because they demonstrated that Dear Old Morehouse was terribly unequipped to deal with the realities and lives that Black men in America live now. In fact, it is the Old Morehouse that is more dangerous to me than any student with a gun, sagged pants, or high heels would ever be. Let me explain.

When I visited Morehouse for the first time, it was about 1994, I remember seeing hanging banners and brochures that talked about the development of leaders, community servants, and caring connected brothers. The culmination of these developments was to be the Morehouse Man. I remember reading about the crown that Morehouse held up for its students so that one day they too would embody the Morehouse Mystique. I was sold. I was ready to be in that number. I was ready to be at the only institution of higher education dedicated fully to the education of men of African descent in the United States. But like most things, I soon found out all that glittered was not gold.

courtesty of nyleharris flckr stream

courtesy of nyleharris flckr stream

When I arrived, I remember hearing brothers commonly refer to the Morehouse Mistake, not Mystique. I remember seeing Samuel L. Jackson toted out as a shining alumnus, only to learn he was actually kicked out while he was there. I was there when I realized Morehouse students had no trouble admitting rape happened, but sadly refused to admit that Morehouse students could or would rape their Spelman sisters. I know, now I’m airing dirty laundry, in your eyes, but hear me out. Morehouse, if you are committed to Black men, then you’ve got to do better. You, no WE, have got to work to make better men for the 21st century, not the 20th. It often feels like each time I hear about your “new moves” and “plans” you’re becoming more committed to making a middle class Black man who would exist in the 1950s or 60s, not in 2009. From clothing to interviews, Dear Old Morehouse, there is much more happening with and to Black men than you’re equipped to handle.

See, in the past, Morehouse was about accepting and graduating the “cream of the crop” amongst the Black bourgeoisie and claiming the production of the Black intelligentsia. We all know, at least at the House, that Martin Luther King, Jr. — our most well known alumnus– came from a relatively well-to-do background and he wasn’t the most stunning student. But it would be on the red clay hills of Georgia that he got a deeper social, spiritual, and political education which would lead him to change the world. It is that image that you fed us and feed young brothers who come to the gates these days. You celebrate your role as one of the top feeders to graduate schools and Fortune 500 companies among institutions of higher education.  You highlight that our alumni are Rhodes Scholars, former surgeon generals and are changing the world around the globe, as many institutions do. The problem is, those men are the ones who made it, and it is likely that they still would have made it without Morehouse. Sometimes I think you point to exceptional success from the past in an effort to keep people from noticing what you are doing wrong or simply not doing it the present. So many who come to our campus, who desire to be better men, are not given what they need because you are asking them to trade themselves for your idea of success. Dear Old Morehouse, success does not look, sound, or feel the same for all.

I almost feel like you’re in denial; we can’t keep living a lie. I’ve got to tell you five things that you seem to deny too often. First, Affirmative Action did change you and who attended you. Affirmative Action allowed a number of the brothers who would have attended HBCUs in the past to attend traditional Ivys. We have to recognize that we don’t have the economic resources to compete with the Harvards, Yales or even smaller liberal arts schools. Many brothers get drawn to these schools because they have a financial safety net and set of offerings that make it difficult for them to sign on Morehouse’s dotted line. Second, the day of male breadwinner and unquestioned male leadership is done. While the sisters at Spelman were over there involved in the freedom struggle with us, they were also noticing we were often working on “liberation for half a race.” While we spend copious amounts of time sitting in orientations and Crown Forums that convince us that we’ve “made it” because so many brothers didn’t, we’re falsely inflating ourselves and using these bloated egos to plot the path towards a wayward progress. Third, style is one of hallmarks of Blackness. Spending time trying to reduce and refashion style is like harnessing youth, a noble thought but likely to leave you more embarrassed than successful. Hip-Hop culture is here to stay and reflects a lot of what we face as a people and what many in our community aspire to emulate. Hip-Hop culture is art and yes, art and life do imitate one another. Hip-Hop is, was, and shall be anti-establishment; the more you regulate it, the more it will battle you. Fourth, gay men are Morehouse Men and they should no longer be silent and covering. For too long, Morehouse treated gay and queer brothers like the Loch Ness monster, often talked about but never fully confirmed. News flash: being non-heterosexual is neither a psychological nor a social deviance. It’s reality! Fifth, Black boys are in crisis and you have to adapt to this crisis as well. With 50% of Black boys who begin high school in the inner-city not graduating with their classmates on time, you must realize your pool of applicants and admits is going to look different. These brothers mostly come with 4.0 potential, not 4.0 GPA’s. The question becomes, what can we do to move potential to reality?! What are the supports we’re putting in place for the brothers who beat the odds and make it to the House? I am honestly not sure if you are ignorant or simply ignoring, but either way, we’ve got to do better. I seriously think that if you start to deal with these five facts, you can move from being Dear Old Morehouse to a Dear New Morehouse.

Oh I can hear you now, “Brother, we are getting ‘new’!” Unfortunately your “new” is old. With each passing year, I swear you move a step backwards towards your former self… or at least an image that you believed yourself to be. From interviews to dress codes, you’re trying to create a brand of respectable middle class black males that went out with the last sputters of the Civil Rights Movement. Yes, alumni get excited when they hear, “we will no longer tolerate…” because we all have a narrative about how Morehouse was and how it has changed. Don’t be surprised if people co-sign on your reversal of the clock without seeing the bigger picture. They’ll support more assemblies, more Crown Forums, more rules, less braids, less sagging, less gays… oops, just kidding on the last one. I know that subject is touchy in our community. Have you forgotten, it was not what was outside that made the Morehouse Man it was what was inside? The most valuable lessons are those learned collectively through struggle, failure and success.  Not from imposition, dress codes, or dress policies. College is one of the few times that Black men may be able to explore fuller and truer selves and your hallowed halls are the ideal place to do so. Instead, you threaten to lock down and narrow those very halls. I want to hear that you’re developing new models of manhood, ones that are not patriarchal, ones that deal with the needs of Black men and boys who need healing, ones that let boys become the Men of their choosing and of their community’s wanting. Few of the rules that you are implementing are creating a healthier pathway for Black men, they’re simply polishing the same “broken” brothas and yet you wonder why it is not working.

Quite regularly now, I receive emails asking “What is Morehouse doing?” Some come in agreement, some come in disagreement, but the ones I value most are the those that come from a place of love for the development of all Black men. The individual policies that you have drawn up are just echoes of the world that Black males now create and inhabit. If Dear Old Morehouse is truly interested in living up to its missions and declarations, the ones that got me to attend, the ones that got me to link up and sing, the ones that got me to love my institution enough to critique its actions, then we’ve got to begin from a point of understanding and expansion, not from a point of rigidity and constriction. Unless we acknowledge that Dear Old Morehouse must become Dear New Morehouse to serve the whole of our community, we’ll be doing this sad dance every 8 months. I look forward to your response and hope WE can grow to meet that crown of which Howard Thurman so eloquently made us aware.

In humility and community,

Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis

Ndugu Dumi Eyi di yiye

Class of 2000

Filed under: Black Men, Boundaries, Campus Life, Education, Gender, General, Masculinity, Morehouse, Sexuality

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  • Kristen Harris Nwanyanwu

    Your courage and insight never cease to astound me. My brother, my teacher, thank you for keeping our eyes on the horizon. I'm not sure we know what the prize actually looks like, anymore.
    Your sister,
    KMJHN

  • Kristen Harris Nwanyanwu

    Your courage and insight never cease to astound me. My brother, my teacher, thank you for keeping our eyes on the horizon. I’m not sure we know what the prize actually looks like, anymore.
    Your sister,
    KMJHN

  • sistertoldja

    This brought tears to my eyes. I aspire to your level of eloquence.

  • thejamilah

    This brought tears to my eyes. I aspire to your level of eloquence.

  • http://twitter.com/JoJoReaves Joseph ‘JoJo’ Reaves

    As A Black Man, A Gay Man who is just as comfortable in a pair of Stilletos as I am a pair of Brooks Brothers Penny Loafers, A Brotha Who Comes From The Hood (Southside Jamaica, Queens), and a Student at an HBCU (Howard University in the building!) I so appreciate you for writing this article

  • http://twitter.com/JoJoReaves Joseph ‘JoJo’ Reaves

    As A Black Man, A Gay Man who is just as comfortable in a pair of Stilletos as I am a pair of Brooks Brothers Penny Loafers, A Brotha Who Comes From The Hood (Southside Jamaica, Queens), and a Student at an HBCU (Howard University in the building!) I so appreciate you for writing this article

  • http://twitter.com/aisha1908 kizzmm

    Beautifully written. You're right – the needs of black boys as they blossom into men, is fluid. As times change, so do the needs of the young men going to Morehouse. Morehouse College should reaffirm its commitment to young black men by building a bridge between idealism and real needs

  • hbcusupporter

    What an embarrassment to what black colleges are all about. You should be ashamed to sully the reputation of a fine institution like Morehouse. This essay serves little purpose than your old edification. How does this help Morehouse? What are you doing to lift your institution up? Howard Thurman and Bennie Mays are rolling in their graves.

    • http://twitter.com/aisha1908 kizzmm

      Morehouse is digging its own hole by alienating itself from our present day reality and distancing itself from its mission. Thankfully, devoted alum such as Professor Lewis are pointing out where Morehouse is falling short.

      “The mission of Morehouse College is to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service. A private historically black liberal arts college for men, Morehouse realizes this mission by emphasizing the intellectual and character development of its students. In addition, the College assumes special responsibility for teaching the history and culture of black people…”

      How do you “develop men” if you don’t teach these 17 & 18yr old boys how to survive in TODAY’S brutal world? According to the US Marine Corps, instilling discipline in soldiers results in their “ability to do the right thing even when no one is watching” – however we know that in the Marines, this is accomplished through the use of PAIN. From my understanding, Morehouse college does not seek to instill pain on any one of its students. As such, the disciplined mind spoken of in the College’s mission is not of the variety that comes from oppression, hazing and pain, like the military does.

      No one can lead if they don’t develop strong character and knowledge of self. Knowledge of self and character cannot be developed in an environment where self-expression, sexual identity, perception of self, social mental health, social responsibility (need I continue??) are all repressed, trivialized and relegated to ‘off campus’ activity. These are teenage boys blossoming into men. The current and future students of Morehouse College need their institution to step it up a notch. Lest Morehouse become the scholastic fodder we’ve come to expect from present day HBCU’s. At the end of the day, there is a need for all HBCUs. That need simply demands that they abide by their mission statements, their mission to act as historian for Black people, and cultivator/curator for Black civics and culture.

      you are promoting the demise of great HBCUs such as Morehouse, by suggesting that they further distance themselves from the needs of their people in the interest of a romanticized idealism of what it means to be Black. Please stop – our institutions deserve more, and our students are suffering.

    • dumilewis

      HBCU- I hope that it does more than serve my edification. I think it offers a discussion that Morehouse as an institution and we, as a Black people, need to have. I have already spoken with many concerned alumni, students, faculty, and adminsitrators and we’re organizing to push and help Morehouse with constructive programming for brothers on campus, more so than draconian rules. I try to do multiple things, such as: I’m an active dues paying alumni, I recruit at college fairs for MC, host events for MC in NYC, and have 2 mentees on campus currently. I say this not for kudos but to, in part, demonstrate that I am truly committed to my alma mater. I can’t say if Ben E. Mays or Howard Thurman are rolling in their graves, but I do hope that in my desire to uplift brothers I fulfill Thurman’s ideal of commitment. “Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve centre of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him than whether he lives or dies.” I sincerely thank you for your disagreement and hope we can continue to build a better and truer House.

  • Anonymous

    What an embarrassment to what black colleges are all about. You should be ashamed to sully the reputation of a fine institution like Morehouse. This essay serves little purpose than your old edification. How does this help Morehouse? What are you doing to lift your institution up? Howard Thurman and Bennie Mays are rolling in their graves.

  • Ziavan

    I can't believe I stumbled upon this.
    This is utterly amazing. You captured my sentiment exactly.
    When I walked through those gates, I thought “My Morehouse” was “Dear New Morehouse” but these sitfling policies and the promotion of this “corporate assembly-line” of businessmen above all else, say otherwise.
    I chose Morehouse because she possessed elements that I'd never seen before; a collective of motivated Black men wanting and seeking education. I wanted to surround myself with the very thing I had never been exposed to. That said, I know “My Morehouse” lies underneath this tarnished covering. She just needs to be dusted off and re-framed to offer more encouragement to the student body. (i.e. encourage the creators/artisans, the writers, the historians & the teachers in addition to the businessmen, the doctors, and the mathmeticians)
    We associate “success” with titles and that's also a part of the problem.
    We readily diagnose society's ills but we don't live the change to make the difference at a community level.
    We cannot just ship brothers to Morehouse, we have to ship them into great lives of progressive and active service and uplift after Morehouse.

    Into ties more brotherly,
    Ziavan
    Morehouse '09

  • http://omidele.blogspot.com/ omidele

    i’ve been struggling with this since i heard about it, and one of the things i said–not being intimately familiar with the school–was, “i think morehouse is opening a conversation they can’t finish…”

    thank you for your insight and your words. hopefully they will be taken to heart.

    peace

  • http://omidele.blogspot.com/ omidele

    i’ve been struggling with this since i heard about it, and one of the things i said–not being intimately familiar with the school–was, “i think morehouse is opening a conversation they can’t finish…”

    thank you for your insight and your words. hopefully they will be taken to heart.

    peace

  • http://twitter.com/aisha1908 kizzmm

    Beautifully written. You’re right – the needs of black boys as they blossom into men, is fluid. As times change, so do the needs of the young men going to Morehouse. Morehouse College should reaffirm its commitment to young black men by building a bridge between idealism and real needs

  • Ziavan

    I can’t believe I stumbled upon this.
    This is utterly amazing. You captured my sentiment exactly.
    When I walked through those gates, I thought “My Morehouse” was “Dear New Morehouse” but these sitfling policies and the promotion of this “corporate assembly-line” of businessmen above all else, say otherwise.
    I chose Morehouse because she possessed elements that I’d never seen before; a collective of motivated Black men wanting and seeking education. I wanted to surround myself with the very thing I had never been exposed to. That said, I know “My Morehouse” lies underneath this tarnished covering. She just needs to be dusted off and re-framed to offer more encouragement to the student body. (i.e. encourage the creators/artisans, the writers, the historians & the teachers in addition to the businessmen, the doctors, and the mathmeticians)
    We associate “success” with titles and that’s also a part of the problem.
    We readily diagnose society’s ills but we don’t live the change to make the difference at a community level.
    We cannot just ship brothers to Morehouse, we have to ship them into great lives of progressive and active service and uplift after Morehouse.

    Into ties more brotherly,
    Ziavan
    Morehouse ’09

  • Name

    Well written so on point… keep up the great work..
    Spelman C90

  • Name

    Well written so on point… keep up the great work..
    Spelman C90

  • Yohance Murray

    Brother L’Heureux

    Hats off to you Dr. Lewis (and that’s not because of the policy). I appreciate your boldness and candor in taking our dear alma mater to task, and I hope that others will pay attention, and respond. While I understand the need for a return to the values that many of us have romanticized regarding Dear Old Morehouse, I struggle with the notion that you can dictate responsibility, and that an enforced dress code changes the mindset of sagging pants. I recall hearing someone say if you elevate the minds, the pants will follow.

    I recall vividly, in my freshman year strolling on campus, being an 18 year old, wanna-be bad boy, just leaving the nest and dressing how I wanted; I had one pants leg pulled up for no good reason, but that it was how they wore it in the videos at that time (I’m dating myself). But it was not a dress code, but a conversation that caused me to re-evaluate “my steez”. An older Morehouse brother asked me in a non-confrontational way, Why? Why did I wear my pants that way? Of course, I had no good reason, and we went on to discuss theories about where that style originated, including the notion that it might come from an act of gang-culture, wherein guys commence to stomp somebody out and have to lift up the pant leg of the dominant stomping foot. Now is that the real origin? I don’t know. But it caused me to think about what I was doing. Having no valid reason for wearing my pants that way I stopped. I’m also reminded of the simple explanation my father gave me for why men should not wear hats in buildings: It’s not raining inside. The purpose of the hat is to protect your head from the elements, and as an added bonus to accentuate your outfit, but if you are in a building and particularly in a classroom with your peers, engaging in serious scholarly discourse, neither of the aforementioned purposes should matter.
    And, I’m sure many have heard of the sagging pants being a carry-over from prison and detention-home culture, wherein no belts are allowed to be worn, for fear of belts being used for suicide by strangulation, or used as weapons. Whether these are true origins or urban legend is beside the point.

    The point is these are examples of conversations that need to occur with young men, not rules that need to be enforced. I think when young minds need to be tested to make sense of their actions, and engaged to have a better understanding of norms that they both embrace and rebel against, or think are antiquated; primarily because they don’t understand the origins and meanings of either, and less because they actually carry a legitimate connection to, or gripe against. When they can have meaningful two-way dialogue, students become more amenable and malleable. And, isn’t that the goal: shaping not dictating.

    Now, I think this goes both ways. I think that your critique of Morehouse may not fully give credence to the concerns our institute is facing. When the administration and faculty are trying to find a way to make sure that parents and potential recruiters from companies and graduate programs, are not shocked by what is both self expression and self-deception when they come onto the campus, they have to figure out a way to respond. Also, I think that, truth be told, there are issues that the attire is only the symptom of, for example: students coming to class high (thus wearing the shades in class and hats pulled down), and students dressing to be provocative, which may be disruptive to the educational process. (As an aside, I recall in high school, a very well-developed girl who wore very tight and revealing clothing being reprimanded by the principal for such an offense: disrupting the educational process, and truth is she disrupted my educational process alright, and I loved it! Yes, it’s objectification but I was a teenager). But I digress. The point is Morehouse has a struggle on it’s hands that it cannot turn a blind-eye to. It has to find a way to be an institution that openly engages students in a way that will address the illness not the symptoms, while also standing by faculty who want to teach in an effective manner without having to deal with disruptions in the classroom, disrespect of the campus and the student body, and disregard of the values that should remain important to Morehouse and our community. I’m not saying that Morehouse’s approach was correct, but it is important that we try to see their vantage point, lest we become overly reactionary as well.

    If Morehouse is indeed going to be an institute that cares, the faculty have to be willing and able to pull a brother to the side and actually help him if he has a drug problem so severe that he can’t come to class without getting high, or is more focused on getting attention than being a serious student. In reality these are still YOUNG men, they are still learning about themselves, and they should be able to express themselves and become adults, but still have “appropriate” adult guidance. They should be able to learn that their actions, even how they dress, have consequences and ramifications. If you tell them how to dress, they will never actually learn what is and is not acceptable and responsible attire, and more importantly why it is or is not.

    But your question regarding whether or not Morehouse is equipped to respond to the new millennium Black man is a good one? I wonder if there is an institution that does, or can. Is there a blueprint for it? Without one, they are somewhat stuck trying to go back to what they imagine once worked. I think challenging the institution and its students, and recent alumni (like us) to help create that model is a start; and for that matter engaging those who have found success in life without ever being a part of Dear Old Morehouse (yes, as surprising as many of us might find it, there are other schools that breed success for Black men) in the discourse is also needed. We need to find a way to bridge the chasm and respectfully engage in a conversation that isn’t top-down, and that does not expect one size to fit all (whether it’s a tie or a ball-cap). Also, we have to find a way to help our students understand that their behaviors have consequences. It is often said that you can always tell a Morehouse Man but you just can’t tell him nothing. Well it sounds like it’s becoming harder to do both, and if that is indeed true that is a problem and our young men are heading for a very bumpy road; one that we have to help them see.

    In closing it is important that Morehouse students understand that you can make a statement with what you wear, AND what you wear can make a statement about you. Those two things are not always the same, and both can be misunderstood and taken out of context. What Morehouse has to help its students do is learn to make a statement but more importantly have something to say when they do. That can’t be done by stifling their voices, Morehouse administration has to listen AND talk to its students. One Love,

    • dumilewis

      I definitely hear you Yohance. It’d be a waste of space for me to parrot your support of the points I made, but more useful to discuss your divergences. I think you are right, we have to really look at what Morehouse is trying to do. And it appears, they are attempting to preserve a brand by in part drawing on a legacy. In this sense, these institutions operation to keep the “value” of their brand and that is often top priority. I know that Morehouse cost 34,000 to attend, that means there is real money at stake. I’m not sure Morehouse or Hampton or most of our institutions are responding right, that’s why I wrote this. I’m wondering what can be done to build the legacy and build brothers.Distractions are real on all fronts, you learn to deal with them. When that bluebook gets set in front of you, it’s time to hunker down. In a sense, morehouse is the zone with the least distractions on average for black male college students, do we need to infantilize them by saying “we’ll make sure this is perfectly sterile so you can get your work done?” I think your right, we need to get at the illness, not the symptoms. You clearly were digging for answers when you were there and adjusted behaviors on what you found, why do we (the collective morehouse we) suspect these brothas on campus aren’t capable of the same? I’ve talked to professors and admin currently on campus and they suggest they students can, what does it mean for us to publically read this brothas as incapable of code-switching? You are right, what you wear makes a statement, whether in dockers or a dress and it behoves us to think deeply about it. I remember that the word bitch was “washed” from my vocabulary at a Freshman Orientation speech by Larry Crawford who talked about a marriage proposal and said, “Bitch will you marry me?” At that moment we all laughed, he said, “As outrageous as that sounds, that’s how you sound when all the words out your mouth are bitch and nigga.” It was a lesson that didn’t tell me, “no use of bitch” it was a lesson of discovery, how do we create the opportunities for discovery and in depth learning? Lastly, thanks so much bro … and I owe you like mad emails …. my bad, congrats!!!!

  • Yohance Murray

    Brother L’Heureux

    Hats off to you Dr. Lewis (and that’s not because of the policy). I appreciate your boldness and candor in taking our dear alma mater to task, and I hope that others will pay attention, and respond. While I understand the need for a return to the values that many of us have romanticized regarding Dear Old Morehouse, I struggle with the notion that you can dictate responsibility, and that an enforced dress code changes the mindset of sagging pants. I recall hearing someone say if you elevate the minds, the pants will follow.

    I recall vividly, in my freshman year strolling on campus, being an 18 year old, wanna-be bad boy, just leaving the nest and dressing how I wanted; I had one pants leg pulled up for no good reason, but that it was how they wore it in the videos at that time (I’m dating myself). But it was not a dress code, but a conversation that caused me to re-evaluate “my steez”. An older Morehouse brother asked me in a non-confrontational way, Why? Why did I wear my pants that way? Of course, I had no good reason, and we went on to discuss theories about where that style originated, including the notion that it might come from an act of gang-culture, wherein guys commence to stomp somebody out and have to lift up the pant leg of the dominant stomping foot. Now is that the real origin? I don’t know. But it caused me to think about what I was doing. Having no valid reason for wearing my pants that way I stopped. I’m also reminded of the simple explanation my father gave me for why men should not wear hats in buildings: It’s not raining inside. The purpose of the hat is to protect your head from the elements, and as an added bonus to accentuate your outfit, but if you are in a building and particularly in a classroom with your peers, engaging in serious scholarly discourse, neither of the aforementioned purposes should matter.
    And, I’m sure many have heard of the sagging pants being a carry-over from prison and detention-home culture, wherein no belts are allowed to be worn, for fear of belts being used for suicide by strangulation, or used as weapons. Whether these are true origins or urban legend is beside the point.

    The point is these are examples of conversations that need to occur with young men, not rules that need to be enforced. I think when young minds need to be tested to make sense of their actions, and engaged to have a better understanding of norms that they both embrace and rebel against, or think are antiquated; primarily because they don’t understand the origins and meanings of either, and less because they actually carry a legitimate connection to, or gripe against. When they can have meaningful two-way dialogue, students become more amenable and malleable. And, isn’t that the goal: shaping not dictating.

    Now, I think this goes both ways. I think that your critique of Morehouse may not fully give credence to the concerns our institute is facing. When the administration and faculty are trying to find a way to make sure that parents and potential recruiters from companies and graduate programs, are not shocked by what is both self expression and self-deception when they come onto the campus, they have to figure out a way to respond. Also, I think that, truth be told, there are issues that the attire is only the symptom of, for example: students coming to class high (thus wearing the shades in class and hats pulled down), and students dressing to be provocative, which may be disruptive to the educational process. (As an aside, I recall in high school, a very well-developed girl who wore very tight and revealing clothing being reprimanded by the principal for such an offense: disrupting the educational process, and truth is she disrupted my educational process alright, and I loved it! Yes, it’s objectification but I was a teenager). But I digress. The point is Morehouse has a struggle on it’s hands that it cannot turn a blind-eye to. It has to find a way to be an institution that openly engages students in a way that will address the illness not the symptoms, while also standing by faculty who want to teach in an effective manner without having to deal with disruptions in the classroom, disrespect of the campus and the student body, and disregard of the values that should remain important to Morehouse and our community. I’m not saying that Morehouse’s approach was correct, but it is important that we try to see their vantage point, lest we become overly reactionary as well.

    If Morehouse is indeed going to be an institute that cares, the faculty have to be willing and able to pull a brother to the side and actually help him if he has a drug problem so severe that he can’t come to class without getting high, or is more focused on getting attention than being a serious student. In reality these are still YOUNG men, they are still learning about themselves, and they should be able to express themselves and become adults, but still have “appropriate” adult guidance. They should be able to learn that their actions, even how they dress, have consequences and ramifications. If you tell them how to dress, they will never actually learn what is and is not acceptable and responsible attire, and more importantly why it is or is not.

    But your question regarding whether or not Morehouse is equipped to respond to the new millennium Black man is a good one? I wonder if there is an institution that does, or can. Is there a blueprint for it? Without one, they are somewhat stuck trying to go back to what they imagine once worked. I think challenging the institution and its students, and recent alumni (like us) to help create that model is a start; and for that matter engaging those who have found success in life without ever being a part of Dear Old Morehouse (yes, as surprising as many of us might find it, there are other schools that breed success for Black men) in the discourse is also needed. We need to find a way to bridge the chasm and respectfully engage in a conversation that isn’t top-down, and that does not expect one size to fit all (whether it’s a tie or a ball-cap). Also, we have to find a way to help our students understand that their behaviors have consequences. It is often said that you can always tell a Morehouse Man but you just can’t tell him nothing. Well it sounds like it’s becoming harder to do both, and if that is indeed true that is a problem and our young men are heading for a very bumpy road; one that we have to help them see.

    In closing it is important that Morehouse students understand that you can make a statement with what you wear, AND what you wear can make a statement about you. Those two things are not always the same, and both can be misunderstood and taken out of context. What Morehouse has to help its students do is learn to make a statement but more importantly have something to say when they do. That can’t be done by stifling their voices, Morehouse administration has to listen AND talk to its students. One Love,

  • Pingback: Uptown Notes: Dear Old Morehouse – South Side Scholar

  • http://ajchristian.org/ Aymar Jean Christian

    Very very smart. My boyfriend is an alum and has been looking for a perspective on this issue that is sensitive to Morehouse’s mission and its position within society, and an understanding that the policy needs to be critiqued as a foolhardy and discriminatory attempt that nonetheless comes from a place of love and social justice (but a sense of social justice that is not in keeping with the times).

  • http://ajchristian.org/ Aymar Jean Christian

    Very very smart. My boyfriend is an alum and has been looking for a perspective on this issue that is sensitive to Morehouse’s mission and its position within society, and an understanding that the policy needs to be critiqued as a foolhardy and discriminatory attempt that nonetheless comes from a place of love and social justice (but a sense of social justice that is not in keeping with the times).

  • model

    The most valuable lessons are those learned collectively through struggle, failure and success. Not from imposition, dress codes, or dress policies. College is one of the few times that Black men may be able to explore fuller and truer selves and your hallowed halls are the ideal place to do so. Instead, you threaten to lock down and narrow those very halls.
    ========

    Wow. This gave me chills.

    I wrote a piece last week, Tyler Perry x Morehouse x Real Black Men.
    http://modelminority.blogspot.com/2009/10/tyler-perry-x-morehouse-x-real-black.html

    In the piece I interview Moya Bailey, who asks, “What is it that is so fragile about masculinity that it becomes threatened when cloaked in a dress?”

    Thank you for writing this. You are not alone.

  • Anonymous

    The most valuable lessons are those learned collectively through struggle, failure and success. Not from imposition, dress codes, or dress policies. College is one of the few times that Black men may be able to explore fuller and truer selves and your hallowed halls are the ideal place to do so. Instead, you threaten to lock down and narrow those very halls.
    ========

    Wow. This gave me chills.

    I wrote a piece last week, Tyler Perry x Morehouse x Real Black Men.
    http://modelminority.blogspot.com/2009/10/tyler-perry-x-morehouse-x-real-black.html

    In the piece I interview Moya Bailey, who asks, “What is it that is so fragile about masculinity that it becomes threatened when cloaked in a dress?”

    Thank you for writing this. You are not alone.

  • http://twitter.com/aisha1908 kizzmm

    Morehouse is digging its own hole by alienating itself from our present day reality and distancing itself from its mission. Thankfully, devoted alum such as Professor Lewis are pointing out where Morehouse is falling short.

    “The mission of Morehouse College is to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service. A private historically black liberal arts college for men, Morehouse realizes this mission by emphasizing the intellectual and character development of its students. In addition, the College assumes special responsibility for teaching the history and culture of black people…”

    How do you “develop men” if you don't teach these 17 & 18yr old boys how to survive in TODAY'S brutal world? According to the US Marine Corps, instilling discipline in soldiers results in their “ability to do the right thing even when no one is watching” – however we know that in the Marines, this is accomplished through the use of PAIN. From my understanding, Morehouse college does not seek to instill pain on any one of its students. As such, the disciplined mind spoken of in the College's mission is not of the variety that comes from oppression, hazing and pain, like the military does.

    No one can lead if they don't develop strong character and knowledge of self. Knowledge of self and character cannot be developed in an environment where self-expression, sexual identity, perception of self, social mental health, social responsibility (need I continue??) are all repressed, trivialized and relegated to 'off campus' activity. These are teenage boys blossoming into men. The current and future students of Morehouse College need their institution to step it up a notch. Lest Morehouse become the scholastic fodder we've come to expect from present day HBCU's. At the end of the day, there is a need for all HBCUs. That need simply demands that they abide by their mission statements, their mission to act as historian for Black people, and cultivator/curator for Black civics and culture.

    you are promoting the demise of great HBCUs such as Morehouse, by suggesting that they further distance themselves from the needs of their people in the interest of a romanticized idealism of what it means to be Black. Please stop – our institutions deserve more, and our students are suffering.

  • dumilewis

    HBCU- I hope that it does more than serve my edification. I think it offers a discussion that Morehouse as an institution and we, as a Black people, need to have. I have already spoken with many concerned alumni, students, faculty, and adminsitrators and we're organizing to push and help Morehouse with constructive programming for brothers on campus, more so than draconian rules. I try to do multiple things, such as: I'm an active dues paying alumni, I recruit at college fairs for MC, host events for MC in NYC, and have 2 mentees on campus currently. I say this not for kudos but to, in part, demonstrate that I am truly committed to my alma mater. I can't say if Ben E. Mays or Howard Thurman are rolling in their graves, but I do hope that in my desire to uplift brothers I fulfill Thurman's ideal of commitment. “Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve centre of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him than whether he lives or dies.” I sincerely thank you for your disagreement and hope we can continue to build a better and truer House.

  • http://www.supasoulsounds.com/ Corey Richardson

    I vehemently disagree. You believe that Morehouse is a democracy where having a voice and expressing yourself in a given manner gives you some kind of equality in the views you have are respected, even when in the minority.

    I would challenge that to say that Morehouse is a meritocracy where one is judged by the diligence of their work and their commitment to the goals set before them should be the true barometer of success.

    So I support the dress code as a leveling mechanism from whence, students will be judged on their merits and not their appearance. The game has indeed changed, but being discerning in admission practice as well as on campus behavior isn't a step back as much as it is a move to prepare these students for real life.

    I've spent the majority of the last ten years working my way through corporate America and I've seen the success and the failings of African Americans based on merit as well as perception. That said, I've worked with many an African American male who has expressed or purported himself in a manner not just unbecoming professionally , but outright dumb. All under the guise of “just being me”.

    No, you see, just being you is something you do when you don't want a job and are content to live as a marginalized individual or withering away doddling your ruminations in academia. For the rest of us, we need to get a head just to get ahead and may be the first in our family to not have to work for an hourly wage or live check to check.

    I say all that to say this. There is a prevailing standard that exists in America and, in order to make the students ready for the meritocracy of the real world, then the bonds of the misconception that somehow the world is going to come to them may be relieved somehow.

    Spelman and others didn't diminish the role of black men in America, WE DID. WE embraced this notion of hypermasculinity that manifests itself in hip hop music and bleeds into our attire. We embraced the concept of “keeping it real” when that notion is farcical when you're at an institution of higher learning. WE failed to meet the prevailing standards of what is and is not acceptable as a minority when dealing with the majority and aired our dirty laundry on MTV, BET, and whatever other entertainment outlet would accept our minstrelsy.

    I don't care about self expression when you go to class. THAT'S YOUR JOB… Just like my job doesn't give a fuck about my self expression. You want to sag your pants, wear a doo rag, or dress like Liz Taylor, that's fine, just don't do it when you're going to class or when you're in a venue that is representative of the college.

    I could go on, but my rational thoughts are going to be lost in a sea of liberal hippiespeak that looks to rationalize the foolish and demonize the mainstream as some kind of repressive entity when, in actuality, its the game that the majority of us have to play.

    Corey Richardson, Morehouse '00.

  • dumilewis

    I definitely hear you Yohance. It'd be a waste of space for me to parrot your support of the points I made, but more useful to discuss your divergences. I think you are right, we have to really look at what Morehouse is trying to do. And it appears, they are attempting to preserve a brand by in part drawing on a legacy. In this sense, these institutions operation to keep the “value” of their brand and that is often top priority. I know that Morehouse cost 34,000 in tuition alone, that means there is real money at stake. I'm not sure Morehouse or Hampton or most of our institutions are responding right, that's why I wrote this. I'm wondering what can be done to build the legacy and build brothers.

    Distractions are real on all fronts, you learn to deal with them. When that bluebook gets set in front of you, it's time to hunker down. In a sense, morehouse is the zone with the least distractions on average for black male college students, do we need to infantilize them by saying “we'll make sure this is perfectly sterile so you can get your work done?” I think your right, we need to get at the illness, not the symptoms. You clearly were digging for answers when you were there and adjusted behaviors on what you found, why do we (the collective morehouse we) suspect these brothas on campus aren't capable of the same? I've talked to professors and admin currently on campus and they suggest they students can, what does it mean for us to publically read this brothas as incapable of code-switching? You are right, what you wear makes a statement, whether in dockers or a dress and it behoves us to think deeply about it. I remember that the word bitch was “washed” from my vocabulary at a Freshman Orientation speech by Larry Crawford who talked about a marriage proposal and said, “Bitch will you marry me?” At that moment we all laughed, he said, “As outrageous as that sounds, that's how you sound when all the words out your mouth are bitch and nigga.” It was a lesson that didn't tell me, “no use of bitch” it was a lesson of discovery, how do we create the opportunities for discovery and in depth learning?
    Lastly, thanks so much bro … and I owe you like mad emails …. my bad, congrats!!!!

  • dumilewis

    Wait, did you really go to Morehouse or some corporate factory ;) I appreciate the response Corey. I think that you point of Morehouse being a meritocracy is in an important one. After all there is a way of measuring “merit” there, it's called GPA. If you have a 4.0 GPA and you choose to cross-dress on campus, is that an issue? If you choose to dress in 'masculine' ways and have a 2.1 is that an issue? If you dress like a “thug”… you see where i'm going with this. What is the relationship between “merit” and dress? Have we found a linkage between the two or have we taken to regulating expression in lieu of dealing with academic supports for success? Expression is a CENTRAL part of the collegiate experience. I remember when we were both walking around with dreadlocks, baggy torn bottom jeans and, in your case, sunglasses (all too often). I remember bumping the same Hip-Hop, wildin' out at parties, and still doing what needed to happen in the classroom, why can't these cats? Did you have to get fired from a few jobs to figure out how to “get along” in corporate America? Not to my knowledge. I never went the corporate route, unless you count my retail jobs! We learned about the value and consequences of expression while we went through the process. It was about actively being socialized not being read a set of rules. There are always cats who are “rough around the edges” but I'm sure it wasn't those etiquette workshops that Morehouse provided that helped them or us get where we are. Some will come from backgrounds where codeswitching is “natural” and “imperative”, others will have to learn it. It's Morehouse's challenged to deal with both of those types of brothers, as well as those who find no value in codeswitching, after all those are the brothers that they'll likely lift up after they go onto great things. Black men have a long history of navigating for mobility as well as personal worth, why now do we think it can't happen? Not all our students will go into corporate America, NOR SHOULD THEY. Our job as students was to expand our minds and do well in school, we did those things. Morehouse provided the space for us to explore those things, why shouldn't it now? -Your Hippie Freshman Year Roommate

  • http://www.supasoulsounds.com/ Corey Richardson

    I vehemently disagree. You believe that Morehouse is a democracy where having a voice and expressing yourself in a given manner gives you some kind of equality in the views you have are respected, even when in the minority.

    I would challenge that to say that Morehouse is a meritocracy where one is judged by the diligence of their work and their commitment to the goals set before them should be the true barometer of success.

    So I support the dress code as a leveling mechanism from whence, students will be judged on their merits and not their appearance. The game has indeed changed, but being discerning in admission practice as well as on campus behavior isn’t a step back as much as it is a move to prepare these students for real life.

    I’ve spent the majority of the last ten years working my way through corporate America and I’ve seen the success and the failings of African Americans based on merit as well as perception. That said, I’ve worked with many an African American male who has expressed or purported himself in a manner not just unbecoming professionally , but outright dumb. All under the guise of “just being me”.

    No, you see, just being you is something you do when you don’t want a job and are content to live as a marginalized individual or withering away doddling your ruminations in academia. For the rest of us, we need to get a head just to get ahead and may be the first in our family to not have to work for an hourly wage or live check to check.

    I say all that to say this. There is a prevailing standard that exists in America and, in order to make the students ready for the meritocracy of the real world, then the bonds of the misconception that somehow the world is going to come to them may be relieved somehow.

    Spelman and others didn’t diminish the role of black men in America, WE DID. WE embraced this notion of hypermasculinity that manifests itself in hip hop music and bleeds into our attire. We embraced the concept of “keeping it real” when that notion is farcical when you’re at an institution of higher learning. WE failed to meet the prevailing standards of what is and is not acceptable as a minority when dealing with the majority and aired our dirty laundry on MTV, BET, and whatever other entertainment outlet would accept our minstrelsy.

    I don’t care about self expression when you go to class. THAT’S YOUR JOB… Just like my job doesn’t give a fuck about my self expression. You want to sag your pants, wear a doo rag, or dress like Liz Taylor, that’s fine, just don’t do it when you’re going to class or when you’re in a venue that is representative of the college.

    I could go on, but my rational thoughts are going to be lost in a sea of liberal hippiespeak that looks to rationalize the foolish and demonize the mainstream as some kind of repressive entity when, in actuality, its the game that the majority of us have to play.

    Corey Richardson, Morehouse ’00.

    • dumilewis

      Wait, did you really go to Morehouse or some corporate factory ;) I appreciate the response Corey. I think that you point of Morehouse being a meritocracy is in an important one. After all there is a way of measuring “merit” there, it’s called GPA. If you have a 4.0 GPA and you choose to cross-dress on campus, is that an issue? If you choose to dress in ‘masculine’ ways and have a 2.1 is that an issue? If you dress like a “thug”… you see where i’m going with this. What is the relationship between “merit” and dress? Have we found a linkage between the two or have we taken to regulating expression in lieu of dealing with academic supports for success? Expression is a CENTRAL part of the collegiate experience. I remember when we were both walking around with dreadlocks, baggy torn bottom jeans and, in your case, sunglasses (all too often). I remember bumping the same Hip-Hop, wildin’ out at parties, and still doing what needed to happen in the classroom, why can’t these cats? Did you have to get fired from a few jobs to figure out how to “get along” in corporate America? Not to my knowledge. I never went the corporate route, unless you count my retail jobs! We learned about the value and consequences of expression while we went through the process. It was about actively being socialized not being read a set of rules. There are always cats who are “rough around the edges” but I’m sure it wasn’t those etiquette workshops that Morehouse provided that helped them or us get where we are. Some will come from backgrounds where codeswitching is “natural” and “imperative”, others will have to learn it. It’s Morehouse’s challenged to deal with both of those types of brothers, as well as those who find no value in codeswitching, after all those are the brothers that they’ll likely lift up after they go onto great things. Black men have a long history of navigating for mobility as well as personal worth, why now do we think it can’t happen? Not all our students will go into corporate America, NOR SHOULD THEY. Our job as students was to expand our minds and do well in school, we did those things. Morehouse provided the space for us to explore those things, why shouldn’t it now? -Your Hippie Freshman Year Roommate

  • Marcus Tyler

    I happen to agree with your position, Dumi, and am frankly a little more irritated about the fact that Morehouse would institute such a policy than I probably should be.

    First, let me say that I am a Morehouse alumnus and a member of the United States Army. I mention that because it may color my opinion of the use for and value of uniformity. I am also a man who grew up around but not necessarily in the “hood.” So, that my color my opinion of the use for and value of individuality. I can understand where their minds were when the administration brought this to the table. Dress the part, feel the part, act the part and all that jazz. But I find that idea and its use in this instance both unecessary and insulting.

    If there is one thing the successful black man has had to do it's adapt to his environment. We (if I may be so bold as to lump myself in with successful black men) have had to be whtever the situation called for and often fulfill several roles simultaneously. In order to get the same things as his white counterpart, he often has to be not as good as but better. So, after all that, to basically be told that it matters what I wear at my own school…in my own house…is pretty insulting…. Read More

    Besides that, part of the beauty of being who you are is that nobody else is quite like you. Taking that away is pretty significant and must be done for a darn good reason. In the military, it's done so that the overall mission can be broken down into it's smaller parts and those parts can be delegated out among all the Soldiers so that it may be accomplished. In a situation like that, each agent must behave predictably in order to achieve a predictable result. Any free agents or radicals in the mix cause the kind of confusion that can cost lives. To me, that's a pretty good reason to force uniformity and in so doing minimize individuality. Morehouse doesn't have such a reason in my opinion and instituting such a rule is unecessary.

    That's my two cents…for whatever it's worth (approximately two cents I'd say).

    Marcus Adisa Tyler
    Class of 2001

  • Marcus Tyler

    I happen to agree with your position, Dumi, and am frankly a little more irritated about the fact that Morehouse would institute such a policy than I probably should be.

    First, let me say that I am a Morehouse alumnus and a member of the United States Army. I mention that because it may color my opinion of the use for and value of uniformity. I am also a man who grew up around but not necessarily in the “hood.” So, that my color my opinion of the use for and value of individuality. I can understand where their minds were when the administration brought this to the table. Dress the part, feel the part, act the part and all that jazz. But I find that idea and its use in this instance both unecessary and insulting.

    If there is one thing the successful black man has had to do it’s adapt to his environment. We (if I may be so bold as to lump myself in with successful black men) have had to be whtever the situation called for and often fulfill several roles simultaneously. In order to get the same things as his white counterpart, he often has to be not as good as but better. So, after all that, to basically be told that it matters what I wear at my own school…in my own house…is pretty insulting…. Read More

    Besides that, part of the beauty of being who you are is that nobody else is quite like you. Taking that away is pretty significant and must be done for a darn good reason. In the military, it’s done so that the overall mission can be broken down into it’s smaller parts and those parts can be delegated out among all the Soldiers so that it may be accomplished. In a situation like that, each agent must behave predictably in order to achieve a predictable result. Any free agents or radicals in the mix cause the kind of confusion that can cost lives. To me, that’s a pretty good reason to force uniformity and in so doing minimize individuality. Morehouse doesn’t have such a reason in my opinion and instituting such a rule is unecessary.

    That’s my two cents…for whatever it’s worth (approximately two cents I’d say).

    Marcus Adisa Tyler
    Class of 2001

  • http://twitter.com/InfiniteSkillz Infinite Skillz

    REALLY impressive prose Dumi.

    I am Jeremy L. Writt (Multimedia Project Manager/English professor/sportswriter/news producer) aka Infinite Skillz (emcee/promoter) aka Morehouse graduate Class of 2000 aka Dumi's dorm/floor mate and fellow Virginian of Marcus and Corey. I list my monikers and relations as a point of illustration to say this.

    I wear multiple hats and so do you Corey.

    Am I less talented or less able to accomplish all that is required of me because I'm rocking a headband. Are you less brilliant while sporting those same dingy New Balances and aforementioned tattered jeans you had on when I met you?

    While I agree that right or wrong, certain attire is not acceptable in a corporate climate, I must remind those that agree with Corey that Morehouse is an institution of higher learning and while it is a business, students are attendees not employees.

    Morehouse can prepare students of ALL varieties for a corporate climate without a dress code. I remember being warned not to get too attached to seeing so many motivated people that looked like me because I'd probably be one of few in my eventual place of employment. Why can't they simply do the same when it comes to wardrobe? A simple, “Your baggy jeans (or your pastel capris if you prefer) are ok now, but certain corporate climates simply won't allow it” would do just fine without the stench of reactionary window dressing this dress code business smells of.

    The college to corporate World analogy proves to be more problematic when you realize that in a business setting, the boss sets the tone because he is paying you to be there. Morehouse is providing a service for which it is handsomely compensated. Students pay to go there so they in essence are doing the hiring. I'm not saying the students should be running the school but the school certainly shouldn't be controlling trivial issues like this.

    Educate the mind, body, and soul like you have been doing Morehouse and let these boys dress how they want to until their finances or circumstances dictate otherwise.

  • http://twitter.com/InfiniteSkillz Infinite Skillz

    REALLY impressive prose Dumi.

    I am Jeremy L. Writt (Multimedia Project Manager/English professor/sportswriter/news producer) aka Infinite Skillz (emcee/promoter) aka Morehouse graduate Class of 2000 aka Dumi’s dorm/floor mate and fellow Virginian of Marcus and Corey. I list my monikers and relations as a point of illustration to say this.

    I wear multiple hats and so do you Corey.

    Am I less talented or less able to accomplish all that is required of me because I’m rocking a headband. Are you less brilliant while sporting those same dingy New Balances and aforementioned tattered jeans you had on when I met you?

    While I agree that right or wrong, certain attire is not acceptable in a corporate climate, I must remind those that agree with Corey that Morehouse is an institution of higher learning and while it is a business, students are attendees not employees.

    Morehouse can prepare students of ALL varieties for a corporate climate without a dress code. I remember being warned not to get too attached to seeing so many motivated people that looked like me because I’d probably be one of few in my eventual place of employment. Why can’t they simply do the same when it comes to wardrobe? A simple, “Your baggy jeans (or your pastel capris if you prefer) are ok now, but certain corporate climates simply won’t allow it” would do just fine without the stench of reactionary window dressing this dress code business smells of.

    The college to corporate World analogy proves to be more problematic when you realize that in a business setting, the boss sets the tone because he is paying you to be there. Morehouse is providing a service for which it is handsomely compensated. Students pay to go there so they in essence are doing the hiring. I’m not saying the students should be running the school but the school certainly shouldn’t be controlling trivial issues like this.

    Educate the mind, body, and soul like you have been doing Morehouse and let these boys dress how they want to until their finances or circumstances dictate otherwise.

  • rianaelyse

    dear old morehouse or dear middle-class black society in general?

  • rianaelyse

    dear old morehouse or dear middle-class black society in general?

  • Pingback: Dear Old Morehouse | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  • tdb

    I work in downtown Atlanta, and it seems to be that young men were wearing high heels and tube tops, not just baggy pants. so while we are speaking airing the “dirty laundry” please understand that baggy pants not the issue.

  • tdb

    I work in downtown Atlanta, and it seems to be that young men were wearing high heels and tube tops, not just baggy pants. so while we are speaking airing the “dirty laundry” please understand that baggy pants not the issue.

  • kmt188

    This was a great article. Wonderfully written and provocative.
    It pains me to see all the “let's just shut up, produce corporate drones and be done with it” comments on this list. To my Morehouse Brothers: you didn't go to Morehouse to receive a pass into corporate america. you went there to receive a top-notch liberal arts education. the ability to succeed in corporate america, higher education, the military or wherever else you landed is a manifestation, or by product, of your educational preparedness. the cornerstone of that liberal arts education was the vigorous exchange and interrrogation of ideas. the reason you are highly regarded at your gig (if, in fact, you are) is because you were encouraged to debate with Shakespeare, plumb the depths of the black experience in history classes, grapple with mathematical principles, and confront the multiple meanings of your identity, all while navigating the many curves and challenges of college life. if you sincerely believe that the (sometimes heated) exchange of important ideas and positions (should there be a dress code, etc.) is a bad idea that “airs our dirty laundry”, then you've missed one of the more foundational points of our education. I'm reminded of what one of my friends, who teaches at Morehouse, said about this whole episode: “The trustees got mad about the fact that there were a couple of cats wearing dresses. I'm waiting for them to get mad at the fact that a bunch o' these n@ggas don't come to class!” And don't get me started on the feudal mentality that pervades my beloved campus when it comes to issues of faculty recruitment and retention. That is fodder for another day.

    Sidebar:

    I'm from Southern California. So, when I got to Morehouse, I regularly rocked a ridiculous pair of plaid green bermuda shorts. By any stretch of the imagination, I was a fashion disaster. One of my freshman brothers would clown me every chance he got over what I had on. “You should know better than to go around looking like a clown,” he would say. He always had on a suit, or at the very least a button down shirt and some nice pants. Very business like. My oh my, but he certainly loooked the part of an aspiring businessman; yes, indeed. Even dressed business casual on the weekends. However, he didn't come back second semester because he flunked out. Apparently, while my green bermies and I were in class and hunkered down in a back corner of Woodruff Library, he was developing a dysfunctional relationship with academic rigor. So, Morehouse put him on a bus, “with a candy bar and a comic book” and sent him home – fancy pants and all. I'm pretty sure I rocked my green bermudas at some point during senior week. But I had on a tie and some nice pants at graduation. My momma woulda killed me if I'd gotten my degree in shorts and flip flops. Though it did cross my mind.

  • kmt188

    This was a great article. Wonderfully written and provocative.
    It pains me to see all the “let’s just shut up, produce corporate drones and be done with it” comments on this list. To my Morehouse Brothers: you didn’t go to Morehouse to receive a pass into corporate america. you went there to receive a top-notch liberal arts education. the ability to succeed in corporate america, higher education, the military or wherever else you landed is a manifestation, or by product, of your educational preparedness. the cornerstone of that liberal arts education was the vigorous exchange and interrrogation of ideas. the reason you are highly regarded at your gig (if, in fact, you are) is because you were encouraged to debate with Shakespeare, plumb the depths of the black experience in history classes, grapple with mathematical principles, and confront the multiple meanings of your identity, all while navigating the many curves and challenges of college life. if you sincerely believe that the (sometimes heated) exchange of important ideas and positions (should there be a dress code, etc.) is a bad idea that “airs our dirty laundry”, then you’ve missed one of the more foundational points of our education. I’m reminded of what one of my friends, who teaches at Morehouse, said about this whole episode: “The trustees got mad about the fact that there were a couple of cats wearing dresses. I’m waiting for them to get mad at the fact that a bunch o’ these n@ggas don’t come to class!” And don’t get me started on the feudal mentality that pervades my beloved campus when it comes to issues of faculty recruitment and retention. That is fodder for another day.

    Sidebar:

    I’m from Southern California. So, when I got to Morehouse, I regularly rocked a ridiculous pair of plaid green bermuda shorts. By any stretch of the imagination, I was a fashion disaster. One of my freshman brothers would clown me every chance he got over what I had on. “You should know better than to go around looking like a clown,” he would say. He always had on a suit, or at the very least a button down shirt and some nice pants. Very business like. My oh my, but he certainly loooked the part of an aspiring businessman; yes, indeed. Even dressed business casual on the weekends. However, he didn’t come back second semester because he flunked out. Apparently, while my green bermies and I were in class and hunkered down in a back corner of Woodruff Library, he was developing a dysfunctional relationship with academic rigor. So, Morehouse put him on a bus, “with a candy bar and a comic book” and sent him home – fancy pants and all. I’m pretty sure I rocked my green bermudas at some point during senior week. But I had on a tie and some nice pants at graduation. My momma woulda killed me if I’d gotten my degree in shorts and flip flops. Though it did cross my mind.

  • kmt188

    This was a great article. Wonderfully written and provocative.
    It pains me to see all the “let's just shut up, produce corporate drones and be done with it” comments on this list. To my Morehouse Brothers: you didn't go to Morehouse to receive a pass into corporate america. you went there to receive a top-notch liberal arts education. the ability to succeed in corporate america, higher education, the military or wherever else you landed is a manifestation, or by product, of your educational preparedness. the cornerstone of that liberal arts education was the vigorous exchange and interrrogation of ideas. the reason you are highly regarded at your gig (if, in fact, you are) is because you were encouraged to debate with Shakespeare, plumb the depths of the black experience in history classes, grapple with mathematical principles, and confront the multiple meanings of your identity, all while navigating the many curves and challenges of college life. if you sincerely believe that the (sometimes heated) exchange of important ideas and positions (should there be a dress code, etc.) is a bad idea that “airs our dirty laundry”, then you've missed one of the more foundational points of our education. I'm reminded of what one of my friends, who teaches at Morehouse, said about this whole episode: “The trustees got mad about the fact that there were a couple of cats wearing dresses. I'm waiting for them to get mad at the fact that a bunch o' these n@ggas don't come to class!” And don't get me started on the feudal mentality that pervades my beloved campus when it comes to issues of faculty recruitment and retention. That is fodder for another day.

    Sidebar:

    I'm from Southern California. So, when I got to Morehouse, I regularly rocked a ridiculous pair of plaid green bermuda shorts. By any stretch of the imagination, I was a fashion disaster. One of my freshman brothers would clown me every chance he got over what I had on. “You should know better than to go around looking like a clown,” he would say. He always had on a suit, or at the very least a button down shirt and some nice pants. Very business like. My oh my, but he certainly loooked the part of an aspiring businessman; yes, indeed. Even dressed business casual on the weekends. However, he didn't come back second semester because he flunked out. Apparently, while my green bermies and I were in class and hunkered down in a back corner of Woodruff Library, he was developing a dysfunctional relationship with academic rigor. So, Morehouse put him on a bus, “with a candy bar and a comic book” and sent him home – fancy pants and all. I'm pretty sure I rocked my green bermudas at some point during senior week. But I had on a tie and some nice pants at graduation. My momma woulda killed me if I'd gotten my degree in shorts and flip flops. Though it did cross my mind.

  • Bsheftall

    I really appreciate your commentary.

    Beverly Guy-Sheftall

  • Bsheftall

    I really appreciate your commentary.

    Beverly Guy-Sheftall

  • Chula

    hey brotha Dumi – had to read this again. As a parent, I never put a draconian dress code in place. (In fact selecting his clothes was one of the first ways i sought to develop a sense of agency, an ability to choose- in my son.) In middle school when pants began to sag and belts were loosened, we had a conversation. And now as he’s at that Ivy league and when the stilletos were put on, we had a conversation.

    Thank you for your ongoing commitment to fostering dialogue and progress.
    Chula

  • Chula

    hey brotha Dumi – had to read this again. As a parent, I never put a draconian dress code in place. (In fact selecting his clothes was one of the first ways i sought to develop a sense of agency, an ability to choose- in my son.) In middle school when pants began to sag and belts were loosened, we had a conversation. And now as he’s at that Ivy league and when the stilletos were put on, we had a conversation.

    Thank you for your ongoing commitment to fostering dialogue and progress.
    Chula

  • Chula

    Not sure what i did…there was a lot more written below. :(

    Anyhoo…I share your concerns about narrowing the halls (and minds) and how policies such as this continue to demonize and marginalize. As we know from Gurin’s work, diversity works for us, not against us. And the greater diversity within (and opportunities for dialogue among), the greater likelihood of enhanced critical thinking. Of course, this is my applying the Michigan work to the Morehouse setting. So the data do not yet speak to this but perhaps it could/would? I’m basing this on my being the expert of my experience as a parent…and what I was thinking could/would happen if I embraced diversity in all of its elements and had open dialogue with my son.

    I came back to reread because the policy came up in conversation with a friend recently and the fire within me was re-ignited. Thank you again, Dumi, for writing. Rereading your thoughts calmed my nerves and lowered my ‘pressure.

    All the best,
    Chula

  • Chula

    Not sure what i did…there was a lot more written below. :(

    Anyhoo…I share your concerns about narrowing the halls (and minds) and how policies such as this continue to demonize and marginalize. As we know from Gurin’s work, diversity works for us, not against us. And the greater diversity within (and opportunities for dialogue among), the greater likelihood of enhanced critical thinking. Of course, this is my applying the Michigan work to the Morehouse setting. So the data do not yet speak to this but perhaps it could/would? I’m basing this on my being the expert of my experience as a parent…and what I was thinking could/would happen if I embraced diversity in all of its elements and had open dialogue with my son.

    I came back to reread because the policy came up in conversation with a friend recently and the fire within me was re-ignited. Thank you again, Dumi, for writing. Rereading your thoughts calmed my nerves and lowered my ‘pressure.

    All the best,
    Chula

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