Personally, I find sagging pants, du-rags, grills and accessories distasteful; however, I stand by people’s right to be self-expressive, particularly when it comes to ‘cross-dressing.’ In talking about Morehouse College dress code, I have to give props to Frank Leon Roberts for his post on the Root. In Morehouse’s efforts to preserve its legacy, it created a dress code which hinders student self-expression.
The “Appropriate Attire Policy” is the product of Robert Franklin, President of Morehouse; it is his attempt to create the modern “Renaissance Man.” In his words, “[he]…hopes to have the next generation of Morehouse graduates live up to the school’s legacy-
(read: tradition) as seen in notable alumni such as Martin Luther King, Jr, Spike Lee, Samuel Jackson, Maynard Jackson and Saul Williams.” The pattern is made clear when you look at these alumni together. All of these men are presumed heterosexuals and successful; ironically, some of these men are respected due to their efforts to unmask bigotry when encased in tradition. Yet, this facet of these men’s legacy, left to the Morehouse Administration to pass along to its students, seems all but forgotten. It seems that when the bigotry deals with ‘traditional masculinity’ and preferred styles of dress, it is understood as being corrective and beneficial for the Morehouse men, and thus goes unchallenged. For example, Morehouse men don’t wear dresses, purses, grills, du-rags, sagging pants and heels; they wear pants, Oxford and polo shirts, and nice loafers.
This black male respectability sentiments were echoed by TJ Holmes, CNN anchor, and Dr. Steven Perry, Educator and Author. Whereas Holmes and Perry were careful in their language to never directly comment on the cross-dressing, they implicitly let us know that it is too far across the line of acceptable male behavior, especially at Morehouse. I was disheartened by the statements of the Vice President of Student Services, Dr. William Bynum. He said to national media, “[w]e are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress in a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.”
I don’t know about Dr. William Bynum’s knowledge of Morehouse men, but we who are in the Life know differently. The running jokes among my gay friends are that you can always find a dateable guy (read: gurl) at Morehouse College, or you go to Morehouse to get the best college-grade Trade in town.
All jokes aside, I have a huge problem with Dr. Bynum’s comment. Not only does it allow professors, administrators and other students to police GBTQ students’ clothing and gender performance, but it gives credence to homophobic past actions (Aaron Price, the gay-wedding basher, and the experience of Jason Harrell ). When an Administration creates a rule to point-out “five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress in a way [the Morehouse Administration] do not expect” it is like declaring open season on transgender, transsexual and intersex students of Morehouse.
Admittedly, I am not a Morehouse man, and I never considered going to an HBCU. So the importance of maintaining legacy is something that fails to rise to a level where I can understand the dress policy as a necessary evil. I am deciding to close this out with youtube videos of black males taking a stance on the Morehouse Dress code.
XemVanAdams response to Moorehouse house Dress Code.
A black male responding to XemVanAdams.
A black male talking about why he supports the dress code and he is specifically against guys wearing dresses because it is distracting.