The Morehouse Man’s Dress Code
We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.”
— Dr. William Bynum, vice president for Student Services
See, if it weren’t for this well placed caveat I wouldn’t have much of an issue with the newly vamped dress code for Morehouse students. First things first, I need to put it out there for those who are unaware that cross dressing neither strictly nor automatically applies to gay men and women. Many straight men cross dress and it’s a seemingly accepted practice among women.
My first thought upon learning of the new dress code was assimilation. There’s been a cultural awakening taking place within the black community for going on the greater part of a decade. The fear of making social waves, unacceptable missteps in a community that prides itself on not being apart of “mainstream” America while falling over itself in other respects to do exactly that. And let’s not get started on sexuality. That thinking goes against the very foundation of everything Morehouse stands for. The aim is to prepare young black men and future leaders for assimilation into corporate America. White corporate America. The ramifications of not making bold proclamations against socially liberal thought is becoming almost sacrilegious. Allowing the opposite has gone on far too long say the cheerleaders of the new policy.
Dress like the rest, dress for success touts the new Black Ivy League of the south. Stop wearing your favorite purses and pumps to class because this is an example of what “not to be” and what behavior will not be upheld any longer on campus.
This is assimilation folks. This is their right as a privately funded institution of higher learning. If you are gay, bisexual and black, you better dress the par or else. The inclusion of a ban on sagging pants, grills, and certain hairdos are fodder used to distract us from the real message. When one guy is cross dressing we can turn the other cheek, but when five guys are doing it everyone pays. Check your sexuality, grills, fitteds and sagging pants at the door. We don’t wanna hear about it, see about it or talk about it anymore.
Fuck individual pride, personal freedom and whatever semblance of creativity you brought to the table when you were first accepted into this prestigious institution. Not only will you think and act like capable black men and future leaders, you will dress like them too, even though your counterparts wouldn’t dare include such language in a dress code aimed at creating higher standards for men. They’d expect those standards to already be in place. They’d say something simple like dark or tan slacks and polo’s, button downs or blazers for the masculine uniformed black elite is now the norm.
Being you is no longer an option, for you now represent the collective.
The Morehouse legacy includes bastions of men who have garnered love and respect for great personal and professional achievements in their lifetime. Men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose legacy includes the likes of Bayard Rustin, special assistant to Dr. King for several years, and an openly gay man. I suspect Mr. Rustin may have been torn on the issue. He was no stranger to forced conformity at the risk of losing everything and everyone. Despite the obvious heteronormative bias in the dress code, the politics of class is another thing altogether.
The foregone conclusion I’ve drawn from this is that it makes sense for Morehouse. The respectability of Wall Street was lost and found within the framework of the last financial crisis and we began to see it for what it really was. A place for white collar criminals to prey on innocent people and their money at almost no loss because regardless of what happened their coffers got filled. This is just a small part of the Ivy League elite, the exclusive all male atmosphere where success and achievement are measured based on how you look and who you know. What they don’t teach you in school is that at the end of the day the suit does not make the man, but it does make one hell of a first impression. That’s life in general.
I’m seriously reconsidering my university’s decision not to impose a strict dress code upon the student body. Perhaps the girl with pink hair or the guy with the tongue ring and dreads wouldn’t have graduated, let alone with honors. Am I really glad that I didn’t go to college to learn how to dress myself or am I just saying that to make myself feel better? I have no knowledge of the dress codes of the two universities I attended on my journey to higher learning. I don’t recall the use of expression repression as a precursor to graduating with honors and having a successful go at the real world either.
Many of the blog reactions I’ve read focus on race because the kind of dress being banned crosses class and culture lines and its targets are racially blatant. Interestingly enough, if a predominantly white university issued the same strict code I suspect the reaction would be one for the record books. I’m talking NAACP and all sorts of racial lambasting coming into play. Whatever happened to substance over style anyway? There have been many parents applauding the move because it “prepares their young men to compete with the white majority” after graduation. Do your job at home and the college won’t have to. What one wears is certainly important and a first impression is most often most important, but are we being led to believe that college age black men need to be told what to wear to an interview after graduating from a college as prestigious as Morehouse? Someone asked if something like this were to happen on the campus of Harvard or Princeton would it garner the same reaction. It’s doubtful they would deem it necessary to include such language in their dress code for obvious reasons. The fact that Morehorse finds it necessary to do so says a lot about the college and those who are tasked with teaching its young minds and preparing them for the future. It says they believe these young men just aren’t ready and on the surface it says neither are they ready to embrace diversity. The college wants to assimilate further and set a new standard so as to attract a greater socially reserved interest which will pay off big among black social conservatives.
I suspect policing the gray areas will cause the most upheavel. Let them enforce another rule that bans selective and arbitrary enforcement of the dress code because it’s bound to happen. The school has expectations of its students and faculty, and since it is a private institution it can facilitate those ideals in whatever manner it decides. Whatever image they consider to be representative of success and leadership is their interpretation whether we agree or disagree. For the record, I disagree and find most aspects of the dress code laughabale at best and discriminatory at its worst.