Whenever anyone mentions Morehouse College I instantly think of its most famous alum, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I imagine a college campus filled with intelligent, ambitious, over-achieving brothas just waiting for their chance to change the world, students who want to make a difference in the Black community and beyond, proud Black men who refuse to be a statistic or a stereotype.
So imagine my surprise when, as I watched a news story about Morehouse, I saw students walking on campus in do-rags, flip-flops, and sagging pants. Was this Morehouse College, producer of two Rhodes Scholars and five Fulbright Scholars? The same Morehouse that gave us actor Samuel L. Jackson, director Spike Lee, and Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses, among others? The story I was watching on CNN was about Morehouse’s decision to implement a campus-wide dress code. My only question after viewing footage of some of the students was – what took so long?
The decision by Dr. Robert Franklin, Morehouse president, and the school’s administration has naturally been greeted with mixed reaction. Some of the students approve while others – not so much. Some who opposed complained about their “rights” and not being able to “express themselves.” One young man said that certain styles of clothing are a part of Black culture.
Interesting arguments, to be sure. But not only are they baseless and ridiculous, they are also irrelevant.
First of all, nowhere in the constitution does it say one has the right to attend an historically Black , privately funded, all-male institution of higher learning while baring one’s boxer-covered butt-cheeks to the public. (I looked – it aint in there.) Anyone traversing the storied campus of Morehouse is there because of a desire to be a part of its incredible reputation and (most importantly) because Morehouse accepted the applicant. No one is forced to attend Morehouse. No one is entitled to attend Morehouse. If one wants to matriculate at a thugalicioius university, apply to P. Diddy Tech.
Secondly, freedom of expression is indeed an important facet of American life, particularly on a college campus. But what exactly is a student trying to say while wearing a t-shirt and ripped jeans to class? Does it mean “I just rolled out of bed and don’t really give a damn about Linear Algebra”? Does it mean “Government 101 is as important to me as drinking a 40 oz. on the corner with my crazy cousin Larry”? What message does a do-rag send? Gold grills? Badly applied lipstick that clashes with a mustache? What is the message?
Well, it seems the administrators at Morehouse have decided to express themselves as well, and their message is clear: Respect yourselves and the institution you have chosen to attend. Respect those that came before you. Know that everything you do, every move you make as a student not only reflects your values but those of Morehouse as well. Know those values and embrace them…or get to steppin’.
Third, one could say that do-rags, sagging pants, and cross dressing men who live in Atlanta are all parts of Black culture. But guess what? So are three piece suits. Dressing appropriately, being articulate, and having ambition are not qualities that are exclusive to one culture. Why should a college campus succumb to parts of our culture that are arguably less positive?
Finally, all arguments in opposition to the Morehouse dress code are moot. Like Hampton University, which also has a dress code for its students, Morehouse is a private institution. Not being dependent upon state funds has its advantages and my guess is that Morehouse alumni contributions may increase slightly after this.
I, for one, applaud the decision by Morehouse to demand, and expect, more out of its students. I hope all HBCUs will look into establishing a dress code for their campuses.
Maybe we should ALL be Morehouse men.