By Daniel Chandler
Morehouse College, an "elite," historically black all-male College, boasting such eminent alumni as Martin Luther King Jr., puts its popularity amongst the "best and the brightest" African American men down to the "Morehouse Mystique":
The Mystique is joining a brotherhood like none other. And after being ignored, stereotyped or marginalized, it’s about finally finding that "home" that, deep inside, you always knew existed, where you are the heart, soul and hope of the community. And where you are not alone.
Yet last week, in an act of rank hypocrisy, this very same College instituted an "appropriate attire policy" that discriminates against some LGBT members of this community, who have been persistently ignored, stereotyped and marginalized by society, and whose members must feel increasingly alone.
The new policy, introduced by the College’s President Robert M. Franklin, bans a wide range of clothing, from sagging pants, to pajamas in public, to wearing caps and do-rags inside. But it is one clause, apparently targeted at the LGBT community, that has commentators, if not the students, up in arms:
Clause 9 (of 11) bans the: "wearing of clothing associated with women’s garb (dresses, tops, tunics, purses, pumps, etc.) on the Morehouse campus or at College-sponsored events.
While College officials claim the policy is aimed at "all students", Kevin Webb, co-president of Safe Space @ Morehouse, a gay-straight student alliance, says he "thinks this borders on discrimination," pointing out that while there "are gay people who sag their pants and wear their do-rags…you don’t find people here who identify themselves as straight walking around in feminine garb."
The new policy is part of President Franklin’s insistence on a broad understanding of education. Franklin has talked of the "five wells," calling on students to be "well read, well spoken, well traveled, well dressed and well balanced." Morehouse joins a small group of colleges that have adopted dress codes in recent years. The crucial difference is that these other Colleges are co-educational, and made no attempt to ban women’s clothes. Indeed, it is Morehouse’s distinctively gendered institutional identity, its desire to produce a particular brand of ‘Morehouse Men’, that seems to be driving this attempt to rigidly define the boundaries of its community.