Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Making A Man

Manhood is an important issue for black folks.

We obsess over what it means to be a man, and how many black men don't seem to make the grade. We cry in church, we complain on the Internet and we preen for TV cameras whenever it's time to discuss black manhood. Many of us assume there is a standard playbook, but in reality, all of us are making it up as we go.

Morehouse College in Atlanta has long trafficked in the idea that it creates a special breed of men. "The Morehouse Man" has a certain cache in some circles, although I confess that I had no idea about it when the school tried to recruit me out of high school. I couldn't have cared less about "The Morehouse Man," I was more concerned with the lack of Morehouse women.

Apparently, I was mistaken.

That story has been making the rounds on the Internet, and it's not surprising that many black folks have come down firmly on the side of Morehouse in its attempts to ban female dress among its students. After all, black people are typically socially conservative, and while many of us don't recognize the hypocrisy in our positions, that doesn't stop us from vehemently proclaiming them.

But, the policy should give rise to an interesting and layered debate. Morehouse has a legitimate gripe if some of its male students are actively taking hormones to become female in appearance. After all, it is an all-male school, and if these youngsters want to become something other than a man, then it seems like they are in the wrong place.

Just the fact that these students dress in drag surely confuses some people. Do they see themselves as men who just prefer the feel and look of women's clothes, or do they think they are male simply because of some quirk of birth? Are they challenging the popular ideas of how a man can look and behave, or doing their best to mimic women? The story in Vibe really didn't clear up any of those issues.

Morehouse has a reputation as a campus friendly to homosexuals in a city that has one of the largest gay black male populations in the country. Yet, it's quite likely that the school's alumni and officials have not fully accepted that a sizable chunk of Morehouse Men prefer to be romantically involved with other men. That doesn't fit the mystique, particularly among black folks.

Morehouse will not condemn homosexuality or say that gay students aren't real Morehouse Men. The backlash from that stance would be instantaneous and far-reaching, nothing like the parochial discussion currently occurring. I doubt Morehouse officials want to deal with that firestorm. Besides, officials know that some of the school's most well-known and accomplished alumni are gay men, whether openly gay or closeted. Yet, how does the school align its theories on manhood with both the mainstream opinion and the opinion in the black community?

I don't have the answers to that question but it is a fascinating issue to consider. Morehouse sells black people the idea that the school can turn out the prototypical man.

How do you keep your prototype up-to-date with the current trends without alienating your core customer base?

That is the question.


1 comment:

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

Morehouse can not have its cake and eat it too. It, like all entities not concerned with self-preservation, is simply destined to DEVOLVE into its antithesis for the simple fact that it can not reject radical liberalism IN ANY MANNER.

Morehouse ALREADY thinks MAN can be homosexual (sexually averse to woman) and so Morehouse's conception of MAN has been entirely liberated. "Man" is simply anyone who claims such.

Only explicit and radically illiberal rejection of homosexuality can save traditional Morehouse AND the conservative and traditional understandings of what a black man is.

There is no in between.

Raving Black Lunatic