No matter how charged and public the duel between homosexuality and the Morehouse College Mystique, every act of intolerance is not an indictment of campus culture and every push for inclusion is not a sign of transformation. So now that members of the Morehouse football team are being criticized for disrupting a screening of ‘Dear White People’ during scenes with homosexual themes, LGBT advocates and Morehouse purists should make an effort to separate incident from institution, and juvenile clowning from cultural crisis.
The Tiger football players were wrong for disrupting the screening for others, and more for offending their gay and straight peers with their loud insensitivity. They should be a little embarrassed that, unintentionally, they outed their own undeveloped masculinity by criticizing the perceived lack of the same in the movie.
But their actions, no different from other scenarios involving black and white athletes across the country in settings where sexual diversity is on display, are enhanced because it is Morehouse — the same Morehouse which has outright fought with the public shift of its student and alumni profile along lines of sexual orientation. It’s no surprise that athletes acted a fool in a public place, but it makes for good conversation when men of Morehouse act a fool in disgust of homosexuality; a position that many of today’s Morehouse students and graduates take and quietly defend in group chats, email chains and alumni meetings, while a growing number of men on the other side of the discussion are growing in their public advocacy for a new institutional climate.
Because it is Morehouse, the sacred grounds of training and indoctrination for those Black men who will go forth and lead our race to greater heights, there is a generational and cultural tension on the subject of homosexuality. The goal for many years was to maintain a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t be seen’ philosophy; because to do any of these things was a betrayal of Mother Morehouse and the things for which she stands. This was not a Morehouse philosophy, but rather, a Black American philosophy which became amplified on the Morehouse campus because of its history, its gender-based mission, and importance to the goal of creating the men who would lead our collective struggle to survive into our God-endowed right to thrive.
This is a philosophy that some, to this day, still hold very dear. But it clashes with our culture’s changing perspectives on homosexuality, identity, masculinity, and how these things are interwoven into that same ‘survive-to-thrive’ mission. Today, sexuality is not a threat or imposition on the lives of individuals or their comfort in learning or professional settings. But young Morehouse activists are still compelled to fight against that old guard philosophy, and their charge is to make sure that any sign of resuscitation for sexual intolerance is immediately and publicly denounced.
And Morehouse doesn’t particularly take kind to anything public that does not make Morehouse, its students or its graduates appear as the best in the world.
The mere mention of homosexuality and Morehouse College draws attention from Black America. And that’s unfortunate, because many students and graduates on both sides of the ‘LGBT at Morehouse’ discussion have worked very hard for their beliefs to miss causing the college any public relations or cultural damage. There is a lot of work yet to be done on the campus and beyond its borders on the subject of tolerance and inclusion, but suggesting that Morehouse is the same as it was last year or 100 years ago is not true. Given the reaction to this latest incident involving LGBT attitudes at the college, many may think that Morehouse Men cannot be told much on the subject of LGBT tolerance, but there are many on and off campus who are open to a more a different future than what history and culture may dictate.
Four years ago, the Mean Girls of Morehouse created a firestorm of controversy on the subject of LGBT issues in the AUC. Today, the conversation is far less heated and far less hate-driven, but it is indeed alive and well.
But what is the conversation all about? Building a more inclusive future or guarding a historically powerful past?