Morehouse Professors Send Open Letter To VIBE


An Open Letter To VIBE
By David Wall Rice and Sinead Younge

October 18, 2010

Vibe magazine’s recently published article dealing with several young men at Morehouse College referred to as the “Plastics” has again placed the institution in the midst of heavy criticism around issues of tolerance and acceptance. The young brothers who went on record with the periodical explained instances of misfit within the college, and within the gay community of which they are a part, based largely on their wearing women’s clothing and accessories.

Since adopting the appropriate attire policy in 2009, public narratives have dogged Morehouse College as being a bulwark of homophobia. This based almost exclusively on the stipulation that men wearing women’s clothes on campus is not tolerated with little regard for the main foci of the policy, professional presentation and comportment.

The best of Morehouse College is gay and straight. And, to be sure, there are spaces within the fabric of the institution that are intolerant where tolerance is particularly called for. Those are parts of the College that we are not proud of and that we work daily to be better than. But to suggest intolerance as Morehouse’s default is wrong, that is not who we are – this is what we fight against. Our community recognizes one another as family. But this is not the image of Black men that fits neatly to the design of media and pop scholarship.

To conflate what a man cannot wear on campus with the identity of that man, and with the identity of the institution is narrow and misrepresents the complexity of Black men and the imperatives necessary to build Black men in the 21st Century. The Morehouse College administration has explained the appropriate attire policy as dynamic, and substantive dialogue around the policy has and will continue to occur, as it should. But to snipe at the institution from afar and to imply that Black men cannot hold their brothers and their sons accountable in ways we understand as being responsibly directive is insulting and suggests an academic approach where intellectual rigor is called for.

We are of the opinion that the Vibe article is sensational entertainment that has too freely reduced important issues to salacious spin. The concern here is that critical discourse has been compromised in the same vein, to the detriment of community.


David Wall Rice & Sinead Younge
Assistant Professors,
Department of Psychology
Morehouse College

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