Dear Morehouse Football,
When I see you, I see my brothers, myself. When society sees me, they see a threat, a Black man. When the Black community sees me, they see their inferior, a Queer man. When I saw Lionel in Dear White People, I saw it all. Lionel played by Tyler James Williams speaks to my truth. I'm an outsider among outsiders -- oppressed by the oppressed. Even at Morehouse College, there are times that I feel like an oppressed minority. As a result, I wasn't surprised by the news of you all's recent fiasco at a showing of Dear White People in Columbia. Though I'm not surprised, I am disconcerted. I'm upset because you all's bombastic reactions say that my brothers support my demise. The idea that like Lionel my humanity could be erased if my sexual preference is discovered is daunting. However, what is even scarier than that is homophobia itself and the hyper-masculine culture here that fosters it. Morehouse cannot afford to foster the former nor the latter.
While at Morehouse, I've learned a great deal about others and myself. One thing I've come to learn is that my classmates and I are more similar than different. Frankly, football players are no different than me. At face value, we're both unofficial college ambassadors. I am too a member of organizations supported by the school. Though I'm not on a team, I understand camaraderie, teamwork and dedication -- all fundamental principles to a team's success. As members of historic organizations, we stand on the shoulders of others, and we seldom are lauded for who we are individually. Ergo, I've internalized an African proverb Ubuntu, meaning, "I am who I am because of what we all are." It suggests interdependence, and the notion: We are stronger as a collective than as individuals. In short, it is not our individuality by which we are distinguished, but rather by our collectivity.
Before Dear White People premiered, I previewed the film and engaged in dialogue with the director Justin Simien at a special screening. The screening was hosted by Morehouse's Cinema & Emerging Media Studies (CTEMS) program; both students and faculty members from the Atlanta University Center filled the audience. During the film, audience members expressed various reactions to Lionel, because of his sexuality. The audience groaned with disappointment at Lionel's advances toward a same-sex love interest; however, conversely, they cheered with thunderous applause as Lionel kissed the antagonist as a sort of lethal attack -- which I thought to be a fallacy in character delineation.
The film's pivotal moments, such as those mentioned above, sparked great dialogue amongst the audience and the director following the film's showing. As CTEMS director Dr. Stephanie Dunn mediated, we engaged in intellectual discourse on race, gender identity and sexuality. Morehouse must do the same. In order for Morehouse to thrive, we must increase the active, progressive intellectual discourse on campus even that about race, gender identity and sexuality. As assumed, it starts in the classroom; then into Chivers Hall, the cafeteria; into the residence halls; and finally, internalized into the minds of men of Morehouse. As college students, we should eagerly invite and foster intellectual discourse. For Dear White People, discourse could have centered around Lionel's lack of character motivation to kiss the antagonist, be it that he begins as an aloof and feeble character that would not be assumed to have enough gall to kiss his oppressor on the lips. Another could be how Simien uses homosexuality as a weapon of emasculation -- Lionel kissing the antagonist makes the antagonist weak, less manly. Why is homosexuality still a weapon of mass destruction? Why are men of Morehouse entertaining such a contention?
If we cannot have intellectual discourse, can we have humanity? Four years ago Vibe Magazine published the infamous "Mean Girls of Morehouse" article. Today it seems that we're at the other end of the spectrum. This polarizing change is concerning. We need to address and deal with the prevalent culture centered on performed, hyper masculinity at Morehouse. It's neither healthy nor prolific. Instead of fostering competitiveness and distinction, the community should encourage its students to consider the humanity of others.