A Sister Who Has Something to Say

Friday,August 30, 2013

Why The Media Industry is Failing Us

images

The nation observed the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington” and Dr. Martin Luther King’s prolific “I Have A Dream” speech. To date, it is the biggest civil protest held in the history of the United States. Throughout the anniversary, news organizations took a look at what has changed since 1963.  But it is just as important to remember what happened in the five years AFTER 1963. The nation was in turmoil and violent outbreaks occurred over the country.  A landmark report known as the “Kerner Commission Report on Civil Disorders” accused the news media of being somewhat of a conspirator in creating an environment that infuriated thousands of people.  White Americans didn’t understand why Black folks were so “angry.” African Americans were rarely mentioned by the news media except when negative events occurred. There were literally few Black journalists on the front line of coverage of the riots and community breakdowns that happened. As one of my closest news colleagues said “People won’t buy or read the newspaper if they can’t use it. And if they don’t see themselves in the newspaper, they can’t use it.” Many people believe that 1968 was the turning point in the civil rights movement.

But what has happened in the media in the past half a century. In many ways, the news climate is not much better. Representation of journalists of color in key decision making positions in the media is marginal at best. Veteran journalists with 25 or more years experience are discarded. Media has been greatly influenced by the incredible explosion of technology. Now, almost anyone can be their own media outlet. Traditional media outlets have also changed in pursuit of larger audiences. These audiences are now very segmented because of the availability of alternative forms of information. The traditional media have now become “agenda driven” because that is what the powers that be believe will attract a larger audience and make more money for them. Some of the so-called news organizations have, in fact, become pseudo propaganda outlets.

I am an old school journalists and I am able to discern truth from fiction, but I am concerned that the majority of Americans are not able to distinguish the two. The tenets of journalism such as attribution, verifying facts through at least three independent sources and quality writing have been tossed to the side. To most media outlets, there is more competition to be “first” rather than be “right.”

As I watched and read the coverage of several key issues over the summer, it became apparent to me that the majority of today’s so-called journalists don’t have a clue. They have no institutional memory, don’t do their homework and fail to think deeply enough to explain major topics and their ramifications to their audiences. We are not “speaking truth to power”.  Here are some of those taboo subjects.

images

Why are there no open, honest and effective discussions about the state of race in America? This trend started during the civil rights movement and continues to today. We face sometimes painful realities about how we, as a country, have failed to correct many of the injustices of the past. We have created new injustices and we have remained silent.

A recent poll on race shows that white Americans are less likely to have non-white friends. The Reuters poll said about 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans “surround themselves exclusively with friends of their own race”.

To no surprise, the South had the lowest percentage of people with friends from a different race. And naturally the greatest race mixing occurred in the Pacific states. .

Recently, President Obama challenged Americans to  soul search on racial issues” after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Reporter after reporter, anchor after anchor questioned the feelings and the realities of life in the Black community following the decision. What has changed today? Why is it so hard for people to understand the pain and suffering that a lot of African Americans started feeling when the Zimmerman verdict came in. News commentators just didn’t get it when they questioned the outrage that many people expressed.

They had the same incredulous look of Zimmerman’s brother who said on national television, “black people in Chicago kill black people every day and no one is arrested.” Really?

The lack of understanding and interpretation of the ramifications of the following stories on all media platforms was apparent in the dissemination of information on the following issues:

  • Gay Marriage Issue-The two decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, known as SCOTUS, carried tremendous weight when it relates to the fabric of America, regardless of which position you support or oppose.
  • Voting Rights Act-Ironically, the accomplishments from 50 years ago are under attack today by the decision on the Voting Rights Act and Voting ID Laws. Congressman John Lewis almost choked up while speaking about the “little bit of blood he spilled” in Alabama fighting for these rights and he vowed not to give up now.
  • Travon Martin verdict-News reporters couldn’t understand why so many people were shocked by the decision in the Travon Martin case. Because of their myopic vision of the world, the people who are front and center in the media were dumbfounded when they heard stories about life in the communities they never visit. Few stated the reality that 30 states have the “stand your ground” law that became the centerpiece of the Zimmerman case. Now we have the “stop and frisk” issue to address in addition the years of dealing with the infamous “Driving While Black” cases that happen every day to young Black men.
  • Texas abortion battle-The “sneaker” of these stories could be the battle over funding for abortion programs in Texas. While the case has not reached the U.S. Supreme Court yet, if you follow the path of the legal procedures, it could put the milestone Roe versus Wade case in front of the SCOTUS in the very near future.

The news business and media industry is not an easy place to thrive and prosper. I have noticed a degeneration of understanding from some of my media colleagues that I find disturbing. It’s time to take our profession back to the basics in order to fulfill our primary mission as distributors of information. We are society’s and government’s watchdog. We are supposed to give our citizens the information they need to know in order to make educated decisions. We must speak truth to power.  On one  one episode of HBO’s  “The Newsroom” a character says “We don’t have the trust of the American public any more.  I don’t see a lot of that going on right now.” The owner of the network says “Let’s get it!”

Despite Dr. Martin Luther King’s declaration “I have a dream!”, right now it is a dream deferred.

Wednesday,January 30, 2013

The Writing is on the Wall

Filed under: CNN,Diversity,Jobs,Media,MSNBC,NABJ,Race — sidmel @ 10:58 am
Tags: , , , ,

whitaker_cnn-287x210

Mark Whitaker

The changes announced recently by CNN chief Jeff Zucker concern me. I think CNN is about to go through a seismic change that does not bode well for people of color. First, there is the news that CNN’s morning show, now anchored by Soledad O’Brien is being taken over by Chris Cuomo and Erin Burnett, neither of which are people are color. Next is the announcement of the departure of Mark Whitaker as managing editor. As a television news manager myself, I understand Mark’s response that Zucker needs to build his own management team. That is what usually happens when a new chief arrives. But that also leaves a void in the management ranks of CNN. I also concerned that there are moves afoot to move CNN’s headquarters to New York from Atlanta. That’s because of the myopic vision that NY is the center of the media world. We should keep an eye on what’s happening with this media giant and demand that their news product reflect the true America. MSNBC is figuring it out as their audience of African American viewers has shown tremendous growth. I also want to point out that there are a number of people of color in the management ranks of MSNBC who are at the table to make sure all voices are heard. Hopefully, CNN will also get the memo and do some things to show that they are truly dedicated to reflecting the diversity of our country. I also challenge my beloved National Association of Black Journalists, where I served as an officer and national president for several years, to not be silent on this issue. We must speak out now before it is too late.

Tuesday,January 8, 2013

The New Me in the New Year

images

During the time of my personal reflection for the New Year, I found out several things about myself.  I discovered that I have been living in a fantasy world for almost 40 years. First, there was the fantasy of living in the 70s as an African-American student at the prestigious Northwestern University (Did I mean that we won the Gator Bowl???? The first time in 64 years and that was a long time before I was even born.) Then I went deeper into fantasy as a television anchor on the idyllic island of Guam. I went straight from there to 27 years of fantasy as a television news executive and manager in my hometown. Over the past several years, I’ve been slapped into the realities of today’s world.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is how people act when you no longer have “a title” after your name. I startled me about how many people dropped off my radar when I was no longer labeled “executive producer” after my name. My primary resolution for the New Year is to no longer be “played” by people who don’t appreciate me for being me and the skills, talents and friendships I bring to the table. While it hurt, it was a wake up call for me about how shallow our world has become. As part of my reflection time, I took a look at my blog from last Christmas entitled “All I Want for Christmas.” I wasn’t surprised, but deeply moved by how little things have changed and pray for a major revolution in 2013. Here’s my latest update on what was on my list last year and what has happened in the last year.

  • End the violence-This was my first wish since my oldest son was robbed at gunpoint right before Christmas 2011 as he went to purchase Christmas treats for the children in the after-school program where he worked. So, what happens this year? Newtown. The same thing that happened to those innocent children could have happened a year earlier to my son. But he was saved by God’s grace. This wish drifts farther away with reports of increased violence in cities like Chicago where there is a homicidal epidemic.
  • Stop hazing, bullying and intimidation-The reports continue to come in about hazing for initiation into various groups. Few practices have been stopped following the death of a Florida A&M University drum major. But a different kind of bullying and intimidation swells in America’s corporate ranks. People who disagree with the “status quo” or speak their minds are fired, downsized, given bad evaluations or subjected to all kinds of intimidation to get them to conform. The tighter jobs become, the more these abusive practices are used in corporate America.
  • Get rid of celebrity worship. Beyonce’, Kanye, Kim Kardashian, Lil’ Wayne, T.I. and Tiny, Honey Boo Boo, The Real Housewives of anywhere, All My Babies Mammas…. Need I say more? The cultural decline continues. Where is the outcry to get rid of these trashy reality shows? The only reason they continue to proliferate is because people continue to watch them. We also need to hold the networks and advertisers on these shows accountable. The way to hurt them is to hurt their wallets.
  • Eliminate modern-day slavery-Despite the noble efforts of organizations like the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, human trafficking continues to abound. Young people and children are the primary victims. Now, in these days of budgetary cutbacks, many are questioning whether this problem even exists. According to one recent article,”An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that the initiatives are based on facts and figures that, while preached as gospel and enshrined in legislation, are guesses or distortions.”
  • Confront the issue of race in America. Look at what happened during the last presidential campaign. Listen to what national talk show hosts are saying. Look around your own communities and it is clear that the situation is only getting worse. Hate emails, inappropriate postings on social media, vile comments on traditional media, the lack of diversity in the top ranks of most corporations, including the news media are only symptomatic of the root cause of racial problems in America. Everyone is retreating to their own silos of comfort.

So, obviously, I didn’t get the things I wanted for Christmas in 2011. Very little has changed in 2012. We are facing some tremendous challenges for 2013. So now is the time we must strengthen ourselves. I’m determined to become stronger spiritually, mentally and physically this year. I’ve already begun my efforts and am confident that I will succeed. One of my new initiatives is as a contributor to the Girlfriends Health Guide. Check us out at http://www.girlfriendshealthguide.com. Let’s pray that some of my Christmas wishes will come true this year.

Thursday,July 26, 2012

The approaching vacuum in newsrooms

Filed under: Uncategorized — sidmel @ 12:00 pm

It had to happen one day, but the recent retirements and departures several veteran journalists across the country are about to create a tremendous vacuum in the nation’s newsrooms. My home girl, Monica (Kaufman) Pearson anchored her last newscast last night. Now Diana Lewis announced her retirement after 44 years at WXYZ in Detroit and Sheila Foster is leaving the Chicago Sun-Times after 43 years. And yours truly left WAGA-TV after 27 years. What this has done to newsrooms is a lack of institutional knowledge. Most of the young journalists I meet don’t know what it is to live through 9/11 or Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered Children crisis, much less the Watergate scandal. The people who own and operate this news organizations are making a serious mistake “kicking us to the curb.” They are not creating a culture of journalistic integrity that includes people of all ages and give us the opportunity to teach others and lend the value of our experience. Instead, they are looking for young, lower paid journalists who have very little perspective to add. All these news organizations want are the “pretty faces” to bring in audiences. What they don’t understand is that if you create a news product that includes the community and people read and and see themselves in the news. then they will become the news consumers of the future. It’s too bad most news organizations just don’t get it.

Tuesday,July 10, 2012

“Fed Up” Update

First…there was “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

Then…there was “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta”

Now…there is “The Real Mistresses of Atlanta”

Come on. Really?

By now, you have probably heard about or read the excellent story in theGriot.com about how Atlantans are sick and tired of the trashy “reality” shows that are casting a very negative light on our beautiful city. If you haven’t read the piece, check out theGriot.com. It includes quotes from Morehouse president Dr. Robert Franklin and former Mayor Shirley Franklin and yours truly. Word about the article has also reach several other websites and online publications.

One article mentioned that some people are organizing a boycott of the shows. I haven’t seen any information about that so far, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The reason these shows are proliferating like rabbits is because some of them are attracting large audiences and that means big bucks. Some people, particularly young folks, love that stuff and watch it religiously. That says something about the values of our society. But if we get rid of these shows, we have to offer something to replace them. I believe that there are dozens of really positive stories happening in my hometown every day, but they aren’t getting any attention. Do I need to remind people that this is the city where Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Alonzo Herndon, Ralph David Abernathy and Juanita Abernathy, Benjamin Elijah Mays, Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Joseph and Evelyn Lowery, Herman Russell and many, many more African American heroes and sheroes lived and continue to live and prosper? Our history is legendary and deserves to be honored and lifted up. But will it make good TV? That remains to be seen. But as a television producer myself, I think, given the right resources and proper treatment, we can tell some riveting stories.

Since I have worked in the media for almost four decades, I understand the desire by people who are fed up with trash TV to boycott the shows. But as a television insider, I would add that the real way to get to the jugular vein of these shows is to go after the advertisers on these shows. If the advertisers go away and the viewers go away, then the networks will drop these shows like a hot potato. Atlanta deserves better. Those who agree just need the will to create change.  As news legend Walter Cronkite used to say, “We’ll watch and report.”

Friday,June 8, 2012

WHY????????

Filed under: Uncategorized — sidmel @ 1:50 pm
Tags: , ,

I am so tired of these so-called rappers shooting each other! I worked with Afeni Shakur and the performing arts center here in Atlanta and I can tell you that there is no reason for all this violence. But that is the culture that all these wanna be music producers are producing. It just keeps this violence going. These dudes have no money, no jobs and no life. Let’s not talk about the fact that they are producing no real music. As a community, we have to stand up and JUST SAY NO! Otherwise, we will lose a whole generation of young people. As a native of Hotlanta, I just want to say that I am tired of all this mess! Plus most of you all aren’t really doing anything but coming up with stupid names. Stop it!

Thursday,May 17, 2012

Global Evolution in Progress…So Get Ready!

Image

 

This just in…a new report indicates that for the first time ever in the history of this country, more babies of color will be born than white babies. Duh… I saw that coming more than ten years ago. It’s all part of the “global evolution” that is happening right now. A lot of people became upset with President Barack Obama when he said that his opinion about same sex marriages has evolved over the years. I know just want he was saying. I’ve gone through that evolution too. If two people love each other, then it is their choice on how to express that love. 

It was interesting that the President said that when he talked with his daughters, they didn’t have a clue that there was anything “wrong” with same sex marriages because they had friends and knew several family members in those relationships. The same thing is about to happen is the “outrage” over interracial marriage. It is my prediction that in the next 10 years, the terms “Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, etc.” will be totally irrelevant because of the number of “mixed marriages” going on now. Since I just completed the first half of my life, I remember how any type of mixing of the races was strictly taboo on both sides of the fence. Now, look how all that has changed in the last 50 years. I can not imagine how things will evolve in the second half of my life. The evolution is also picking up speed and change is more rapid than ever before.

My profession, the news industry, didn’t recognize the signs of this evolution or they chose to ignore it. Now they are paying the price. The news industry is NOTHING like the profession I joined more than 30 years ago. We are doing journalism differently. But it is in a state of evolution so things will be different in the news industry in just the next five years. 

Stop for a minute and visualize what you think will be going on in your world in 10-20 years. I know I sound like my grandmother or my mother, but “things ain’t the way they used to be and it’s not going back.” I used to think they were old fashioned when they said that. But now I hear myself saying it all the time. 

Now there are a few things that I don’t like about this global evolution.

1. Violence is too pervasive all over the world, from child exploitation, to murder to genocide. We’ve got to find some solutions to deal with this hideous obsession. 

2. The financial world as we know it is making some serious mistakes. They are also living by the “old school” ways and it’s not working. There is a tempest in the teapots in countries across the world.

3. We need to think about STANDARDS and how we need to take a look at what has worked in the past like respect, outreach, caring and not tolerating ignorance and bad behavior. 

This is all new for me too. But I am riding the wave of change and I’m still standing. 

Tuesday,December 13, 2011

All I Want For Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — sidmel @ 8:47 am

Most people have heard the children’s holiday song “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.” Here’s my list of what I REALLY want for Christmas this year.

  • Violence and lawlessness continues to rip our community apart. Yesterday, my oldest son was robbed at gunpoint as he got out of the car to go into a store to buy Christmas candy treats for the children in the after-school program where he works. I thank God that he was not physically hurt, but it is a moment that he will remember for the rest of his life. Not only did this criminal threaten my son’s life, but also he literally stole from the mouths of babes. What is even more disturbing is that black-on-black crime seems to be escalating at an alarming rate. I know that people are suffering economically…so are we. But why do we continue to allow these people to prey on our neighborhoods each and every day? This thug lifestyle is even glorified on television shows, movies and especially music videos. We have a whole generation of people who believe that this kind of lifestyle is not only normal, but also expected. As a professional journalist, I’ve reported on these kinds of stories for more than 30 years and I know that the outcome could have been much worse for my son. But I never knew the pain until it hit so close to home.
  • Hazing, bullying and intimidation must end immediately. I went to college in the 70s in the days of the Black Power Movement when there were serious questions raised about the relevance of being “Black and Greek.” I have never understood how getting my butt beaten would endear me and bond me to my “brothers or sisters” in any sorority, fraternity, organization or group. It just doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, it seems like the same kind of activity that is used to initiate people into gangs. Schools continue to tolerate this behavior as more students die, are seriously injured or even take their own lives when they feel like they can’t take it any more. Why aren’t we doing things to encourage achievement in all of our schools, from elementary to the college level, instead of creating an environment where children are terrorized and young adults fail academically because they think it is more important to be part of the “in crowd”?
  • Multi-million dollar athletes and celebrities may provide different kinds of entertainment. But what does it say about our society when we engage in. celebrity worship of gangsters, gold diggers, hussies, pimps, booty shakers, one-hit wonders and the ‘low lifes” in our communities? Everybody wants to get rich quick rather than work to earn those millions. What happened to the concept of paying your dues? The real heroes in our society are the teachers, health care professionals, lawyers, emergency responders, engineers, legitimate business owners and others who give back and make a difference in the lives of others. Even though I work in the media, my profession is a co-conspirator in perpetrating this warped view of the world. Now, anyone who blogs, tweets, posts or be-friends others on social media think they are journalists. Forget whether there is an ounce of truth in what they say or write. Most news organizations and other media have abdicated our primary responsibility to be society’s watchdog, to provide a voice for the voiceless, to comfort the affiliated and afflict the comfortable, to speak truth to power. Instead, they are in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
  • Every day, the news headlines are filled with the latest and greatest report about child molesters, sexual predators, child and elderly abusers, forced laborers, human traffickers and other culprits. Whatever you call it, this is modern-day slavery. There are many who believe that slavery no longer exists in this country and around the world. There are many organizations and individuals fighting to stop these heinous acts. But they are usually ignored because the alternative is viewed as much more sensational. What has happened to our priorities and our sensibilities? We must immediately end the mistreatment and disrespect of others.
  • Finally, all I want for Christmas is for our religious leaders, politicians and those in power to get a reality check. America is not the same as it was 50, 25 or even ten years ago. One of the issues we are afraid to discuss is race in America. Why can’t we have an open and honest discussion about the things that continue to divide us and make us immediately suspicious of people who don’t look like us? There have been minuscule efforts to deal with race and ethnicity but those efforts are drowned out by the noise of ignorance and intolerance. People continue to live under highway viaducts, families are living in cars (just ask Sly Stone from the hugely successful R&B group, Sly and the Family Stone who now lives penniless in a van) and thousands line up every day at shelters because they don’t know when and where they will get their next meal. The only thing that is constant is change. If we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.

Friday,July 1, 2011

Why There Is No Unity In Unity

It took me a long time to decide whether this blog. But I decided I could no longer be silent. Here’s my opinion about why Unity: Journalists of Color fell apart. For those who don’t know, Unity was a coalition of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). Now, this could be a little “too much inside baseball” for people who are not journalists. But I think the essence of why Unity fell apart speaks to the broader issue of how to deal with racial issues in America.

 

  • I was the first incorporator for the Unity 1994 convention. We had to overcome many obstacles such as a small and insular Asian community in Atlanta, on-going immigration issues in Georgia affecting Hispanics, and the controversy over the name of the Atlanta Braves and the “chop” for Native Americas. NABJ members were thrilled to come to Atlanta because, after all, it is considered the “black Mecca.” But the lion’s share of the work also fell on the backs of the Atlanta chapter of NABJ. We worked very hard and tried to address all the issues brought up by these various groups and I believe we were very successful. At that time, all the boards fully understood and insisted that Unity should be a coordinating unit for our four organizations. It was NEVER the intention of the founding group to create a fifth entity, especially one that would compete with all four organizations for grants, foundation money and programs. All that seemed to change in 2003. I believe that Unity board did not think things through and the ramifications of creating a “stand alone” organization complete with a staff and budget.

 

  • Unity was supposed to be an advocacy coalition between our four groups because we believed in strength in numbers. While Unity has taken some positions, it has been under the Unity umbrella rather than the collective voices of our four organizations. But it never became the “industry giant” it was supposed to be. We were too busy “biting the hand that fed Unity.” We never became the in your face coalition that we wanted to be.

 

 

  • The financial model and the governance issues just didn’t add up. First, there was a problem getting the actual financial statements, which is a no-no for any journalism organization. We expect others to be totally transparent about their financial reports, so we should do the same. Then, after doing the math, it became clear that NABJ and other organizations were not receiving the proceeds to which they were entitled. Most of the money was being funneled back into Unity. And when all of the other groups started suffering financially because of the downturn in the economy, Unity made no economic offers to help. Instead, it sat on largesse of almost a million dollars while everyone else was laying off people, cutting programs and closing offices. The numbers also did not add up on the board representation. NABJ has consistently attracted the largest number of registrants at every Unity convention and it has the largest membership. But those numbers were not proportionately represented on the board. It was a classic case of taxation without representation

 

  • The right people who should have been brought in to work out the problems were not utilized. One of the joys I have from the Unity experience is that I developed long-lasting relationships and friendships with fellow journalists from all ethnicities. I still treasure those relationships today. If the resources of these sage journalists were tapped and they were involved in the process, things would have worked out and there would have been no need for NABJ to pull out. But many of these leaders have been “put out to pasture” by all of the organizations and their valuable experiences are lost.

 

  • Finally, Unity suffers from the same mindset that plagues America. We are afraid to honestly and openly talk about race and ethnicity in the United States. President Bill Clinton made a half-hearted attempt when he authorized his commission on race, which went nowhere. Instead of making remarks behind closed doors, we need to put all of our cards on the table and deal with race and racism in this country. We must be willing to talk about the differences that exist between our groups and address those differences boldly. We need the courage to speak out and say why we don’t like each other or what are the pet peeves that really irritate us. Then we need to deal with those issues.

 

There is no such thing as a monolithic “black” community with self-appointed leaders and spokespeople. The label “Asian” can include people from India, China, Korea, Vietnam and several other countries. “Hispanic” covers people from Brazil, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico and countries throughout the southern hemisphere. Technology has made the world much smaller and we will continue to become more diverse. So, we must be frank and in some cases, brutal with each other in order to reach a level of trust and the true meaning of Unity. Until we do face facts and devise solutions, there can be no “unity” in Unity.  The black/white issues remain a difficult subject to address. Now, coming to grips with that reality that there are people from all backgrounds throughout the fabric of our society, there is no way we all cannot NOT deal with this quickly.

Wednesday,October 20, 2010

From “A Mean Mom of Morehouse”

Why? That’s what a lot of people want to know after reading the recent Vibe magazine article entitled, “The Mean Girls of Morehouse”. Writer Aliya King addressed what she calls “a growing trend of cross-dressing gay students at Morehouse, an all-male Historically Black College.” This is the same institution that produced Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I’m not a Morehouse Super Booster. In fact, my son has faced a number of challenges while at Morehouse. But my 30 years in journalism made my “radar” go up with questions about the timing and the motivation behind this negative portrayal directed at one of the few institutions in America dedicated to the strengthening and development of African American men. Since I am also an adjunct professor at Clark Atlanta University, I’ve noticed with dismay that most of my classes are 80% female. Where are the brothers? Not in college…even HBCUs.

Naturally, the article has prompted a flurry of opinion columns, blogs and other responses. Morehouse president Dr. Robert Franklin sent out a letter of outrage to students and alumni prior to the publication of the magazine. “Addressing our young men as “girls” is deeply disturbing to me, no matter what the remainder of the article may say,” he wrote. What I don’t understand is why this is an issue now since the central point of the controversy evolves around the enforcement of a dress code policy that is a year and a half old.

I first encountered the cross-dressing group that call themselves “The Plastics” when my oldest son first enrolled at Morehouse. I distinctly remember spotting them in the college’s courtyard, right outside of one of the Dean’s offices. Of course, their flamboyant appearance caught my eye. But since I am a native Atlantan and I’ve worked in television news for more than three decades, I’ve seen almost everything. So, I really didn’t pay them much mind. The Dean who accompanied us addressed them the same way he did other students we met along the way. I didn’t see any signs of taunting or unfair treatment of this group that understandably attracts a lot of attention.

I vividly remember one of my first days as a “Morehouse Mom”. I accompanied my son on the first day he reported for football camp. The minute we stepped in the front door of the lobby of the dorm where the football players were staying, several veteran members of the team politely, but firmly told him that no facial hair and no male earrings were allowed on the team. Since my son was a new transfer, he was not aware of the rules. He grumbled and complained a little as we sat in the lobby waiting for his room assignment. Before the end of the day, he shaved his facial hair and removed the earrings. Once he knew the policy, he knew he had to choice to either comply or deal with the consequences.

The policy had nothing to do with my son’s individual expression. The rules were the rules. It was his choice whether to comply with those rules. It was not a question of whether he was discriminated against or repressing his freedom of expression. We realized that there was a dress code and he had to abide by that code or he had to deal with the consequences.

One of the major complaints of “The Plastics” is that they were being targeted and that other parts of the dress code were not being enforced. I don’t know what Morehouse “The Plastics” are talking about. I have witnessed college administrators admonishing young men to remove their caps when they enter a building or pull up their pants when they are saggin’. I’m not telling you what I have heard, I’m telling you what I know.

Remember, I come from the same city that produced General Larry “Pants on the Ground” Platt. I’ve dealt with the saggin’ pants issue for a number of years. Whenever a young man walks in front of me in a public place, it is not unusual for me to tell him, “I really don’t want to see your drawers”, much to the distress of my sons. “Mama, you are going to get us shot!” they would warn me. In most cases, the young men I addressed were respectful enough to pull up their pants, at least in front of me.

Morehouse is a private institution. They have the right to require certain attire. If you want to attend Morehouse, you know what you are signing up to do…comply by their rules or deal with the consequences. Several members of “The Plastics” have already decided that Morehouse is not the place for them and have enrolled at other schools. As a “Mean Mom of Morehouse” I’m disappointed that the issues of just a few students have tainted the image of other fine young men at Morehouse, including my son. Plus…it’s an old story.

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,650 other followers