Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hampton we never can make thee a song....or an accurate headline

When I’m met with a snide comment about my alma mater Hampton University, I usually reply “ We’re not bougie, We’re just better” Its tongue in cheek (especially if you really know me) but at the same time it’s a shield against the constant refrain that Hampton’s well known requirements and standards for its students dress and behavior is something that is detrimental and elitist. Then came along the newest “Look what HU’s doing now” internet sensation. I actually read the stories as they came across my feed and at first I ignored the murmurs, seeing that most of the headlines were inaccurate and sensational. It started small, until my mother is telling me about it because she heard from Tom Joyner and Roland Martin about “HU’s Muslim profiling” and even fellow alumni are calling out our “Home by the Sea”. 

Let’s all stop the madness. 

There is no squad of HU Officials running around asking for papers and snatching scarves off student’s heads. The news portrayal has gone from slightly comical to ridiculous to absurd. The most recent post I saw said that Ms. Clarke will be kicked off campus if caught without papers as if HU has become some sort of regime. In the age of internet news, Facebook and Twitter one salacious headline becomes legitimized not by the content but the number of shares and soon you have people commenting and disparaging an institution and policy without a second thought as to the truth.

What’s worse is that many of the shares and comments were coming from fellow HU Alumni. If HU had actually instituted a policy that was discriminatory in any way, I would have been the first to call them out. That’s just not the case here. So first off let’s set the record straight on the actual policy:

1. Students seeking approval to wear headgear as an expression of religious or cultural dress may make a written request for a review through the Office of the Chaplain.
2. The Chaplain will forward a recommendation to the Vice President for Student Affairs for final approval.
3. Students that are approved will then have their new ID card picture taken by University Police with the headgear being worn.
I’m waiting for the next article to come across my feed to say “Hampton University expels every person in head wrap on campus..... Erykah Badu is forever banned” 
As Always folks,

As Always folks,

Basically – anyone can wear headgear be it because you like erykah badu style “cultural dress” or to support your religious views. Technically you are supposed to get permission by simply going to the office and filling out a form. The policy is not heavily enforced no one is hitting students up on campus about the issue. 

The Melona Clarke Issue
Ms. Clarke ran into a problem when she went to take her new ID picture and from what I understand part of the confusion may have come from the fact that she previously did not wear a headdress on campus so there may have been a question of whether this was an expression of her religious beliefs or a choice for style. TO BE CLEAR: Hampton University allows head gear for both of the above reasons but you need permission from the Office of the Chaplain to take an id picture in head gear.  Ms. Clarke wasn't asked to “prove she’s a Muslim”. She was asked for documentation that she had University approval to take her id picture in her headdress by the staff in the id office. 

According to staff in the Office of the Chaplain, that handles these requests, there have only been a few requests and no one has ever been denied for any reason. There is also no requirement for any additional proof from a religious authority. Anyone can simply write “I want to wear my headgear because it’s what I like” and unless the headgear is offensive or your basic doo rag you’re fine. 

So how and why did this become HuffPost, BYP, Tom Joyner and the rest of the world claiming :

"Hampton, Va. (WTKR) – Melona Clarke said she had to prove she was a Muslim so she could be a student at Hampton University." (News Channel 3) Really, that’s your headline but its nowhere in your story.

"She's not a tourist visiting a foreign country, but Melona Clark carries her papers with her at all times -- to prove she has permission to wear a hijab." (HuffPost) But you fail to mention that Ms. Clarke herself says she chooses to do that on her own accord and quite frankly there’s no justification for it.

"Melona Clarke wears a hijab as part of her faith, but if she doesn’t have documentation to prove it, she will get kicked off campus." (Black Youth Project) This was just an outright untrue, I have no idea where, why or how they got this. 

The sad part is why does this pick up so much steam? Why are we sooo quick to jump on a bandwagon condemning and vilifying HU? Hampton University state’s in their mission they are a comprehensive institution of higher education, dedicated to the promotion of learning, building of character and preparation of promising students for positions of leadership and service. When you attend Hampton, it’s indoctrinated in you from the first day of HU 101 – We have a standard here, it will not lower for you, rise to the challenge. 

There is a deeper sociological and subversive aspect of the media condemnation of Hampton University. Ask yourself: Why are we condemning a historically black institution for policies that are attempting to lead young black men and women away from behaviors and fashions that have been used as derogative depictions of black culture? Why have we and by we I mean black folks and yes some of my fellow alumni, WE have allowed ourselves to join in a chorus that says : Why teach them they shouldn’t twerk, why teach them to pull up their pants and not wear doo rags, rollers and shower caps in public. Isn’t that what you Black people do? Why is this “HU school” trying to set some sort of……standard? Aren’t they just teaching Black folks? 

Because honey if you don’t see that writing on the wall? You better look closer. 

HU is not discriminating against anyone, all faiths are welcome and however you choose to express yourself is respected and appreciated. There is a standard that is required but not for discriminatory purposes but to simply ask that the students hold and exemplify respect for themselves to empower them to demand it for their people. You see at HU we allow “our lives to do the singing” and every melody is welcome that’s why our harmony is so strong and beautiful.

Don't Just Kick It - Politickit


Friday, June 14, 2013

Land is EXPENSIVE...sow your seeds wisely!

My first landlord used my title phrase to describe her husband's child that he had before they were married. We were both married and expecting our first child and her husband's elder son came up in our conversation. We both chuckled at the truth of the statement. (English was not her first language so the contextual agreement is a bit off but you get the gist) Years later I began working as an attorney in Family Court and I would be amazed at the number of men and women that seem to have not only understood that concept but seem to be completely oblivious to the idea.

Men stood before me wondering "how in the world I got into this situation"? Women stood before me not understanding "Why he won't step up to the plate"? In my first years I was confused at their ignorance and utter surprise, as time passed it began to just piss me off. Now I am slightly sympathetic but only in the small Madeaesque sense that makes me want to slap the hell out of both parties.

Then along creeps Laurie Schrage's recent OpEd on "Force Fatherhood" a conversation I have had in many circles. Ms. Schrage raises some good points and there are many men who I'm sure applaud her. Those in the "I just met her at the club" " She was just a jump off/ side piece" and "we were just having fun" camps are giving Schrage a standing ovation as a woman that finally gets it and is standing up for them. However, if we  (as in legal systems and social norms) adopted Ms. Schrage's argument would it be the final nail in the coffin of our society? If men (and women) were to be free to have inconsequential sex not caring or responsible for any of the outcomes would our socialietal thread completely unravel as the "outcomes" (these children) grow and become human beings that in their essence and conception and subsequent raising/rearing were inconsequential?

I'm sure that's not what Schrage meant but as someone who has seen it and continues to see everyday the results of children that have been raised their whole lives as accidents, society will take the full brunt of individuals being allowed to abdicate their individual responsibility.

Alternatively, would women become more responsible about and with their bodies if they knew that their were no legal protections to obligate men to support "unintended children". In today's society many men don't support their children financially or emotionally but there are legal options women can utilize force a minimum amount of support. I have seen many women trying to use the courts to make a man participate in a childs life. I've never seen it be successful but hey, the options there.

So if we remove that option, would the woman think twice about having a child that they are completely responsible for with no hope of any support? Is it fair to put that type of pressure on a woman or is it the realistic reflection and proper fruition of repercussions that is a reflection of the position women already have in today's society? If a woman makes the final decision on whether to keep a child, as they should as it is their body, should they also bear the final and absolute costs of that decision?

Before this becomes an abortion debate as I can see it veering in that directions. It is my position and hope that women and men would make better decisions about who, when and why they have sex with someone as opposed to just how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy but that is for another day and another blog.

I can't say I agree with Schrage completely. Men can't divorce themselves from their Nether Regions. You know where you laid and who you laid with or at least you should. Whenever you lay down you open yourself up to the possibility of a child. So choose wisely. If you can't imagine being saddled with half this woman's dna mixing with yours and being linked to her  for at least 18 years financially and in other ways for life then you may want to find your jollies somewhere else. Unless we are becoming the human equivalent of feral cats.