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


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