Timothy Tukes’ open letter to Morehouse College and its football team in response to homophobic slurs calls on them to choose humanity over oppression.
On October 28th, it was reported that:
Football players for Morehouse College, the only all-male historically black university in the U.S., have been called out for homophobic behavior at a showing of Dear White People. The Morehouse College Maroon Tigers team was in town ahead of their game against Benedict College and decided to show their support for their film. However some of the team’s football players disagreed with some of the movie’s subject matter, primarily the homosexual content, and were vocal in expressing their displeasure . . . .
Every time [the main character] Lionel made an appearance in the film players hurled homophobic insults and comments at the character. Some of these comments said out loud consisted of “What is this gay shit?” Members of the team began belittling some of their male teammates for not turning away or leaving the theater during a same-sex kiss saying, “Man, you looked at that, I saw you!” The football team’s commentary further climaxed after Lionel gets into a fight with a white male and kisses him, and then gets repeatedly punched in the face. Lionel’s beating for being gay incited cheers from the football team.
What follows is Morehouse College sophomore, Timothy Tukes, response to the incident.
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.
(Photo Credit:Morehouse Colege Facebook Page)
This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post College Blog.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our daily or weekly Good Men Project newsletter here.