Morehouse Sets Out a Hop, Media Buys Into HBCU Stereotypes

‘Electrifying,’ ‘energetic,’ ‘enthusiastic.’ All portions of headlines detailing a brief stepshow exhibition prior to the Bernie Sanders rally at Morehouse College.

So this is what happens while waiting for a Bernie Sanders rally to begin at Morehouse College…

Posted by Blayne Alexander 11Alive on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The men of Morehouse’s Psi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. did exactly what college brothers are supposed do — serve as public and proud ambassadors of their school and fraternity. That’s part of the allure of HBCU culture — joy and celebration can be found in any assembly at any moment, because we’re all happy to be earning degrees, improving our lives and our world in a place made for us to do just that.

But when that joy is taken out of context, and packaged in a way that throws HBCU culture into weird space to defend its mission and the intentions of those who live it out, then it becomes a problem for our schools and Black America at large. Ques stepping at a political rally can be part of the story, but it isn’t the story. It doesn’t matter if its the first time a frat has set it out on the HBCU campaign trail, or if Bernie Sanders himself likes to get hype for ‘Atomic Dog;’ all of that is more appropriately found two or three grafs after the lede; and not as a headline on the Huffington Post, ABC News, or any other national outlet.

Subconsciously, it pricks at the stereotype that black people cannot and will not take anything seriously, even when our prosperity is at stake. Overtly, to enemies and skeptics of black culture, and those who would like nothing more than to see the demise of black colleges as part of the ‘black people just need to try harder to fit in’ ideology, the headlines and the prominence of the Psi Chapter’s showcase easily sells the ‘look at the negroes dancing for Bernie’ aspect of hate speech and groupthink.

No, it is not the responsibility of broadcast editors and producers to cure hateful people of broken ideology. But it is journalists’ responsibility to be aware that such ideology exists and to ensure that the reporting of facts doesn’t promote cultural distortion. It’s easy to see why stepshow footage leads over a presidential candidate making comments about American race relations and college access; in a media culture of Instagram and viral videos, newsmakers must do something to keep up with Drake vs. Meek Mill.

Relevance, by today’s standards at least, is quantified and not qualified. So kudos to the men of Morehouse for doing big numbers on one of the most cherished aspects of black college life. But here’s hoping that the storytellers and agenda setters actually learn to live up to their “liberal bias” label and leave stereotypical clickbait material on the cutting-room floor.