Three Things Melissa Wooten Misinterpreted While Analyzing Dillard University’s Suits and Ties Initiative and Other Black Colleges

A photo of Dakarai Moton for his response to Why dress and appearance matter at black colleges, an op-ed in on The Conversation by Melissa E. Wooten.

Dakarai Moton

After carefully reading and attempting to digest the skewed representation of Dillard University and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Melissa Wooten’s, “Why dress and appearance matter at black colleges,” much that has been addressed and presented has been falsely applied to substantiate educational and professional platforms and exhibit bias. Thus, throughout this article, I will pen the just dialogue that accepts the harsh truths, nullifies biased opinions, and offsets dysconscious attitudes that question the purpose of black colleges that “interrupt the calculus of human (un) worthiness.”

  1. Respectability Politics is not/ was not a concern.

Respectability politics has been characterized as the “attempt [of] marginalized groups to demonstrate their acceptance of mainstream values rather than to challenge the mainstream for failing to accept difference.”

Dillard University’s Suits and Ties initiative was a student led initiative started by Mr. Dillard University 2012-2013, and has been continued ever since its initiation. This immediately debunks the rumored existence of ‘respectability politics’’ circulation around Dillard University’s Suits and Ties initiative and marginalizes the concept that black colleges and universities are mainstream conformists.

From a historical and slavery-ridden perspective, it is not the mission of the student or institution to recreate or restore white values with one’s own black values at black colleges, but it is more so the role of the institution to learn and create spaces of humanity as opposed to repurposing dated color lines that are not as clear, but still exist.

  1. “Through education, service and moral living, “the race” could uplift itself to the position of whites.”

Quite frankly, this poorly fashioned metric used to support the purpose of why, “Black Lives Matter,” at black colleges and universities does not even work for “un-marginalized” groups. There is no guarantee that color, or lack thereof, will “save” someone from the negative stereotypes and perpetuate them into the person they feel entitled to be. In every walk of life, every nation, and every society, there is a standard of guidelines and expectations. Being that the purpose of a collegiate education is to support the manifestation of dreams that a high school diploma does not, every college and university has their campus catalysts that promote the growth of students so that they are able to meet the needs of the society to which they live. This is not a black issue or an issue that black colleges and universities face.

  1. “You have to do more to receive the same amount of respect.”

As the oh-so-familiar quote suggests, the dialogue that impedes the discussion of respectability politics is the simple fact that, “’marginalized’ groups have to do more to receive the same amount of respect.” A woman of color in academia at a predominantly white institution would be a prime example of the work that needs to be done in the face of frequent turmoil due to the un-budging color lines in a glass ceiling society where color matters, image matters, and most important the work that you do matters. Shortly, this is for many reasons why Dillard University’s Suits and Ties Initiative matters and ultimately why, “Black Lives Matter.”

Dakarai R. Moton is a senior at Dillard University majoring in biology. He is president of the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students and the president of the Health Occupations Students of America: Future Health Professionals. He is also Mr. Dillard University 2015-2016.