Private Proms

A couple of days ago, CNN reported on Turner County, Georgia’s first integrated prom. It’s a great article, and there are several very interesting things to point out here.

First, it’s important to note that the “white prom” continued as usual. I would have appreciated some numbers about attendance at the “white prom” versus the “integrated prom,” particularly to see if there were white students who attended both. But one student was quoted as saying that although blacks could have attended the “white prom,” none did: “I guess they feel like they’re not welcome.” Probably not. I wonder why. This reminds me of my research, in which a former headmaster of the school I’m studying said that although the admissions process was “equal opportunity,” no blacks ever applied. My take? It might have had something to do with the fact that the school was formed in order to avoid integration, but I can’t be sure.

Getting back to Turner County, there also seems to be a severe gender gap, and this is what gives me hope for the future. Apparently, the push for an integrated prom was entirely student-led. Not all parents approved, however.

Nichols said while her parents were in support of the integrated prom, some of her friends weren’t allowed to go.

“If they’re not coming tonight it’s because either they had to work and they couldn’t get out of it or because their parents are still having an issue because they grew up in south Georgia,” she said.

“I’ve asked, ‘Why can’t you come?’ and they’re like, ‘My mommy and daddy — they don’t agree with being with the colored people,’ which I think is crazy,” she said.

The use of the phrase “colored people” is bizarre–the quote almost reads like the ones I’m finding in forty year-old newspapers, but the saddest thing I read might be the quote from one mother who was watching black and white students pose together for photographs: “That is so fake. There is nothing real about that.” As if black and white students couldn’t possibly be interested in genuine social interactions with each other.

The principal said that he had no plans to stop the private proms–which makes sense. As principal of a public school, he probably has no legal standing to stop them. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be stopped. Regrettably, he had to throw in this cop-out line appealing to the more “conservative” parents in the community: “That’s going to be up to the parents. That’s part of being in America. If they want to do that for the kids, then that’s fine.”

Sure, having a choice is part of being in America. And unfortunately, segregating your kids in school is too. But we shouldn’t condone it so glibly.


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