Saturday, May 23, 2009

Segregation in the US - Prom night edition

I'll admit that I don't fully understand the significance of Proms in the US, but I get that it's a very big deal indeed. This is why this story is a very big deal indeed.

A Prom Divided

About now, high-school seniors everywhere slip into a glorious sort of limbo. Waiting out the final weeks of the school year, they begin rightfully to revel in the shared thrill of moving on. It is no different in south-central Georgia’s Montgomery County, made up of a few small towns set between fields of wire grass and sweet onion. The music is turned up. Homework languishes. The future looms large. But for the 54 students in the class of 2009 at Montgomery County High School, so, too, does the past. On May 1 — a balmy Friday evening — the white students held their senior prom. And the following night — a balmy Saturday — the black students had theirs.

The concept of racially divided proms is quite shocking. How can this happen in this day and age? And it's not like this is a freak occurrence.

Racially segregated proms have been held in Montgomery County — where about two-thirds of the population is white — almost every year since its schools were integrated in 1971. Such proms are, by many accounts, longstanding traditions in towns across the rural South, though in recent years a number of communities have successfully pushed for change.

The schools might be integrated, but obviously the societies they are in, are not. These kids study together, probably play sport together, but when it comes to the biggest party in high school, they spend it apart.

It would be easy to condemn the white children for doing this, but when reading the article, it becomes absolutely clear that the kids are innocent bystanders to their parents' prejudices.

Students of both races say that interracial friendships are common at Montgomery County High School. Black and white students also date one another, though often out of sight of judgmental parents. “Most of the students do want to have a prom together,” says Terra Fountain, a white 18-year-old who graduated from Montgomery County High School last year and is now living with her black boyfriend. “But it’s the white parents who say no. … They’re like, if you’re going with the black people, I’m not going to pay for it.”

It's easy for us to say that the white kids should stand up for their friends, and I'd like to think that I would had I been in their place, but that's easier said than done when living with your parents, being dependent upon them.

Given the fact that the young people seem to be less prejudiced than their parents, we would probably see an end to the segregated proms sooner or later. However, instead of waiting for that, I'd hope that the schools would address the issue, and try to work out a way to integrate these proms, as everything else in the kids' daily life should be integrated.

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Blogger Grindstone Journal said...

This is the deep south we're talking about. They use their remoteness to ignore the social changes taking place in the rest of the country.

It is nice to know the kids are not as racist as their parents. Waiting for the old generation to die so the new generation can take over is a very slow process, and it doesn't always work. We've been waiting for 30 or 40 years. Some of those young people take on the prejudices of their parents.

It should seem obvious to the white parents of Montgomery County that forcing black kids to have a separate prom is wrong, but in that part of their country they pride themselves on going against modern wisdom and sticking to old traditions.

May 26, 2009 5:09 PM  

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