At my high school, everyone was invited to prom. Hell, it was the social event of the year. However, the same doesn’t hold true for many high schoolers across the country, whose high schools and counties are stuck in a time when racial segregation was a predominant factor in social and political life. While there are some people who suggest that civil rights issues have moved beyond racial integration to the “new/final frontier” of gay rights, many would argue that racial tension is still a thriving issue in American society which must be dealt with accordingly.
We have all sat through the countless hours of American history lectures and classes teaching about the Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties and the end of segregation which ensued from various legislation and changing social attitudes. However, at least personally, I never really sat and thought “I wonder if racial segregation was ever resolved.” I know that, where I’m from, there’s never been any issue. However, the stereotypes from a bygone era persist in many southern states. For students in Wicox County, Georgia, the social realities of the 1950’s continue to be social realities in 2013.
That’s right. The Wilcox County high school has been having two proms every spring: one for white students and one for black students, disallowing white students at the black students’ prom and vice-versa. That’s right. Two prom queens, two dances, two everything divided along the antiquated line of skin color. (Who even notices skin color nowadays anyway?!)
According to a USA Today article, proms in Georgia are organized by private groups ciomposed of parents and other community members as opposed to school-sponsored functions. However, Wilcox County is the VERY LAST county in Georgia to segregate prom along racial lines. The students, however, are on a quest to change their reality and bring Wilcox County in the twenty-first century.
The prom is scheduled for April 27th in Cordele, Georgia. The students, who have known each other their whole lives (the town only has a population of 10,000) are leading the campaign to integrate prom. They’ve taken to social media to raise awareness and raise money for the event, and have done an impecable job, with over 21,000 likes on their Facebook page since the page was launched a few weeks ago. (Feel free to like it, I did!) National media attention has garnered significant support for the integrated prom. Although not all of the attention has been positive, it’s safe to say that these students are crusading for a positive future for their community.
This brings up an entirely new issue, however: how and why does such racial discrimination continue almost fifty years after Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington and the Civil Rights Act of 1964? In actuality, it appears that Americans perceive race as a discriminating factor in our society and only time will likely change that. Time to reevaluate social norms and move forward from the prejudices of our past. I honestly think legislation has gone about as far as it can go regarding racial discrimination prevention and we, as Americans, must reevaluate our own attitudes before real change can be made.
One last question comes to mind: where is the celelbrity endorsement here? We live in a society where celebs are just dying to take up arms to support the cause and, frankly, I think these kids deserve the help and could use it. In 2008, Morgan Freeman came to the aid of a Mississippi school trying to integrate prom for the first time…but what about Wilcox? I think celebrity endorsement would not only help the cause, but advance it and pressure other schools (and inspire more students) in the south to follow the same course of action.
So, think about it. Would you have the courage to fight for integrated prom, make national news, and face potential backlash from your family, friends, peers, and mentors? For a really tongue-in-cheek look at racial discrimination and other similar discrimination issues in the US, I highly recommend watching the 2004 movie “Crash.” It’s almost guaranteed to make you cry…and open your eyes up to discrimination in America.