Monday, April 15, 2013

Segregation at a Georgia Prom

Four female students-two white and two black- from Georgia’s Wilcox County High School have petitioned their school to allow them to attend prom together. The school, who offers an “integrated” prom and “white” prom each year, responded with a resolution to allow students of all races to attend the integrated prom; however, it would not discontinue the strictly enforced “white prom.” Interestingly, neither prom is funded by or held at the school. Instead, they are organized by parent groups that the school will not “stand up to.”

The students have faced considerable opposition from their classmates as well. According to the girls, the posters they put up to advertise their event were quickly torn down. Even more, the school apparently fosters segregationist tendencies in several ways. From classrooms to lunch rooms, black and white students do not interact well, or often. Interracial friendships, and more specifically dating, lead to bullying and totally exclusion from the students’ race groups.

When asked to support the cause or simply even take a side, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal called the events a “silly publicity stunt;” the author of the article then likened him to George Wallace, and he may not be too far off base. Whether he believes it is a publicity stunt or not, he still should have lent his support for the integration of the proms in accordance with federal laws and human decency.

In a display of my own ignorance, I was shocked to hear that one- segregated proms still exist- and two- the Governor did not support their integration outright. However, I find the biggest problem with this situation to be with the parent groups organizing the separate proms. These parents have done an injustice to all of these children by furthering the segregation they dealt with. Instead of learning from the Movement that defined their teenage years, they have chosen to continue the legacy of segregation. Their kids, the more “tradition-bound” as one article states, are the unfortunate inheritors of decades old hate. This hate surely met them in their infancy and will shape their world view for years to come.

How do you think the school should have handled this? Do you think that inherited racism is a widespread problem, or that it can be isolated to the South?

I applaud the four girls- Stephanie, Mareshia, Quanesha, and Keela- for their efforts to integrate their school’s prom, and I admonish the parents and students standing in their way.

The girls have made a Facebook page to fund raise and garner support for their proposed, inclusive, April 27 prom- you can find the links to the Facebook event and original articles below.


  1. Interesting post Court! I found it disappointing as well to hear that there still exists a "white only" prom anywhere in the US. I'd be ignorant not to notice the racial tensions in my own high school that I attended in Nashville, but it would never go so far as to have a "white only" prom. I agree, the fact that these parents have managed to control this situation is disturbing. Hats off to you, Stephanie, Mareshia, Quanesha, and Keela.

  2. Wow Courtney I found this post just as shocking as you! It is so sad to think that in 2013 a black and white couple still cannot go to prom. My junior year I took an African American to prom, and no one to my knowledge had any racial objections. (I am from Illinois) That leads me to believe that inherited racism may be a bigger problem in the south, however that does not mean I think that there is no inherited racism in the north either. Older generations like the parents who hold these proms need to realize the implications they have on adolescents that will eventually be the leaders of our society.

  3. A few days before you posed this post, I heard about a similar story in Mississippi. Similar to you, I was shocked that this was still happening. I believe that you raised the right question when you asked if racism was either an inherited widespread problem or if it could be isolated to the South. Being from the North, I do not think type of racism can be isolated to the South. I believe that inherited racism is everywhere in the country, regardless of your social location. I will say that the South, given its history and the desire to remain attached to its history, is more likely to harbor racist feelings. By holding onto such feelings it is inevitable that they would spread from generations to generations. It would be interesting to talk to the students who are opposing the prom in 20 years and see if they still harbor these racists feelings. I believe that the school handled this situation in a cowardly manner. Yet, at the same time both the proms are so far removed from the school (neither funded or held there) that I am not surprised the school slinked away from getting involved. I will refrain from commenting on the Governors response because I do not think I could put into words how embarrassed and disappointed I am that people still neglect to accept equal rights for all.

  4. On one hand, this absolutely shocks me. The fact that segregationists still exist in America is appalling and shameful, and only speaks to the unfortunate ignorance and intolerance which permeates our life (whether it be racially or socially). However, there is a part of me that is not surprised by this despicable practice. For decades and decades, the central, yet somewhat undercover, concern and goal of segregationists was the fear of miscegenation (racial mixing). Prom is a perfect example of a way for this fear to be activated. High school proms are notorious for their romantic/sexual connotation. For many parents, racial mixing is simply not an option for their children, and they view it as something to be looked down upon. No matter how these parents may think they feel about America's racist past, they are perpetuating that racism by having the desire to promote a segregated prom.

    While the school does not directly fund the proms, I think that it needs to take a more active role in its parent associations, and the Governor's response is more than disappointing. For an elected, public leader, there are certain responsibilities one has. It is imperative that our government officials set good examples for their citizens by following the law. How about that Supreme Court case which outlawed segregation and Plessy v. Ferguson? Clearly, GA Governor does not deem that case important enough to abide by, and for that, I think he has let those girls, that school, his state, and furthermore, the nation down.

  5. I have mixed feelings about this article. I am shocked that a segregated prom exists; however, you can't put anything past people today. It is more shocking that the school allows for this type of segregation to exist. For some families to still have racist views is optional and ignorant; but, to display their ignorance publicly is courageous on their part. I am more curious if this is a predominantly White school. From my experiences, schools with more African American students do not tolerate this in large part because of the vocal parents of the students affected. If more people were like these girls at this school, I have a strong feeling that this prom would not be allowed. The question is when will the school system or the governor step in and handle this issue due to the lack of authority of the principal.