Wilcox County High School, located in rural Rochelle, Ga., has never had an integrated prom and four friends — two Caucasian, two African-American — are fighting to stop their school’s tradition of holding a segregated prom. As in, one prom held for only white students, and another prom held for all else who doesn’t fit the label.
Last year, a biracial student reportedly tried to attend the white prom, only to blocked by police enforcement. The high school’s homecoming is also a segregated event with two separate dances. When African American student Quanesha Wallace won Homecoming Queen in the fall, alongside a male Caucasian homecoming king, the two still attended separate dances and took separate yearbook photos.
Wilcox is yet another example of modern day racism, proving that discussion and criticism on race relations in the U.S. cannot be allowed to falter. The story of the high school’s plight sounds akin to a situation more common before and during the birth of the Civil Rights movement. Segregation in America ended by law about 45 years ago, with the final banning of segregation in housing occurring in in 1968, three yeas after the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Historically speaking, this was a fairly recent event proving one vital argument: the abolishment of the separate but equal clause does not suggest the abolishment of its lingering mentality.
The way to fight for and maintain equality against persisting attitudes is to make awareness of such incidents constant and rally for their correction.
When students rallied the school to end the act of segregated dances once and for all, the school came out with this resolution: while they would not stop holding segregated proms, they would permit an integrated prom for any and all students to attend. The Wilcox School County Superintendent, Steve Smith backs the rights of parents to raise money for separate proms. Currently, Quanesha and her friends are raising funds and selling tickets for integrated prom, though the idea has been met with hostility in the form of torn down posters in school hallways advertising the event.
While forms of segregation took place all over the U.S., the South in particular is best known for its origination of the Jim Crow laws that created a systematic form of discrimination through the “separate but equal” de jure ideology. Conservative Democrats came into full force due to the fact that former Confederates bitter over a failed secession and lost of slaves, came into power within Southern legislatures around 1877. Through Jim Crow laws, African Americans were denied things such as quality services, land and diminished voting rights thus jeopardizing their political voice. These forms of discrimination were not abolished until the 1960s, but what does the Wilcox situation say about race relations between Caucasians and African Americans today?
A 2012 AP poll showed that 51% of Americans were explicitly prejudiced against African-Americans with 56% implicitly prejudiced. As much as some desire the ability to forgo the past, it is that very same past that dictates our present and will affect the direction our future.
To support the integrated prom, visit this Facebook page, where you can follow their efforts and donate to their cause.