After the election of Obama to the White House, millennials seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. We now live in a post-racial society now, right, guys? Right? We never have to talk about racism ever again!
In certain rural pockets of the Deep South, black and white students can use the same drinking fountains, attend school together, and even socialize with each other, but cannot go to prom together. In Wilcox County, Georgia, a group of female friends, some of whom are white, some of whom are black, are not only voicing their dissent about not being able to attend prom together, but they’re doing something about it. These friends are in the midst of organizing the first interracial prom in the school’s history, and its Facebook page reached over 19,000 likes in five days. Said the girls in an interview with local news: “We're embarrassed, it's embarrassing, yeah it's kind of embarrassing.” The girls, Stephanie Sinnot, Mareshia Rucker, Quanesha Wallace, and Keela Bloodworth, don’t see why prom should be different from anything else they do together.
This is not the first time an integrated prom in the South has made headlines. In 2002, in Taylor County, Georgia, a local high school attracted media attention for holding its first racially integrated prom. Three years later, the story was depicted in a Lifetime movie starring Raven Symone called For One Night. In 2009, the New York Times magazine ran a profile of the tradition of a high school that traditionally had segregated proms. In 1997, Morgan Freeman offered to fund a racially integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi, but the school didn’t take him up on his offer until nearly ten years later.
Technically, this prom is not organized by the school, but is two privately funded parties, one for whites, one for blacks. Still, the school officials allow such a practice to continue. On the Facebook page the girls created in favor of an integrated prom, the most interesting comment I came across was left by a young black male opposed to the integrated prom. He wrote:
“I don't see why it's such a big deal. I am pro segregation and yes, i'm from Georgia. Leave the white people to themselves and let the black kings and queens share OUR love with one another. No, I am not racist, just pro black and no, pro black does not mean anti white.”
Looking at this person’s profile, it does not say what year he graduated from high school, but he is certainly not old. The disturbing aspect of this is that it’s a young black person not in favor of integration. How do such views still exist in this day and age that support segregation?
Racism, especially in overtly institutionalized forms such as a segregated prom seems outdated after all the legislation in favor of segregation and subsequent cultural attitudes that seem to have shifted. But we will never quite live in the post-racial societal bliss that we think we do so long as these traditions exist. And these traditions do not only exist on prom planning committees, but in the attitudes of people of our generation who “don’t see why it’s such a big deal.”
Acceptance of the status quo is not being “pro black,” or even “anti-white.” It is allowing our roles in society to be defined by the colors of our skin. I admire the gumption of these young women who wish to let their friendship take precedence over something as superficial as white or black. The projected date of the prom is April 27, less than three weeks away.
Like their Facebook page. Join the conversation. Let this community know we have their backs. Let freedom ring.