Jim Crow laws have been gone for fifty years, but in some places you’d barely notice
At Wilcox County High School in Georgia I’m referring to the prom. There is a prom for whites only and a prom for everyone else. On the surface you would think the school is living in the distant past, but that’s not the whole truth.
You see, the school itself has nothing to do with the proms at all. The students do some of the planning from inside the school, but the prom is held off the property and they aren’t funded by school.
The school is able to renounce any control over these events, which are actually controlled and organized by parents of the students. Still, Wilcox County High School refuses to stand up to the majority of these racist parents who insist on keeping the kids apart. In my mind, it makes the school guilty by association.
Luckily there are a handful of seniors who are taking a stand on their own. Stephanie Sinnot, Mareshia Rucker, Quanesha Wallace and Keela Bloodworth — two of which are white with the other two being black, have decided to have a party of their own.
This year, the four girls are organizing an integrated prom to go alongside the white one. The students pushed for just one integrated prom, but the school refused to take the segregated prom off the table.
No one other than Caucasians dare to attend the white prom for fear of being arrested. “They would probably have the police come out there and escort them off the premises,” said Keela. A biracial student was turned away by police just last year.
Without cash for the first integrated dance, the students have started a fundraiser. While they are receiving support and money from their Facebook page, they are getting resistance at school from other students who have inherited the prejudices of their parents. They have taken to ripping down the promotional posters of the interracial prom.
I’ll admit I’m not that familiar with the school system in Georgia. I can’t say for certain that this is the last school still trying to hold on to an intolerant bygone era. What I do know is that this is a prime example of how prejudice and hate are passed down from generation to generation.
I wish I can say that the prom is the only holdout from the Jim Crow era, but it is not. From what I understand, Wilcox County High might be desegregated, but the classrooms are not. The white kids sit in the back while black kids must sit in the front.
Lunch time is spent apart; black kids have lunch outside while white kids have theirs in the yard. Until this year the homecoming dances were also segregated and if you are a white girl who wants to date a black boy, you do so at your own physical and social risk.
Progress comes extremely slow in the south, if it ever comes at all. That’s why I admire these girls for standing up for what is right in a place still living in its dark past. It takes guts to take a stand in the face of discrimination by the school, other parents and other students, especially when you’re a teenager.
With luck and support, let’s hope they’ve started something more important than a dance.