The pace at which racial barriers are breaking down in this country is truly breathtaking.
In 1954 the US Supreme Court decreed the end of segregation in public education. The next year, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, and ignited a civil rights revolution. Then, in 2008 and again in 2012, an African-American was elected President of the United States.
And in 2013, Wilcox County High School in Georgia got an integrated prom.
Breaking a tradition of segregated proms
According to Randy Rogers, superintendent in another Georgia county that until recently had segregated proms, “In the late 60s and early 70s, districts discontinued proms because they felt like the proms were an opportunity for racial unrest.” From that time, Wilcox County had separate proms, sponsored by the parents rather than the school, for white and black students. That is, until now.
17-year-old senior Mareshia Rucker decided that the tradition of segregated proms didn’t make sense in the 21st century. Determined to do something about it, she organized her classmates to put on their own prom that both races would be invited to attend. Despite opposition from some students, the group organized the dance and raised the necessary funds to put it on. Both white and black students purchased tickets to attend.
An example of great leadership – by students
This is a great achievement for Mareshia and her classmates. But it’s not something they should’ve had to do. That’s what Mareshia herself believes. “In my opinion, because they are adults, I don’t feel I should be having to do this,” she says. She’s right.
Where was the adult leadership? Even now, the “white prom” is still being held along with the integrated one. Is this the best adults of goodwill in the state of Georgia can do?
When Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, was asked by a liberal group called Better Georgia to lend his encouragement to the efforts of the students, he thought it an appropriate response to say through his spokesman:
“This is a leftist front group for the state Democratic party, and we’re not going to lend a hand to their silly publicity stunt.”
He later amplified his encouraging words with this ringing endorsement of the students’ efforts to overturn decades of segregation:
“I believe that anything that’s associated with a school should not have the distinction or discrimination made based on race or gender or any other separation. But it appears to me that the parents and students have worked that out on their own, as they should.”
In my opinion, this episode puts on full display the courageous leadership on racial matters now available in the state of Georgia. Now, if we can just get the adults up to the level of the students, we might really see some progress!