Monday, April 23, 2007

First Integrated Prom

Exactly how much further must we go before we reach a just and diverse society that appreciates a sense of understanding between cultures? Gauging from this story, a lot further:

Students of Turner County High School started what they hope will become a new tradition: Black and white students attended the prom together for the first time on Saturday.

In previous years, parents had organized private, segregated dances for students of the school in rural Ashburn, Georgia, 160 miles south of Atlanta.

Yes, this is the world the younger generation is inheriting.

Adkinson's sister, Mindy Bryan, attended a segregated prom in 2001.

"There was not anybody that I can remember that was black," she said. "The white people have theirs, and the black people have theirs. It's nothing racial at all."

Minus the detail about folks organizing different proms for different colors, yup, nothing racial at all.

Nichole Royal, 18, said black students could have gone to the prom, but didn't.

"I guess they feel like they're not welcome," she said.

Really? Black students don't want to attend a White-organized White prom in the South?

Principal Stone said he doesn't plan to stop the private proms.

"That's going to be up to the parents. That's part of being in America. If they want to do that for the kids, then that's fine," he said.

While Stone lacks the power to directly stop these private race-oriented proms, he caves to the community mentality that this racial tension is somehow unproblematic, likely because he shares the belief that self-imposed segregation is harmless.

In reality, this culture of ignorance hurts their community and our nation as a whole. Misunderstandings between two dominant cultures in the area only serves to worsen their relationships with each other. Considering these groups of people will continue to have to share their towns, their schools, their workplaces and their media with one another, unavoidable day-to-day interactions will continually cause resentment and fear, with each side looking at the other as foreigners, not as neighbors.

Reading students' points of view in the article shows promise in that the upperclassmen voted for holding the school's first-ever integrated school prom, however there is still evidence of indoctrination, as might be expected. Some parents mentioned in the article were against the idea, and kept their children from attending because "they don't agree with being with the colored people." When these children grow up and continue to build our society, they will have to do so without a good understanding of different cultures. Rather, they will remember the fear their parents possessed when the idea of a simple dance was mentioned. Instead of having an open-minded new generation, we will have one that is perpetually frightened by differences. Instead of inspiring change and rapport between one another regardless of culture, they will be divided.

Community leaders in the area ought to move forward from this event, using it as a stepping stone for change. A few students decided to make a ripple by holding a dance at their school. They succeeded, and it should be the start of a community effort in fostering an environment of tolerance and understanding.

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