When "Tradition" Destroys ProgressS

The New York Times ran an incredibly frustrating, heartbreaking piece about a segregated prom in Georgia today, which included an audio slide show wherein students and parents voice their opinions on the segregation and "tradition."

The first student interviewed, a white student named Harley Boone, is quick to point out that the segregated prom isn't racist, in her opinion, it's just "what we know and what our parents have done for so many years." Harley insists that she eats with black students in the cafeteria and that she attends classes with black students, and that the prom is just not a big deal, comparatively. Her mother, Anita Williamson says "this community and this school system is fine the way it is..why change something that has worked, it's not broken?" Kera Nobles, a black student, disagrees, calling the segregation "hurtful," and noting that "I sit beside you at graduation but I can't go to prom with you for one night?"

The prom itself isn't a school sponsored function; the proms are private functions that are thrown by the students. The idea of "it's just the way it's always been" seems to be an overriding theme in why such a backwards tradition is allowed to continue; Terra Fountain, an 18-year-old white student, blames the parents for the continual separation: "Most of the students do want to have a prom together," she says, "But it's the white parents who say no. … They're like, if you're going with the black people, I'm not going to pay for it."

The segregated proms have also forced friends to take a second look at their relationships; many black students feel betrayed by their white friends who have neglected to stand up for them and insist upon an integrated prom. "My best friend is white," one girl tells the New York Times, "She's in there. She's real cool, but I don't understand. If they can be in there, why can't everybody else?" Says another: "You're 18 years old! You're old enough to smoke, drive, do whatever else you want to. Why aren't you able to step up and say, ‘I want to have my senior prom with the people I'm graduating with?'"

"The prom is the least of our problems," says Angel Howard, a black student, "We can't fix the prom until we fix the school. And then when the school comes together and no longer sees color, then the prom can come together and no longer see color."

Voices From A Divided Prom [NYTimes]
In Georgia, Segregation Endures On Prom Night [NYTimes]