Finn: Leave segregation behind on prom night

Taylor Finn

Over five decades have passed since the courageous Ruby Bridges was shielded by the National Guard as she entered an all-white school. Three years after that, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and told the world of his infamous dream.

Following these groundbreaking steps towards equality, the United States has continued to work toward being a country that promotes unity and equality. Although we have come a long way since those days by, for example, electing the first African-American president, there are parts of the nation that are unacceptably behind the times.

Prom is one of those monumental moments that many teens look forward to for years in advance. Can you imagine being told that your prom would only include the students in your classes that happened to have your same skin color? The students of Wilcox County in Georgia were told just that.

Wilcox County High School does not host one single public prom open to all students, but instead private proms are held elsewhere. Up until last year, all of the private proms were extremely segregated, one was held for the white students, and a second was put on for non-white students.

Eventually students began to question this tradition. For many students this idea of a segregated prom made no sense considering that at Wilcox County High School a majority of the students got along regardless of their skin colors. So when the spring of 2013 rolled around, a group of students decided enough was enough, and began to organize the first ever integrated prom.

It is a strange idea to wrap your head around: that in the twenty-first century such extreme segregation still exists. I give the brave students of Wilcox High a lot of credit for going against the grain, and bringing their town up to speed on how things are done nowadays, but I for one have no clue as to why it took until this past year for Wilcox to get with the times. How did the citizens in Wilcox County watch a black man become president of the United States, and yet refuse to let their daughters dance the night away with a boy whose skin color might be different?

The superintendent of Wilcox County High School publicly stated that the school planned on holding a public integrated prom in the year of 2014. As much as I would like to applaud the superintendent and other administrators for their progressive thought process, all I can seem to think about is that other schools across the nation have been just that progressive for the last 40 years.

I am really glad that Wilcox County jumped on the racial equality band wagon, but I am disappointed in how long it took them to do so. Stories like this remind us all that racial discrimination is still a pressing issue in many parts of the country, so we should not just look the other way. Instead we should address the issues and work towards a future that includes equality for all.

The students at Wilcox High School were able to pull it off, and successfully hosted the first integrated prom that their county has ever seen. Although they did face a bit of criticism from a few community members, the students refused to let it stop them. They not only planned a successful integrated prom but brought the issue of segregation to the national news.

Now people all across America are aware that even in 2014 racial issues still exist. It was still a private event, but more than 100 students attended. Rest assured, they were able to dance the night away with many of their friends, rather than a select few.