Archive for February 21, 2014

In my first book, Trojan Horse: Death of a Dark Nation, I wrote a commentary called, “Our Children Are Watching,” and the lessons that could be learned from segregated proms, which are STILL occurring in the 21st century. I decided it might be constructive to post it here:

Two Proms:  One Black, One White

600x330_laub_blackprom_2009_0313Students from Montgomery County High School in Mount Vernon, Ga., before the prom.

In May 2009, in Montgomery County, Georgia, an “integrated” high school continued a 38-year tradition of hosting two racially segregated proms. The black prom was open to all students. The white prom had strict “rules” that excluded all the black students.

Despite claims from black and white students that interracial friendships are common at their high school, the blatant racism of the white students, school administrators, and parents tells the real story.

A Surprising (and Disappointing) Turn of Events

650x433_laub_whiteprom_2009_0227The white students’ prom was held on May 1 at a community center; the black students had theirs at the same place the following night.

On the evening of the white prom (held the night before the black prom), a small group of black male and female students stood among a crowd of white parents and onlookers outside the community center.

The black students snapped photos and cheered as their white classmates strutted into the building in their high-school finery.  One of black students admitted they got some stares, but claimed it “wasn’t too bad.”

(Their white friends didn’t return the favor by cheering their black friends at the black prom).  Afterwards, over a bucket of KFC, the black students joked about how “lame” the white prom was but their hurt (and confusion) over being excluded was obvious.

One girl, who stated her “best friend” was white, didn’t understand why they couldn’t attend the same prom with their white friends. One black girl predicted that, “half of those (white) girls, when they get home, they’re gonna text a black boy.”

Another girl seemed disappointed that she hadn’t received a single text message from her white friends as they partied at their whites-only prom.

It’s Not About Race (Or Racism), It’s About “Tradition”

In contrast, the reaction of (many) white students ranged from awkwardness to justification to pride. One white male senior — who claimed he had as many black friends as white friends — didn’t see his whites-only senior prom as racist. “It’s how it’s always been. It’s just a tradition,” he said.

“It’s not about being racist,” added the white mother of a senior girl attending the whites-only high school prom. “It’s what we’ve always done.”

“It’s not really about being racist, or having all white friends, or black friends,” insisted one white female student. “We all hang out together, we’re all in the same classes, we all eat lunch together at the same tables. It’s not about what color you are, it’s not about if you’re black or white…”

Voices From a Divided Prom  (Harley Boone is a white female/Kera Nobles, the second voice, is a black female. Notice that none of the white students refer to the black students as their “best friends.”)

————-

Yes, yes, we know, it’s all about “tradition,” like the fine traditions of America’s Jim Crow past, with its “Colored Waiting Rooms,” separate water fountains, separate schools, and separate black and white restaurant entrances…

segregated water fountainSegregated Water Fountains

Segregated entrancesSeparate Black and White Entrances

“This community and this school system is fine like it is,” the white parent of a senior student agreed. “Why change something that works? It’s not broken. The kids are perfectly fine with it.”

She’s only half-right. The white half may be perfectly fine with segregated proms, but, apparently, the black kids are not:

“I want to have my senior prom with the people I’m graduating with.”

“I don’t understand. If they can be in there, why can’t everybody else?”

“If my best friend is white, why can’t we attend the same prom?”

A Different Kind Of Educational Genocide

Do not misunderstand our point. The tragedy of this story is NOT a segregated prom. It is the LACK of self-respect (and self-esteem) that would drive those bright, caring black students to DEMEAN themselves by showing up, armed with cameras and smiles, to cheer the racist participants of a “whites only” high school prom.

The real tragedy is young black people who want to be accepted so badly by their white peers that they are willing to disrespect themselves, without understanding that surrendering their dignity gains them NOTHING.

The real tragedy is black boys who think it’s a “compliment” to be the sexual playthings and “negro pets” of the same white girls who can’t be seen with them in public, or even at the same prom.

One can only imagine that race relations at any high school that insists on segregated proms is far from rosy or ideal. One would rather NOT imagine what other indignities, insults, slights, and self-esteem damage these black students are experiencing on a daily basis.

This is not a condemnation of those black students from Montgomery County. On the contrary, they appear to be sensitive, loving, (and forgiving) young people. It is NOT their fault they do not understand. They are simply playing the roles taught them from birth in a white superiority/black inferiority system.

Our children are also imitating what black adults do every day. They SEE us smile and pretend not to notice when we are being disrespected.

They are WATCHING as we grovel for crumbs from the economic table, and beg for acceptance from whites even while we are being rejected.

They are LISTENING as we praise whites for the smallest things, and elevate those blacks who are the closest in appearance to whites, while degrading our own black features, hair, skin color, and humanity.

chicago_schools_closing_protest 8NO WONDER SO MANY OF OUR CHILDREN FEEL SO INFERIOR

It is undeniable that WE — black adults and parents — have dropped the collective ball when it comes to our black children. We have NOT taught them about the system of white supremacy because we have NOT educated ourselves.

We have NOT built up their self-esteem so they WON’T NEED TO BE VALIDATED BY SOMEONE JUST BECAUSE THAT SOMEONE IS WHITE. Most of all, we have NOT taught our children what a true “friend” is NOT.

1. Anyone who condones your mistreatment is NOT your friend.
2. Anyone who condones your mistreatment should NEVER be your friend.
3. Anyone who condones your mistreatment CANNOT be trusted.
4. By accepting their bad behavior, you are TEACHING others to mistreat you.

Those who insist, “it’s not the kids’, it’s the parents’ fault,” or who (falsely) believe that the next (white) generation will be “different” (less racist) than their parents, should heed the words of the mother of the 2009 black prom queen, who attended her own segregated prom three decades ago:

650x433_laub_blackprom_2009_0674Niesha Bell, a senior, was voted queen of the black prom.

Niesha’s mother, Angela Bell, graduated from Montgomery County High School in 1978 and also attended a racially segregated prom. “I don’t see how things will ever change around here,”  says Angela, a cashier.  “It’s hard to see my girl in the same situation I was in 30 years ago.

The More Things Change; The More They Stay The Same

The odds are (great) that the 2009 white graduates of Montgomery High School — who claim their racist traditions are their “parents’ fault” — will pass along the same “traditions” to their children 20 years from now.

40 years ago, blacks believed that the Civil Rights movement, integration, interracial marriages, and the anti-establishment white hippies who preached “flower power” and “peace and love” in the 1960s, would lead to the elimination of racism, because these young whites would be “different” than their racially intolerant parents.

Our own experiences as blacks in America — if we are honest — has proven this was NOT the case. By the time these white 17 and 18-year-old 2009 graduates from Montgomery High School have to compete for a coveted seat at a university, a college scholarship, a job, a promotion, or a spouse, it’s a sure bet that the vast majority of their interracial “friendships” will have already bitten the dust.

The segregated proms in Montgomery County, Georgia are stark reminders of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1955, and the kinds of conversations that could have taken place between black domestics and their white employers,
whose houses they cleaned, dinners they cooked, and children they raised:

“Now, Mabel, you know you’re just like one of the family, but I just don’t understand for the life of me, why it’s so important for you coloreds to sit in the front of the bus when the back seat rides just fine.”

It is time to tell our children the TRUTH for sanity’s sake

To read the New York Times article on this segregated prom click here.