For Wilcox County High School students, the American tradition of senior prom boils down to race.
Parents from the South Georgia high school organize the proms -- and for time immemorial, the town has hosted a white prom and a black prom, CNN reports.
"We are all friends," said Stephanie Sinnot, a senior told Fox 24. "That's just kind of not right that we can't go to prom together."
In April, Sinnot joined a group of students who started a campaign to end segregated proms by hosting the town’s first integrated dance. Their cause gained national attention, support and funding to host a prom open to all 400 Wilcox County High School students.
At the political level, nine elected state officials -- four Democrats, three Republicans -- have voiced their support for the Wilcox students. But, it’s Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s statement that is making headlines.
On April 11 in an email, Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the governor said, "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."
The statement was referring to Better Georgia, a liberal nonpartisan group that called on Governor Deal among other politicians to speak out on the controversial issue.
On April 15, Robinson released another statement on Deal’s behalf, saying the Georgia governor “expects and trusts that local leaders will find a long-term solution that protects the equal rights of all students regardless of race or ethnic background."
The school released a statement on its website reiterating that, “The high school does not host a prom at all, and groups of students who host private parties have referred to the parties as their proms."
It also made mention that “students see skin color through their parents’ eyes.”
This year there will be two proms: a “white” one on April 20 and an integrated prom on April 27, WGMT reports. Wilcox County High School administrators plan on meeting to discuss the possibility of hosting a school-sponsored prom next year.
Segregated proms in Georgia are nothing new. Until recently, both Turner County High School and Montgomery County High School held seperate dances.
The tradition of separate proms stems from the time when schools in the South became desegregated.
“In the late 60s and early 70s, districts discontinued proms because they felt like the proms were an opportunity for racial unrest,” Montgomery County Superintendent Randy Rodgers told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In Wilcox County, the four teenagers who spearheaded the movement says it was time for progress to be made.
"I felt like there had to be a change," Quanesha Wallace, a senior, told the news outlet on her reasons for publicly supporting an integrated prom.
Wallace’s mother was stunned by the public’s reaction.
"I've lived here all my life. Nobody pushed the issue. This year, these children -- we didn’t have any idea it was going to go as it did," Quanesha's mother, Linda Wallace, told CNN. "Before we knew it, it was like a wildfire."
Originally from Montreal, Zoë Mintz joined IBTimes in March 2013. A graduate from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, her writing has...
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