In numerous places the case of an African American student excluded by a cruel trick from her Birmingham, Alabama high school prom in 1965 has been raised. Parallels have been drawn with whites-only private events that were a response to school integration in the 'desegregated' South. while i don't think there's exact overlay, i can see why folks see the parallels - a spirit of majority rule, a definite flavour of separatism and scapegoating. what strikes me is the blindness that comes all to easily with privilege.
these comments (apparantly from IHAS students) defending the private prom and responding to comments that they excluded students with learning challenges as well as McMillan, struck me as being... well... i'll let them speak for themselves...
What people are failing to realize is that much of the fault of this whole stink lies with Constance, not her mistreatment by the school district, but her crazy-reckless need for attention. It sounds mean and horrible and like we planned it all specifically to embarrass Constance, but we didn’t. We let her have her prom with her girlfriend and her tuxedo and we went to party it up in the “boondocks” not because we wanted her rights violated, but so we could salvage what has turned into a total fiasco....
I’m proud that we took a stand and just said you know what? forget it, we have just as much right as you do to have a party for ourselves. So we did, and now we’re getting flack because poor Connie’s ego got a bit of bruising. She’s playing the lesbian card to prove she ALWAYS gets what she wants. This time, we didn’t just let her.
Take it as you will, because I’m sure it sounds like we faked her out, but understand this- the decision NOT to attend prom had nothing to do with the school or with Constance’s sexual preferences; it had everything to do with proving we weren’t going to let her and the ACLU steamroll us into doing what Constance wanted. We flexed the muscle of the majority and we’ll suffer the consequences. - from here. bold my own.
Billie Holiday was born this day, 1915*. While there is no comparison to be made with current events in Fulton, Miss. and the history of lynching, hearing this song again was a sobering reminder of just how far we can descend into inhumanity.
when we have privilege on one hand and burden on the other, i'm mindful it is not the role of the privileged to take the role of victim, nor to see those who are burdened as needing to be 'let' have their rights -- equality demands much deeper transformation than the many making concessions to the few. all are demeaned by inequality -- it keeps us all from the fullness of our humanity. in the words of another song, none of us is free. when a minority is not being afforded respect, no true respect exists for any. yet how quickly we can cast blame on the burdened, on those in the minority as our privilege is unsettled. and how ugly it can get.
*hat tip to today's writer's almanac with garrison keillor.