If your party is trying to rebrand itself as not racist, it’s probably best that you don’t suggest that anyone supporting ending the tradition of ‘whites only’ proms in Georgia is a ‘leftist’, and use that as justification for not condemning the practice.
Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal responded to Better Georgia’s challenge to publicly support the students of Wilcox County who are fighting to end an unacceptable tradition of “separate-but-equal” high school proms by refusing to take sides in the controversy.
The governor’s spokesman, Brian Robinson, said Deal “won’t take sides” because “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,” according to a report from Macon’s largest television station1, 13WMAZ. They explain the tradition of ‘whites-only’:
Wilcox County High School has no official prom, but for years, some parents and students have organized a private whites-only segregated prom. School officials say they have no control over that and have issued a statement in support of the integrated prom.
In reality, Better Georgia is not a front for the Democratic party, but an independent, non-partisan organization and is not affiliated with any political party. The progressive advocacy group has challenged all Georgia elected officials to publicly support the students of Wilcox County who are breaking with tradition to host the school’s first integrated prom.
“This is an important moment for Georgia’s elected leaders, including Gov. Deal, our top official, to stand up and tell the nation that Georgia doesn’t approve of ‘separate-but- equal’ proms, that we’ve moved beyond the 50s, 60s and 70s,” said Bryan Long, executive director of Better Georgia.
Elected officials from both major political parties have responded to Better Georgia’s request to support the students. State Rep. Edward Lindsey, a Republican House leader who is now running for Congress, offered public support to students in the comments section of a conservative blog this week.
“If there is one thing I have learned in politics it is that you get a whole lot more done if you do not care who gets the credit,” Rep. Lindsey wrote on PeachPundit.com2. “Wilcox County is where my mother is from and where I spent every summer on my grandfather’s farm. I am proud of these students. Elizabeth and I have contributed to their cause. I ask everyone else on Peach Pundit do the same.”
The following elected officials have offered public statements of support for the students
State Sen. Steve Henson, Senate Minority Leader (D – Tucker)
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D – Atlanta)
Rep. Ed Lindsey, House Majority Whip (R – Atlanta)
Rep. Stacey Abrams, House Minority Leader (D – Atlanta)
Rep. Buzz Brockway (R – Lawrenceville)
Rep. Stacey Evans (D – Smyrna)
Rep. Virgil Fludd (D – Tyrone)
Rep. Brett Harrell (R – Snellville)
Rep. Scott Holcomb (D – Atlanta)
Wilcox County High School has a longstanding practice of having separate proms and homecomings for black and white students. The proms are not organized or endorsed by the school but are, instead, organized by parents.
The Wilcox County Board of Education recently passed a resolution supporting the students’ efforts. Better Georgia is calling on leaders at the state level, including State Sen. John Crosby (R – Tifton) and Rep. Buddy Harden (R- Cordele), to also offer public support.
“Gov. Deal needs to step up because he’s the leader of our state. He’s an opinion leader. For Gov. Deal to take a position of neutrality on this issue is shocking and is an endorsement of the status quo, which is an embarrassment for the state.”
The New York Times reported in 1990 that 10 counties in Georgia still have segregated proms. It’s unknown whether that number has changed in the past 23 years but in 2003, the Associated Press reported that Johnson County High School was still holding a segregated prom.
Governor Deal is known for his less than progressive beliefs, and he’s still not sure where President Obama was born (he was so concerned that he wrote a letter to the President demanding to know — I guess he’s not one for reading much) — but don’t let that paint him a racist. After all, only leftists find segregated proms unacceptable in 2013.
Update 8:00 PM: Gov Deal’s office made a statement to the AJC, “Gov. Deal is focused on reviewing the legislation that was passed in the legislative session and bringing jobs to Georgia. In the Wilcox County case, the 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.” So, that’s another sketchy way of avoiding saying – while still implying – separate but equal, and still no condemnation of whites-only proms.
Disclosure: Amy Morton of Better Georgia is a contributing writer to PoliticusUSA.
Image: Joeff Davis
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
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