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From Macedon to Mt Vernon

Boone (m) says things are fine the way they are / photo: screenshot of NYT slideshow

Boone (m) says things are fine the way they are / photo: screenshot of NYT slideshow

“It doesn’t seem like a big deal around here. It’s what we know and it’s what our parents have done for so many years. […] It’s not really about being racist or having all white friends or all black friends […] it’s about your attitude and how you present yourself and how you take care of yourself.”

Those are the words of Haley Boone, Montgomery County High School senior (Mt Vernon, Georgia, US. It’s between Atlanta and Savannah), during an interview with the New York Times for the audiovisual presentation Voices from a Divided Prom. The school is racially mixed, but the students continue with the tradition of holding separate “white” proms and “black” proms. (A prom is ball for high school seniors. Trust me, it’s a big deal.)

In the year that saw the inauguration of the US first black president, yes, such things still happen.

Some folks are outraged at the split:

“Wow. This is so disturbing and outrageous I don’t even know where to start.” – From Care2.com (see comments).

“And what’s particularly disturbing is that the racism is right there under the surface, which makes it no uglier — in fact, to me, it makes it more disturbing.” – Amy Alkon of Advice Goddess.

And label it Jim Crow:

“And then there is the likely segregated reality of much else that goes on in this town, and many others across the South. One can step into areas like this in numerous southern states where everyday life in many ways does seem more like the 1950s than like 2009 is supposed to be — as my graduate students from these areas regularly report. (Hint for grad students and other researchers: We really need some in-depth studies of everyday Jim-Crowing in these small towns across the South today, and probably in other US areas as well.)” Racism Review.

Shoot, even I was shocked.

Note the emphasis on “was.”

Yes, it’s depressing that even in 2009, folks are still holding segregated “anythings,” but realize that – when compared to other countries – the US is young and the issue of race is still raw. The National Voting Rights Act, which outlawed voter intimidation and practices as such, was only passed in 1965.

Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

I was born two years later, and I like to think of myself as a spring chicken.

If folks are reaching back to King Philip II of Macedon (382 – 336 BC) when discussing who has the right to use the word “Macedonia,” then we shouldn’t be shocked that segregation, even voluntary, still exists in the US.