Smearing the South: Group Attacks Georgia Governor for 'Segregated Proms'

Much money can be made and political power gained by presenting the South as a bastion of pre-Civil Rights Jim Crow. This is what the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), a non-profit with an unsavory past and dubious finances, does. As Charlotte Allen pointed out recently in the Weekly Standard, they bank on rich, elderly Northeastern donors who still think of the South as the place of segregated drinking fountains.

The reality is far different. Fulton County, which seats Atlanta, has a work force that is 83 percent black. The county’s racial makeup is 48 percent white and 45 percent black. But those attempting to change this politically red state into blue look for white “racism” under every rock and in every Republican heart (especially those of rural Georgia residents).

This is evidently the strategy of a new group called Better Georgia, an affiliate of ProgressNow. One of their recent actions was a scolding of Governor Nathan Deal for not making enough executive appointments of color. However, at Georgia Unfiltered, Andre Walker looked at the diversity of Better Georgia itself. He wrote that while the group lectured in its email -- “Tell Gov. Deal that we want executive appointments to reflect what Georgia really looks like -- appointments that are diverse and bring together people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and genders" -- it turns out that Better Georgia’s executive director, political director, and officers are all white.

Better Georgia went after Wilcox County High School’s private “proms,” which have reportedly been segregated. They publicly pressured the governor to make a statement on the issue. Their goal is stated on their web page:

We take important issues like civil rights and equality and we package them in a way that are (sic) easy to digest on Facebook, Twitter and email. We translate important progressive values into narratives that generate headlines and increased click-through rates.

On the prom story, the liberal press complied: the news about “institutionalized segregation” was covered in the UK by the Daily Mail, and predictably the New York Times bit, running several articles on the issue.

This was not a new topic for the NYT: In 2009, they ran an article titled “A Prom Divided” about the supposedly segregated prom at Montgomery County High School. However, Principal Henry Walding told me that he had no knowledge about a segregated prom, but that the school sponsored its first prom this year. He called it “highly successful.”

CNN inadvertently revealed that the Wilcox prom was much ado about nothing. Wilcox County High School itself did not sponsor the proms.

An NBC news report mentioned that the prom went off without a hitch, although they did remind readers of the narrative: “Almost half a century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racial discrimination in schools and other public places … ”. An April 26 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article noted: “The idea of the integrated prom was born out of a racial healing project spearheaded by Harriet Hollis, a coordinator with the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education.” However, an internet search reveals only a Facebook page for the non-profit.

It turns out the kids were able to have their own prom with only a little bit of help from the grown-ups, including donations, some brought in by Wilcox High alum Melvin Everson, a former Republican state representative. Peach Pundit reported that Everson, appointed by Governor Deal as executive director of the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity, had called for local funding of the prom. The student group announced on Facebook that it had met its goal by April 5.

The success of the prom seems to be an argument for keeping government out of such affairs. Yet liberal media continued to present the situation as evidence of racism long after the money had been raised. ABC News announced: “Georgia Teens Fed Up With Segregated Proms.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution education writer Maureen Downey called them “apartheid proms” as she cited Better Georgia -- though noting that at Turner County High School, both white and black students had  segregated themselves at their private "proms".