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What Freedom Is All About

Patrick J. Buchanan

May 26 2003

This spring, white students at Johnson County High in Wrightsville, Ga., continued a tradition they have followed since desegregation. They held a prom separate from the school prom – for white students only. As did the juniors at neighboring Taylor County High.

News of the separate proms reached Bill O'Reilly at Fox News, who angrily demanded that Gov. Sonny Perdue attend the official Taylor County prom in protest. As columnist Sam Francis writes, O'Reilly seemed miffed that there was no law or authority to stop this outrage:

"You can't sue because the event is being held off-campus. It's a private party, and no person of color is welcome. Yet, the party is being held under the banner of Taylor High's junior prom. Yes, there is an alternative prom where everyone is welcome, but still a number of your classmates do not want to celebrate with you."

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, law student Jeffrey Shapiro seemed even more indignant: "It's hard to imagine that the practice of segregation still exists in the United States, but it does," Shapiro states. "Authorities are powerless to intervene."

Yes, and a good thing they cannot intervene, Jeffrey. For if this country is about anything, it is freedom. And just as the Bill of Rights prevents the state from interfering with what Shapiro or O'Reilly writes or says, the Constitution protects the freedom of school kids in Taylor County, Ga., to associate with whomever they wish

When O'Reilly says that an all-white prom appears to be a snub of black schoolmates, he may be right. But it may also mean the white kids simply prefer to party together. As for Shapiro's assertion that "segregated proms" are one of "the worst public displays of racism in today's America," that is absurd.

The ugliest manifestations of racism today are not all-white proms, but interracial crimes such as gang assaults, gang shootings and gang rapes.

As this term racist is tossed about, perhaps it is time to define it. To this writer, racism means a hatred or hostility toward some other race that manifests itself in a desire to deny the other justice.

What O'Reilly and Shapiro are upset about is something else altogether. For there is no evidence the white kids of Taylor County hate all their black classmates. A preference for socializing with one's own is not hatred. CYO dances used to be restricted to baptized Catholics. That didn't mean the priests and nuns hated all non-Catholics. The same is true for the Newman clubs and Hillel houses on college campuses. These clubs represent the desire of a group to socialize together. This is not racism. It is natural and normal, and there is nothing morally reprehensible about it.

As for the new separatism or self-segregation in schools, this appears to be more the wish of black students than of whites. Here, for example, is Washington Post writer Michael Fletcher describing the graduation events at Penn:

"The presentation of the class of 2003 was the central event at this year's Black Senior Celebration. The ceremony here, attended by almost half of the university's 140 black graduating seniors, followed separate celebrations that honored Asian American and Latino seniors in the weeks leading up to Penn's general graduation ceremony today. University officials say these racially and ethnically themed ceremonies are a way for minority students to celebrate their cultural connections."

If it is acceptable for black students in the Ivy League to hold segregated ceremonies to celebrate their "cultural connections," why is O'Reilly beating up on white high-school kids in rural Georgia for doing the same thing?

Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford and Berkeley all host separate ceremonies for black graduates. Across America, writes Fletcher, there are black "fraternities, sororities and culture centers." Black students "study in separate groups, they eat at segregated dining tables, and they unwind at separate parties."

Does this mean black students hate their white classmates? Of course not. They simply prefer to socialize with one another.

At Penn, the university even pays for the kente cloths and the sumptuous banquet at the graduation ceremony at the black student center Makuu. In Johnson and Taylor counties, parents pay for the white proms.

Again the question reasserts itself: If it is perfectly acceptable for black, Asian and Hispanic students to have separate dorms and cultural centers in college, subsidized by tax dollars, why is it an outrage that white high-school kids in rural Georgia have their own prom, paid for by their own parents? Whatever did these white folks do to lose the right to equal respect and equal treatment?

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