What is going on at Valdosta High?

By Forrest Holder

   Is separate but equal considered racist, or even prejudice? How about separate and unequal? In a search for the answers to these questions I investigated the issue of two different social functions that take place, for Valdosta High Students, on the night of their prom. Upon examining the two proms at Valdosta High School, primarily by survey, I have come to the conclusion that no definite conclusion can be reached. Some issues are better left unresolved and some questions left unanswered. Whether or not this is one of those questions, I will leave up to the readers.

   Through a close look at the issue of two Valdosta High social functions on the night of the prom, I have found that Valdosta High School sponsors only one social event, a group of parents sponsors another. Valdosta High sponsors a prom like most high schools across the country. This event is open to all juniors and seniors regardless of race. Any junior or senior upon purchasing a ticket can attend and bring a date of their choosing. Several people I talked to that attend or are employed by Valdosta High were quick to point out that Valdosta High has only one prom. The other function has nothing to do with Valdosta High School and is totally separate and independent of the school.

   The other social event of the night is called the "after prom party" and is sponsored by a group of the seniors' parents. This has not been a school tradition; it is something started just three years ago. The "after prom party" was started not out of racial conflict, attendees claim, but because a group of parents wanted their daughters to have good time at the prom and felt that they could do a better job at putting on one for their children than the school could. The mothers had grown tired of buying expensive dresses for their daughters who stayed at the prom just long enough to get a picture made. It was not that the white students were scared or in danger, but they did not like the music, saying that it was, "old stuff and not any good," and they were not having a good time so the parents got together to make a prom more suited to their children's tastes.

   According to a Valdosta High graduate that has been involved in planning the "after prom party," "parents invite whom they wish--white and black--by flipping through the yearbook and inviting everybody that's friends with anybody." Not all black students are invited, but neither are all white students, planners explain that if any one of those planning the "after prom party" knows an individual; however, they are invited. Only those troublemakers or "thugs" that are perceived around school as a threat are not invited. I received a number of responses that saying that there was nothing at all racial about the "after prom party." Although many blacks are invited, the fact of the matter is that most of them do not come. It seems that the blacks prefer the style of music at the school prom and the whites prefer that of the "after prom party" because they can choose what is played. One Valdosta High graduate said, "I liked having two proms because it gave us a chance to do one prom the way we liked it."

   Many things in life are just a matter of perspective, and some things are better left alone. Whether or not this is one of those issues is not my place to decide. As one Valdosta High student put it, "...racism is in the eye of the beholder...but I believe things will never be equal, with biased views, we all have different measuring cups." Is the "after prom party" racist? You decide.

Works Cited

Most of my information for this paper was gathered through anonymous surveys and interviews carried out in the halls of Valdosta High School.