Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Prom Night in Mississippi

Tonight I saw the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi.

In this day and age, it's hard to believe there are still places in America that segregate blacks and whites. For God's sake we have a black president (or at least, a 1/2 black one). But unfortunately, those places do exist.

The place in this case is Charleston, Mississippi—hometown of Morgan Freeman—and the annual prom at Charleston High School. Since the beginning of days, there have always been two proms. One for blacks; one for whites, though all of the kids go to classes together. Morgan Freeman had offered in years past to pay for the prom if it were to be integrated, but the town (read: the parents) wasn't interested.

Enter Director Paul Saltzman and a camera crew, and the school finally agrees to do it in the ripe old year of 2008.

But not everyone is on board. In fact, some of the parents are so put off by the concept, they arrange a white prom anyway. And they follow through with hosting it days before the integrated prom (the schadenfreude for those of us who live and breathe in modern times was that there was violence at THAT prom). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first 1/3 of the movie is talking head interviews and frustrating school meetings that only show how ignorant this poor town is (and I do mean poor—most kids live in trailers). The majority of the families (including the students) are obese, their language is simple and their minds are unfortunately small (one parent speaks of God making us into separate races to represent different classes and I almost threw my laptop at the television).

But it's not all bad.

There is a rebellious girl who digs her black boyfriend and won't give him up though her father is furious; another white girl considers her black friends more loyal than her parents, who are mortified that she would even mingle with such folks. And of course, many of the kids could care less what color their classmates are—they just want to party!

So we see kids of both races going to the beauty parlor, washing their cars, choosing their dresses and posing on the lawn for awkward photos as they all pile into a white limo (you get the sense there may not have been any black limos available in that town). The ride to the prom with both blacks and whites in the same vehicle seems peaceful.

The school has amped up security for the festivities (and we are told his by a clearly concerned black cop), but there is no need for it. The kids get to the dance and they...dance. They laugh, they eat, they choose a king and queen. Blacks dance with whites and blacks dance with blacks and whites dance with whites. Everyone has a great time and from the post-prom interviews it sounds as if some new friendships were born.

Lesson learned? I don't know.

Until they can have an integrated prom without an all-white prom in the same week, they're still unacceptable in my book.

~~~

1 comment:

David said...

Nice way to put it: No lesson learned. The outcome was a normal celebratory event that all students should get to enjoy.
Also, props to you for being the only reviewer of this film on IMDB!