The last we heard about Constance McMillan was that the school district in Itawamba County, Miss. had cancelled the senior prom rather than allow the teenager, who is gay, to attend wearing a tux and escorting a girfriend. A court challenge achieved a ruling that the District could not bar Constance from attending her prom, but the judge declined to compel the District’s prom to go forward when he was assured that a parent-sponsored replacement prom was being organized.
Now we learn, from Constance, that she and her date were sent to a country club in Fulton, Miss., to attend what they were told was the prom, but when she arrived she discovered that only that five other students were there. The real prom, with the rest of the students, was taking place that night at a secret location, not disclosed to Constance. The parents organized it, and the school’s principal and teacher’s facilitated the deception, serving as chaperones for their quarantine prom, presumably to lend it false legitimacy if the judge started asking questions.
Nobody should have to be told why this was wrong. What I cannot understand, however, is how so many people in one town, even a small town, could fail to see how cruel their treatment of Constance was, how completely indefensible it is to do such a demeaning thing to a young girl whose only wish was to have the same high school experiences that other girls experience. Punishment isn’t the solution to this ethical blindness. I don’t know what is, frankly. If no one in the town realized that deceiving Constance into attending an outcasts’ ball while her fellow students partied somewhere far away from her was horribly wrong, that treating her as a pariah and a contagion was vicious and inhuman, then I fear that the culture of the community is rotten beyond repair.
When one finds oneself in the middle of such a culture, be it an Enron, a Nixon White House, a Michael Steele Republican National Committee or Itawamba County, there are few options. You can stay and be corrupted or, more likely, destroyed. Or you can leave to find somewhere that people still cares about right and wrong. We can only hope that Constance takes the second course.
One thought on “New Vistas in Cruelty, Bigotry and Segregation in Itawamba County”
I confess that I’m not familiar with the exact terms of the judge’s ruling about not compelling the school prom, which sounds bizarre as you describe it (even for Itawaba County). Unless he was infected with the same mass hysteria that has descended on the rest of the county, though, I can’t see how it would take him longer than about half a second to conclude that the subsequent actions violated his decision (or, if they didn’t, to fix the glitch in his decision that allowed it). Has anybody asked the judge what he has to say about all this?