Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has refused through a spokesperson to endorse one town’s first-ever integrated high school prom, saying that he would rather not take sides on the issue. According to Atlanta’s WMAZ Channel 13, politicians from both parties have stated their support for black and white students from Wilcox, Georgia, but Deal declined to join them.
Raw Story spoke to activist Bryan Long of the progressive group Better Georgia, whose group has asked Georgia elected officials “to publicly support the students of Wilcox County who are fighting to end a ‘separate-but-equal’ high school prom.”
“We thought it would be nice if our elected officials would support these students,” said Long.
“They’re taking a great stand in their community. We thought that officials all across the state should send a message to the nation that we’ve moved beyond the racial divisions of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.”
He added, “We were surprised to read that the governor’s spokesperson said that he wouldn’t be ‘taking sides’ on this issue. I didn’t know that there were sides to take.”
Deal spokesperson Brian Robinson told WMAZ on Thursday that Deal is refusing to endorse the integrated prom because of Better Georgia’s bipartisan initiative.
“This is a leftist front group for the state Democratic party and we’re not going to lend a hand to their silly publicity stunt,” wrote Robinson.
“The kids want to have an integrated prom,” said Better Georgia’s Long. “It’s the 21st Century, Gov. Deal. Get with it.”
“The fact that we even have segregated proms in Georgia in 2013 is shocking all buy itself,” he said, “but to have a governor say that he doesn’t want to support the students who are trying to change that horrible tradition? That’s just cowardly.”
“We really didn’t think this was going to be a divisive issue,” he concluded. “Plenty of Republicans have already come out to support the kids. So, for the governor, who’s supposedly an opinion leader in the state to just say, ‘I’ll sit this one out,’ well…I didn’t think that was possible.”
Wilcox High School was integrated decades ago, but parents have put up their own money for annual private parties rather than have an integrated prom. Students created a Facebook page dedicated to hosting an integrated dance and said they were “embarrassed” that no one had done it before.
Update: A video posted on YouTube by the Georgia Democratic Party in 2010 shows Deal making a litany of racially-insensitive comments, including, "We fought against the extension of the Voting Rights Act, you may remember that"; "my wife tells me she can look at her sixth-grade class and tell which one’s going to prison and which one’s going to college"; and that he had "no idea" where President Barack Obama was born. The video can be seen below.