25 March 2010

McMillen wins

A federal court has ruled that the Itawamba county school district committed a civil-rights violation when it canceled a high-school prom rather than allow student Constance McMillen to attend with her girlfriend (ACLU report here). The court did not order the district to re-instate the prom, but stated an expectation that an alternative prom being organized apart from the school district will not discriminate.

When McMillen decided to fight the district's decision, she gained nationwide attention and support, including a scholarship. I suspect the glare of publicity was even more unwelcome to the district and its supporters than the eventual court ruling. Bullies and abusers thrive on silence and darkness -- they like their victims quiet and isolated from potential help. Sunlight, as the saying goes, is the best disinfectant -- open discussion of what's going on forces the bully to defend behavior which is quickly revealed as indefensible. The district retreated to a claim that the cancellation of the prom actually had nothing to do with McMillen -- something plausible to nobody, and quickly brushed aside by the court. The public humiliation will probably serve as a better deterrent to other bigots than the ruling itself.

The case has a whiff of Rosa Parks about it. Bigotry makes itself seem normative partly by arbitrarily denying its targets the right to do perfectly ordinary, trivial things (sitting in a certain part of a bus, taking one's girlfriend to a prom), and so when one of those targets insists on doing that ordinary, trivial thing, which would pass unnoticed if done by anyone not a target of the prejudice, the forces of bigotry have to blow it up into a huge conflict -- which reveals how stupid and nonsensical their arbitrary exclusions really are.

A point of interest from the ACLU report is the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, a statewide youth-led group which has been supporting McMillen and is sponsoring its own party in May as an alternative to discriminatory official events (not surprisingly, this is a common problem in Mississippi); its mission is "to educate teachers, students, and administrators about the rights of LGBT students with the aim of making schools safer for all." That young people are organizing like this, in a state as conservative as Missis-sippi, is inspiring. The future really will be different from the past.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Great news .... I didnt even know what happened with that (one of the reason's I visit "Infidel753") but I did know of the New Orleans hotel who offered to host it, and accomodate them with room's as well as transportation to and fro .... great for advertising at the same time! :) At my daughter's school for instance when she was in High School here in Dallas, same sex couple's were just as the norm at the prom as straight couple's actually , just fewer.

Thanx Guy ........

25 March, 2010 07:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Pretty remarkable (about your daughter's school) -- I'm sure it wasn't too long ago that this would have been almost unthinkable in Texas.

25 March, 2010 08:14  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Oh yes .... you know .... time's change. But then I doubt that some rural smaller Texas city would have the same feeling's toward's what we do in town's like Dallas and Houston. But I've known some real cool people from Mississippi too. A ex-fellow employee Floyd Latham was born and raised in a southern baptist home in Greenville,Ms. He told me his dream since a child was to turn 18 and get the Hell away from there, and he did .... he went to Houston, then came to Dallas. He actually told me he was an atheist too at childhood, despite having to attend baptist church on sunday's .... I asked him out of curiosity since he came from such a strict religious upbringing, what made him not believe in god? .... he told me it was the preacher that proved to him there wasnt a god .... just by listening to the ridiculous sermon's on sunday ... made him know it was BS.
(sorry, I got a tad off subject, but couldnt resist)

25 March, 2010 11:35  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

BTW .... I did hear that just a few year's before her attendance at that school, they had a conflict over it .... what they done I heard was decided to have a straight prom and then a seperate gay prom .... what happened .... was since student's were all friend's regardless of sex preference's .... they attended each other's prom's .... so the school just then decided "fuck it" just hold them together. Understand though, her high school was not a regular high school even though it was a Dallas school .... it was a high school for performing and visual art's, dance theatre etc. The only high school i Dallas at that time that had no PE (physical education) and had probably the largest gay attendance in Dallas for that matter .... several grammy winner's came out of that school as well.... including in recent year's Nora Jones, it is in downtown Dallas' Art's District.

25 March, 2010 11:45  
Blogger Rita said...

I'm happy to here this all worked out.I know the ACLU gets a lot of flak, esp. around here. But I support them 100%. They deserve some credit in all of this.
When it comes to stuff like this, I'm not sure how my town would react.

25 March, 2010 19:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: I'm sure small towns are different. It sounds like the younger people are a lot more relaxed about these things (ignoring the separation between the two proms). Maybe that's why younger people these days tend to leave small towns and head for the cities.

Rita: It would be interesting to know. Are there any "out" gay people in your town at all? If so, how do people react to them?

26 March, 2010 00:41  

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