A ‘kissing cousin’ of segregated proms: segregated high school reunions. Are they common?

A reader of the segregated prom blog sent me a note about something that DeKalb school chief Michael Thurmond referenced in a recent speech, racially segregated class reunions.

Thurmond said that his high school graduating class — he attended high school in Athens and was among the first black students to attend high school with white students — holds two reunions divided by race.  “We have come a long way. But we have a long way to go,” he said.

Like racially segregated proms, these reunion events are not officially sponsored or organized by the high schools, so the guest list can be selective if the organizers so desire.

And apparently, sometimes organizers do limit who’s included in the planning and notifications. A friend went to her high school reunion in South Carolina. She, too, graduated in one of the first integrated classes and expected to see both black and white classmates at the reunion.

But only white students were there.  When she asked one of the organizers about the disparity, two reasons were offered: Some black graduates could not be found.  Those who were found declined to attend.  My friend learned later that a black classmate who should have been easy to find — she was an attorney in South Carolina — never received an invitation.

Reader Tony Lowe shares his experience:

Thank you Maureen Downey for your article “In black and white: Segregated proms continue” that was published in the AJC. Although I did not have this experience at my small high school in Hogansville, Ga., more than 25 years ago, I was shocked to first learn about segregated proms from college classmates in Louisiana. This appalled me then and saddens me now.

Nevertheless, I would like to turn your attention to a “kissing cousin” of the segregated proms –- segregated high school reunions. Many of these otherwise joyous events are organized as racially segregated affairs. Sadly enough, I went through such a process for my high school’s 20th reunion.

Organizing class members put out a call for all interested alumni to meet and bring ideas to plan our reunion. I looked forward to meeting with some of my old classmates and made an effort to attend the first planning session.

Graduating in a class that had almost a 50-50 split of  black and white students, I was the only person of color among the seven people who showed up for the planning session. Still, the seven of us represented about a tenth of total class size.

I arrived with my own ideas and some from other class members who could not attend, but it quickly became obvious to me that our “first meeting” was not the committee’s first meeting. In fact, they had already decided on a time, place and even had information about a DJ — the works.

No one appeared interested in soliciting bids for different dates, venues, catering or the DJs. Efforts were made to placate me, but it was obvious that their original plan was the only plan. I later advised them that I would not be taking part in their event, but continued to communicate with some committee members. Some members communicated that they agreed with me, but went along with the group.

In response, I proceeded to solicit interested class members regarding another reunion event that same year, which we tried to schedule at a more convenient time so we could draw more attendees. I notified every person on the other committee of my plan and invited them to participate. Then, I was later accused of planning a racially segregated function by one peer in an email.

In defending myself against these claims, I pointed out that our second committee had: (1) placed all notices in the local newspaper inviting all members of the class to participate in the planning (2) held every meeting in a public place (3) elected event officers (4) solicited multiple bids for the venue, caterer, DJ, & photographer (5) opened a checking account and (6) used the event to support a local Boys & Girls Club.

The other committee members could not say that they had done any of these things. In fact, their affair was a racially segregated function held on private property.

The reunion organized by the broader group was a racially integrated function held at a local hotel during the town’s annual Humming Bird Festival – School Reunion weekend. So, I would encourage all to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and help Georgia and the South move forward.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

159 comments Add your comment

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
4:49 am

A somewhat fitting title of this blog post, as the mindset most likely to insist on segregated proms and the probably has a better than average chance of being intimately (pun intended) aware of “kissing cousins.”

“Hey folks, come look at the family photo; that’s my mom in the middle and my daddy (her brother) on the right.”

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
4:52 am

segregated proms and the like that is…

Lexi3

April 6th, 2013
6:18 am

Living in my town are female attorneys who I couldn’t find if I tried. Even today, some take their husbands’ names.

Once again, I can’t dither about people choosing with whom them socialize, and, it’s not shocking that they would reunite with folks with whom they united to begin with.

I attended school in Atlanta in the early days of “desegregation,” though the school on the northside was integrated before the busing “remedy.” Back then, we had this charming arrangement called “neighborhood schools.” And, before the “remedy” the schools were very good.

Those in the racial minority were always welcome and attend reunions to this day. I doubt a single one ever felt unwanted because of his race, but that was before the grievance business became the growth industry of the century. It’s still growing, but the schools are disfunctional.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
6:50 am

Looks like Jay Bookman has hit a new low in his excuse making for Beverly Hall

“By other standards, including untainted National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, Atlanta public schools did make measurable, sustained progress during the Hall era.”

Untainted? Seriously Jay you’re embarrassing yourself as now multiple people have raised serious concerns about how that was handled in Atlanta.

Best case scenario: The demographic taking the test changed for the better, not APS changed for the better. Worst (and suspected case) they manipulate who took the test, to get that better demographic.

Of course Jay won’t mention any of that in his column. And while he throws the “bidness” community under the bus for supporting Hall, we are to believe he wasn’t privy to any conversations as a member of the editorial board where he was given enough information that her knew or should have known?

It’s called accountability Jay, and obviously you left it behind loooong ago.

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
7:04 am

Yes, segregated reunions are common too.
Just this year one of my black colleagues showed me her reunion plans We talked about it as she was planning it and after it was over. She and her friends invited all her other black friends. Now, I am white. I wasn’t at all offended that she invited her black friends only. I am sure the white students did the same.
In my hometown where the proms were separate and literally private, a white girl organized the reunion and invited everyone, literally everyong. She even created a new year bok showcasing the event and many white people came, hardly any. literally less than six black people came. No one was offended.My school was half black and half white.
If you walk into any high school at lunch time what you most likely will see is students segregating themselves. Whites sit with whites and blacks sit with blacks because they sit with their friends who live near them. THey grew up together.
No one forces black people to live in South Dekalb County. They choose to live there. No one in South Dekalb forces white peoploe out of South Dekalb. THey jsut choose not to live there.
There is definitely racism in this country to pointing out social events doesn’t get anything done. We need responsible, intelligent, honest people in government regardless of their race.
I wish we’d focus more on our elected officials acting responsibly rather than condemning children and private citizens for what they do on their own time on their own dime.

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
7:21 am

Tony Lowe, I believe every word you said. No sarcasm.
What you don’t understand is the reason the decisions were already made — petty cliques.
It’s not a black and white thing.
I’ve been a member of many social clubs as well as the PTA at an APS school. A few women, usually stay at home mothers who have more time, run the PTA. Sure, there is an open PTA meeting where everyone is invited but it is very plain all the decisions were already made by a group of self-appointed few.
I like the way you think, Tony, like a businessman. You get the bids to get the best price and you have votes — all those things you and I are familiar with because we are business people but the stay at home moms aren’t familiar with it so they do things the way they know.
I am often rankled at the very nature of it as you are but I am also thankful for these stay at home moms because if all these events depended on working women to do them, they just would’t have time to do all of it and….
go to PTA meetings — who are there?
Mothers both working and non-working. Hardly ever a guy in the crowd.
Look at the PTA officers — rarely ever have a man in them.
WHy is that?

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
7:24 am

And one other thing…
I was a member of a “Parents of Blank” group. All women officers. Even though men could be members and men were expectd to do all the heavy lifting and securiy …the group did not allow men to be officers.
I couldn’t figure that one out.
Sometimes the topic of our group discussion was how to get more men involved in parenting and I suggested encouraging men to become officers in the parenting group. You would have thought I suggested we invite Godzilla to run for club president.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
7:27 am

Jay Bookman wants us to be “honest” about those above Beverly Hall that created the conditions?
Fair enough. But why won’t Jay Bookman be equally honest about the fact that even after it was obvious to anyone with a brain (or a sense of ethics) that all was rotten in Denmark, Jay Bookman never once penned an editorial advocated legislation that would offer real whistle blower protections for educators who tried to expose cheating and other misdeeds.

It’s called accountability Jay.

Catlady

April 6th, 2013
8:17 am

I am sad to hear about segregated reunions. My reunions have been inclusive. And this is in Alabama!

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
8:29 am

High school reunions are not funded nor organized by tax payer dollars or people paid by tax payer dollars.
So this blog topic is off base.
We cannot comdemn private citizens for what they do in private with their own money.

Dr. John Trotter

April 6th, 2013
8:30 am

In Public Education, Don’t Kid
Yourself: Race Matters Big Time!

The title of a very lengthy chapter (no worry about a blog monster here) in our forthcoming book. Unfortunately, race has always mattered and still does matter in public schools. To deny this is to deny reality. It cuts both ways too.

Off to the beach today and then a little Final Four watching. You friends (especially “Georgia coach,” my loyal opposition) have a great day!

kgreen

April 6th, 2013
8:30 am

My kids currently attend a Dekalb County school where social functions are held that they prefer not to attend because of the strong differences in what could be called a number of things. We could call it personal taste, cultural differences or even comfort zone.

The fact that a group of people prefer a particular style of behavior, grammar or speech pattern, style of music or social norm also happens to fall along lines of race. The lack of interest in events that focus on or are heavily influenced by that particular style of behavior, grammar or speech pattern, style of music or social norm are then confused as racially motivated.

I might suggest that when social events are sponsored by our schools that they be more inclusive by eliminating all forms racial identifiers.

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
8:34 am

***A topic that Begs to Be Covered***
Abuse by public school coaches.
A story that isn’t covered is the college coach who abused his players. Even after the Sandusky coach was fired and a scandal and a nation-wide abuse case was tried, more college coaches still feel free to abuse their players and the university president covers it up.
Our tax payer dollars.
Abuse of our children.
All in a public school by public school coaches.
This story begs to be told.
Where is it here?

Dr. John Trotter

April 6th, 2013
8:36 am

@ Bev: Demographics did indeed change from 1999 to 2012. All (yes, ALL…starting with Techwood and ending with Bowen) of Atlanta’s project were closed and the residents were given vouchers. Many re-located to Clayton County. Now you know the rest of the story about how Clayton County changed so quickly

I am quite confident, from the stories that I heard, that APS was selective about who to the NAEP test. Does this surprise us? No, I would instead be shocked if manipulation did not take place.

South Georgia Retiree

April 6th, 2013
8:38 am

I graduated almost ten years before school integration began in our area, so my class reunions are all white by nature, which feels strange since I’ve lived in a racially integrated world most of my life. I have heard younger friends speak about segregated class reunions—of course, this points to the continuation of the old days and ways of de facto segregation. This goes hand-in-hand with the ongoing segregation of most churches. We’ve come a long way for some things, but not very far for others.

indigo

April 6th, 2013
8:49 am

The social experimentations that started in the 60’s had a number of goals.

One of these was to force black and white students to interact socially in the hopes of creating a sort of “color blindness” in students.

This kind of experimenting hit it’s peak during the height of busing and finally ended when fed up students AND parents said ENOUGH!!

Now, some still engage in hand wringing and in saying “we have a long way to go”, totally ignoring the natural inclination of people to associate with those they see as their own kind.

PC blinds many to a reality they don’t want to acknowledge.

Dr. John Trotter

April 6th, 2013
8:53 am

“who [took] the NAEP test…” Before coffee. Sorry.

(the other) Rodney

April 6th, 2013
9:01 am

And again, this is NEWS to me. As I stated on the original post about proms I grew up in southeast Georgia in a very small town and we had integrated proms. So this business of segregated class reunions is news to me.

And you’d think – being in a small town in southeast Georgia that WE would be the ones with the racial issues. Seems like the big-city folks (disclaimer: I’ve been one since 1991) have a harder time with it than we do.

Pluto

April 6th, 2013
9:08 am

I think that proms shoul be segregated on moral/decency grounds. Having to serve as a requirement of teaching at dances/proms, I found it appalling the way some students bump and grind like dogs in heat. Meanwhile admin turns a blind eye to the behavior and parents are nowhere to be seen. I think it would do the PTO a big service to let them see the way their sweet angels behave. Afterwards I spoke with some students who did not attend and their reason for not attending was that the whole affair is considered indecent by more than a few. Why do public schools alienate these kids but promote what is offensive to many? Can’t wait for this year’s Cheetah boot camp!

AJC isn't me

April 6th, 2013
9:23 am

Obsessing about voluntary off-campus relationships seems so petty.

The indictments handed down in recent days, with all those black faces staring back at the newspaper reader, evidently has white liberals like Maureen on a crusade to somehow distract us with tripe.

Why not a column instead on a majority-black school with unrivaled (and authentic) test scores?

Maureen Downey

April 6th, 2013
9:26 am

@pluto, I was student council president of my all-girl Catholic high school and one of the student council’s major tasks was running school dances, which were attended by boys from neighboring Catholic high schools. I cannot tell you how often the chaperones and nuns separated couples dancing too suggestively. Sister Mary Irene often warned us that dances would not continue if the lewd dancing did not stop.
I think this is an age-old problem.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

April 6th, 2013
9:37 am

@AJC, You can start with the schools highlighted in “No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools.”
The greater challenge is finding a majority poor school, whether black or white, with unrivaled test scores. A key obstacle to student achievement is poverty because those kids come to school with many associate conditions trailing them, poor nutrition, housing issues (moving frequently), untreated health and vision problems. Consolidate poor kids into a single school and you have a tough challenge for the teachers in that school.
This is it for me today. En route to a wedding. See you all later.
Maureen

Georgia Coach

April 6th, 2013
9:43 am

Thanks for the well wishes, John. I always have a great day.

South Georgia Administrator

April 6th, 2013
9:45 am

I’ve heard of white churches and black churches have segregated “dinner on the grounds”….boy wouldn’t that be an important article topic!

Lee

April 6th, 2013
9:48 am

All this is much ado about nothing. People are going to attend what they are interested in and associate with who they want. Political correctness be damned.

At my 30th class reunion a few years ago, no blacks showed up. The white participation rate was maybe 10%. Invitations were sent to everyone they could find an address for. That’s just the way things go sometimes.

I certainly didn’t wring my hands and lament about society “not moving forward” because someone chose not to attend a reunion.
———————————————————————–

Hey Maureen, since you’re on a black/white segregation kick lately, what about all the racially segregated SCHOOL SPONSORED groups such as the BLACK STUDENTS ASSOCIATIONS, LATINO STUDENTS ASSOCIATIONS, etc, etc, etc and why school officials would go into hyperventilate mode if white students tried to create their own affinity group.

No, it’s much more politically correct to blame whites for not “moving forward” by having a segregated prom.

Typical AJC stuff….

AJC isn't me

April 6th, 2013
9:51 am

@Maureen: That means we can expect the blog to focus on more of the same?

Dr. Proud Black Man

April 6th, 2013
9:52 am

I see the usual “racialists” are here with their usual mea culpa.

zeke

April 6th, 2013
9:56 am

Not a thing wrong with people choosing who they wish to associate with! This government has tried to force everyone into the same group through ridiculous laws and rules and the socialist agenda! Our Constitution gives us the right to choose who we are to associate with!!

Lee

April 6th, 2013
10:25 am

“I see the usual “racialists” are here …”

Said the guy with BLACK in his screen name….

indigo

April 6th, 2013
10:37 am

Dr. Proud Black Man

Why are you “proud”?

Is it because you’re a doctor?

If so, it’s rather foolish to brag about it here.

Is it because you’re black?

If so, that’s even more foolish since being black is no better or worse than being anything else.

Grob Hahn

April 6th, 2013
10:38 am

Black-only events are not offensive to anyone. It is white-only events that create cries of racism, slavery, Jim Crow etc. etc. etc. ANY time white people want to be by themselves it is instantly assumed that it’s for supremacist reasons. Imagine the shiite storm we’d see if someone tried to hold a white arts festival.
Grobbbbbbb

lexi3

April 6th, 2013
10:38 am

For those interested, a brilliant column on racial differences, by a brilliant economist and writer, Thomas Sowell. He’s black, not that that fact would color his conclusions.

http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2013/03/12/intellectuals-and-race-n1531068/page/2

lexi3

April 6th, 2013
10:42 am

Dr. Proud Black Man

April 6th, 2013
9:52 am

I don’t see any mea culpas, which are of course formal acknowledgements of blame. On the contrary, most of the folks commenting refuse, correctly I believe, to acknoledge that there should be any blame for normal social interactions.

Ernest

April 6th, 2013
10:42 am

Dr. Trotter, from your post at 8:36, don’t forget many of the displaced residents also took their vouchers to DeKalb County. In DeKalb, those residents still had access to MARTA and Grady unlike those that relocated to Clayton.

Funny

April 6th, 2013
10:44 am

We were all white at my high school in 1973 and most reunions were invition only to the “in” group the rest were not notified of the reunions. I look at it different than prom…. prom we were still in school as a group…. reunions were adults getting together. I didn’t want to go to the gatherings of the “in” group anyway.

OriginalProf

April 6th, 2013
10:58 am

@ Zeke, April 6, 9:56 am: “Our Constitution gives us the right to choose who we are to associate with!!”

Where in the U.S. Constitution is this stated? Which amendment?

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
11:17 am

Georgia Coach you claimed retention increased the likelihood of a student dropping out by 30%

What if one of your staff pointed out correlation is not causality?

If at least one of your staff did not point that out, might you need to look at either A) the quality of your staff or B) your management style, in that in does not promote open dialogue between teachers and administrators?

Patrick Edmondson

April 6th, 2013
11:25 am

For some people, High School is their highest point and they live forever in the mindset. Some get in charge of reunions and conveniently lose addresses for those they wish to shun. Social Darwinism gone insane.

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
11:26 am

Beverly Fraud, I am a fan of yours but I am disappointed by this comment:
“Hey folks, come look at the family photo; that’s my mom in the middle and my daddy (her brother) on the right.”
It’s racist
It means whites are inbreds.
Actually, royalty are inbreds.
And fathers having sex with their own daughters is as common in the white race as it is in the black race.

Bernie

April 6th, 2013
11:27 am

The issue of the prom is one thing. What is even worse than that is the separation of the Places of worship. The most SEGREATED time in America, occurs every Sunday ALL across this Great Nation, between the Hours of 9:00am-1:00pm.

Funny, how we ALL supposedly PRAY to the same GOD and we all hope to go to that place of paradise called Heaven. Are we to expect that segregation will be found there as well? Will there be a White Heaven? A Black Heaven?, Hispanic Heaven? Asian Heaven? Or will God expect for ALL of us to be as one HARMONIOUSLY Loving each other?

Being GOD made US ALL in his IMAGE, somewhere along the line one would think, we would get the MESSAGE!

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
11:28 am

Patrick. I am white.
My high school could not find me. I married and changed my last name and simply didn’t keep in touch with old high school friends.
I got in touch with them. 10, 20 30 year high school reunions are commonplace. So, close to each milestone, I looked on facebook and found them and asked around.
If someone really wants to go, then they can tell others where they are.

Pride and Joy

April 6th, 2013
11:32 am

Then isn’t the NAACP a segregated group?

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
11:37 am

“Sister Mary Irene often warned us that dances would not continue if the lewd dancing did not stop.”

And of course by “lewd dancing” they meant The Twist LOL

Chubby Checker = Satan’s Spawn

Missing the point

April 6th, 2013
11:41 am

Anyone can join the NAACP. There are members of all races and ethnicities.

Georgia coach

April 6th, 2013
11:42 am

Beverly you got schooled yesterday by progressive humanist about your lack of understanding of research methodology.
You know nothing of my management style and can’t possibly know.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
11:49 am

Georgia Coach, nice dodge but the fact was I was totally kidding. How could anybody think dropping out of school could cause one to be born to a single mom with a poor educational background years earlier? Sorry Progressive didn’t see the sarcasm.

As for you, you made yet another simple mistake in logical reasoning as I said if on your staff pointed out that correlation does not equal causation, perhaps you don’t have a quality staff, regardless of your “management style”.

Since you imply your management style is above reproach, my sympathies for having a staff that seems utterly bereft of critical thinking skills.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
11:52 am

if no one on your staff that is…

And let’s not forget others pointed out the error of your reasoning. As the instructional leader of your school, perhaps you would benefit from digging deeper into “the research” (aka educational dogma) instead of accepting it on face value.

war eagle

April 6th, 2013
12:31 pm

NAACP has members of All races? Yeah Right. And the NBA has more than 50% white people playing. Lee is right. The black s have BET, miss Black america, one hundred black man march, the Negro Baskeball associaton, Rooney rule in Football, and you have your OWN history month.Yet you mention a White org. and they go ape! Racism, marches and protests.Seperate but equal is making a comeback and we should embrace it. There is no NAAWP, or White history month. There needs to be a rule in the NBA that each team have at least two white players on the team with one playing at all times. Obama and the DEMS are at fault for this. Blacks feel like they can do whatever they want and no one can touch them b/c big brother is in the big house. They are the only race wher most of there people don’t come from where they claim to be. AFRICAN American? Have you even BEEN to Africa?Since they deny their AMERICANism. why give them the rights and privileges that are bestowed upon TRUE Born Americans? Seperate but equal worked before and it can again.

Georgia

April 6th, 2013
12:40 pm

Wait. There were reunions? I was never invited to any reunions. Just when are these events? I went to three different high schools. Nobody ever contacted me. It’s a shame because I’m really good at spiking punch bowls with Spanish Flies, starting naked Conga lines, and everything. Darn.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2013
12:44 pm

Let’s hope Georgia Coach hasn’t beat a quick and hasty retreat.