Nate Jones at Time:
Students at Nettleton Middle School must be doing great on their American History exams, because their school is almost literally living in the past!
Segregation is still alive and well in parts of America. At Nettleton Middle School in Nettleton, MS, students are forbidden from running for certain student government positions if their skin is the wrong color. Each year, three of the the four executive positions are set aside for white students; one of the four is set aside for a black student. The highest rank a black student can hold? Vice-President, in 8th grade.
Even worse is the situation for students who are neither black nor white, who cannot apparently run for any office.
The policy was busted by the mother of a mixed-race student who had wanted to be class reporter, a position reserved for black students. As the mother, Brandy Springer, wrote to the blog Mixed and Happy, her daughter was denied on the basis of her matrilineal whiteness. When Springer complained to the school board, she says:
“They told me that they ‘Go by the mother’s race [because] with minorities the father isn’t generally in the home.’ They also told me that ‘a city court order is the reason why it is this way.'”
But don’t think the school is racist! The district has posted a statement on the policy, saying it is “under review.” Well, glad that’s solved
Irin Carmon at Jezebel:
If we still have segregated proms in the American South, including in Mississippi, why not segregated middle school elections? Welcome to Nettleton Middle School, where not only are class elections segregated, but the president slots are designated for white students.
But even segregated proms have an apparent black equivalent. In this middle school class officers election, there’s no pretense of separate but equal: The highest a black student can aspire to is vice president of just one of the classes. Because it’s not like a black person can be president or anything!
This is what I mean when I say that we’re only 40 years removed from the civil-rights movement. These attitudes took generations to materialize, and while we’ve come a long way, it’s unreasonable to expect that they’ll disappear in a few decades. On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march on Washington, racism isn’t as bad as it was, but it’s not an abstraction, and it’s not a thing of the past.
The school, which has a black principal, is 74 percent white and 26 percent black. I suspect the policy was written to ensure that blacks would win a share of class offices. And it will be dropped like a rock very quickly.
As bizarre as it seems, the intent was doubtless benign. As Joanne Jacobs points out, the school’s principle is black and the school “is 74 percent white and 26 percent black.” The intent, rather clearly, was to ensure that at least one black officer was elected per class.
I’m not sure what’s more interesting: That this has been going on for “more than 30 years” and people are just now complaining or that it was started 30-odd years ago. Presuming “more than 30″ doesn’t mean “almost 40,” that means this policy started in the late 1970s — years after official segregation ended.
Then again, I was slightly befuddled that the Alabama high school from which I graduated in 1984 and to which I transferred in 1980 had a “minority” spot in the Homecoming Court. A black girl could theoretically have been elected Homecoming Queen, since there was no rule that she be white (Yes: In those days, it was presumed she’d be a she and have always been one) there was a guarantee that at least one would be represented. Since we never had more than one or two black girls in our class, it was rather surreal.
MSNBC reports that the school board for Nettleton Middle school met in an emergency session today and voted to reverse its policy of apportioning student council positions by race:
“It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body,” Superintendent Russell Taylor said in a statement.
“Therefore, beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity. It is our intent that each student has equal opportunity to seek election for any student office.”