What about prom?

Let’s let go for a moment of the fact that Constance McMillen wanted to bring a girl to the prom.  Let’s forget the lawsuit and the homophobia and the absurdity of anyone giving a shit who brings whom to the prom.  In fact, let’s leave Constance out of this conversation altogether for a couple of minutes.

Instead, if we may, can we please focus in on the fact that the parents in Itawamba, Mississippi all got together and organized a fake prom for the sole purpose of excluding a couple of queers and a few learning disabled kids and – I’m just guessing here – one or two other social misfits, as well.

Now, I am always the first person to sign up for organizing parties at my kids’ schools, not because I love doing that crap but because the first person to sign up always gets to bring napkins or grapes, while the last person is inevitably stuck making 97 tiny egg salad sandwiches.  Organizing this shit SUCKS, and that’s why I make it my business to do as little as possible for school parties while still appearing to be involved.

So it fucking blows my mind that there was a group of parents who actually thought it was worth the trouble to plan two proms – a real one and a fake one – just for the sake of excluding a handful of kids.

Really?  You care that much?

I mean, think of the effort they had to go to, not just planning two parties, but making sure that the losers all got sent to the wrong place while the rest of the kids went to the right place.  There just must not be a whole hell of a lot to do in Itawamba, Mississippi if we’re spending our time on that kind of crap.

The diamond-pointed cruelty of it all just astonishes me.  Sure, my high school had meanness and bullying and all that shit, but most of us have grown out of it by now.  I cannot imagine a group of adults all being so incredibly mean-spirited as to target a small group of kids because they were too uncool to do the Electric Slide next to their own precious children.

And, so, on the off chance that someone in Itawamba is reading this, I would like to point out the bleeding obvious that somehow missed your attention: those kids – the ones with learning disabilities and buck teeth and whathaveyou – those kids are someone’s children.

And you should be fucking ashamed of yourselves.

41 responses to “What about prom?

  1. I am just so stunned and sickened and pissed off about this. It isn’t hard to see where the kids get it from, is it?

  2. Words fail me…… I am left here stuttering thinking no FUCKING WAY did a bunch of adults set out to be so deliberately cruel…. I have to believe that someday they will “get theirs” I just have to…..

  3. Sing it sister.

  4. I hope all seven of those kids can high-tail it out of Itawamba as fast after graduation as possible so they can see there’s a bigger, brighter, lovelier, more accepting world out there. And they have a valued place in it.

  5. coldspaghetti

    Louisiana’s State Motto: “Thank God for Mississippi.”

  6. Ever heard the “Floating Men” sing the line “All our brightest kids are either weird or gay. They can’t wait to graduate and move away…”? Does anyone wonder why?

    Wouldn’t prom have been hard enough for those kids without the parents having to go to all of that trouble? Teenagers don’t need their parents to fuel their ability to be cruel. They do it quite well on their own. I have to hope that one of the 7 students who did show up at the fake prom did it out of solidarity and love for those other kids.

  7. Wow. I’d say more if I wasn’t so speechless.

    But twosquaremeals – I serious doubt it.

  8. I can’t get past the two kids with learning disabilities. I shouldn’t be surprised that people who are prejudiced against gay teens would be prejudiced against the disabled, but that’s monstrous.

    I guess I’m relieved in a perverse way to see that they are more monstrous than their children.

  9. They don’t have a life. They should get one. Cruelty is a poor substitute.

  10. Horrifying. Just… horrifying.

  11. I’m so glad you wrote something about this, Emily. Of all of the terrible/ridiculous news yesterday (including Virginia’s decision to reinstate Confederate History Month!) this story hurt the most. It’s painful, disgusting, sad, horrible… well, I don’t have the words you do so thank you for saying something. As the saying goes, for parents and school systems like these, “There’s a special place in hell…”

  12. I had a similar reaction when I heard this. I mean, it’s one thing to sit around and talk with prejudice, another to go to such extreme lengths to exercise it.

    Horrible story. Great post. Amen.

  13. Speechless, nauseous, disgusted, just horrified that adults would behave in this way, that other adults would go along with it, have none of the children in that school been given any backbone?

    Thanks for the post Emily.

  14. I’m disgusted, but sadly, unsurprised. The school and the town had already repeatedly demonstrated they were capable of such hatred and cruelty.

    The one bright spot I saw in this story was that Constance herself, while surely wounded, continues to speak up and out. If their intent was to silence her, I’m heartened to see that they failed.

    To the “good citizens” of Itambwa, Mississippi who orchestrated this, and to those who silently allowed it to happen – your hearts are surely made of stone, because anyone with a shred of humanity would never stoop to hurting children in such a despicable manner.

  15. I agree…sickening. It’s easy to see from actions like this why we have such a problem with bullying. But again I ask- what, other than blustering about it on blogs, would you have people do? You can’t legislate this kind of behavior…and if we did, we’d be less than tolerant, right? If we are to be accepting of people living alternate lifestyles, and supportive of our deeply-loved freedom of speech, how can we have any ground to stand on in decrying this kind of absurdity?

  16. I hope coldspaghetti isn’t implying that this has to do with Christianity. As a Christian myself and a conservative one, I will just say that Christianity & God boil down to one thing only – Love. Not judgement, not hate, not exclusion, not cruelty. No rightly formed Christian I know would ever be less than horrified at this. It’s sickening.

    • Amy, I’m sure that’s not what Holly (Coldspaghetti) meant. “Thank God for Mississippi” is a tongue-in-cheek maxim referring to Mississipi’s rank of 50th out of 50 states in (whatever), so the other state in question isn’t the bottom of the barrel.

  17. Pardon me, Evenshine, but if I understand your position correctly, you are stating that in order for us to condemn this kind of behaviour we must first tolerate it? Your logic escapes me.

  18. Oh, and by “E.”, I meant Emily.

  19. Well, I for one thank you for blustering. It isn’t the first time you’ve kicked up enough wind to raise important sails. Your willingness to speak out makes a difference. What I value most about blogging is the way it enables representation. Legislation only changes what we do by putting a lid on certain things while legally enabling others. Blogging invites discourse. Discourse inspires people to rethink and evolve.

  20. Yeah… I’m thinking Brown v. the Board of Education, the absurdity of the separate but equal doctrine, and the difference between hate speech, which is to some degree protected by the First Amendment, and hateful actions, which are not. We are obligated to tolerate people’s words, not their actions.

    Nope, we don’t need new legislation here, because if I correctly understand the ruling the judge gave and the understanding that he had, the parents acted in contempt of court. I look forward to seeing what the ACLU does next.

  21. @ExPat- no, that was not my position. My question is- what is the solution to this kind of problem? While I am sickened by the actions taken by these adults, I’m genuinely asking- what can people do in the face of these kind of actions?

    In order to condemn this kind of behavior, we must first agree on the principle of what constitutes “wrong”. What IS a “hateful action”? Therein lies the problem. The underlying issue, which Emily deftly sidesteps, is connected to some deeply-held beliefs, which we must tolerate if we are to allow freedom of religion/ speech in this country.

    However, I go back to my question, which is, I promise, an honest question. What do you do to be tolerant of opposing views, when you stand firmly against those views?

  22. I don’t have the full definition of “hateful” in the eyes of the law on hand, but I’m positive that deceiving to exclude a teenage member of a vulnerable minority would qualify.

    Yep, the First Amendment protects our beliefs too, but if we act hatefully or hurtfully in the name of those beliefs, that’s not enough.

    I’ll tolerate anything but a lack of tolerance and a a closed mind.

  23. This is totally horrifying. To go to that length in your effort to exclude others just boggles the mind. :(

  24. I think there is a pretty clear difference between the freedom to say, “I don’t like you because you’re gay,” and engaging in social aggression of this magnitude. Even free speech has its limits and spills over into criminal harassment if it continues (at least in the state of MA, which I am by no means mistaking for MS). It certainly is possible to legislate this behavior – many states are moving toward making bullying intervention programs requirements for students and teachers. Perhaps now they’ll include parents as well.

  25. I admit that I am struggling with Evenshine’s thoughts about “tolerating” some “deeply-held beliefs” to “allow freedom of religion/ speech” in reference to certain things. For me, this brings up something like the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Group who pickets soldiers’ funerals and schools, spouting awful, hateful things, all the while standing behind THEIR “deeply held beliefs” and “freedom of religion/ speech.” I, for one, just can NOT tolerate this.

    I am not anti-religion (in fact, my husband just finished a divinity degree), but I really, really will not tolerate cruelty towards Constance (school and parent-sanctioned cruelty, no less), just like I would not tolerate cruelty towards my own children. I feel that it is important that we “bluster” about such things on our blogs, on our Facebook posts, in newspapers, etc. AND in person, so that kids (and adults) like Constance know that we stand with them and behind them, that they feel our support and love. I pray that others would stand behind my children, loudly & publicly, if they face similiar discrimation & cruelty (no matter if the persecutors feel justified in their actions in the name of religion or freedom of speech).

  26. Great post, Em. We have to “bluster” about horrifying actions like this. If we don’t, yes, we’re tolerating it. We’re tolerating hate.

    Deeply held beliefs and religion don’t permit those parents to treat others as less than human. Why that wouldn’t be very … wait for it …. Christian.

    Not every right is sacrosanct. There are reasonable limitations placed on every right in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. There are limitations because frequently the rights of one person are contrary to, or intrude upon, the rights of another. And so we, as a society, decide what is acceptable and what is hateful.

    This? This alternate prom for the sole purpose of excluding some children they don’t like? That falls squarely into the hateful category. It’s a no brainer.

  27. Well said, LM.

    Evenshine, each person will define ‘hateful action’ for themselves. There will never be uniformity of thought. And while I deeply respect each individual’s right to their religious beliefs, I do not respect nor will I acknowledge that those beliefs give them the right to react in ‘hateful’ ways. To do so is antithetical of the religious foundation they profess to be standing on.

    Webster Online defines hate as ‘intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury’. I think we can all agree that the parents’ actions in this instance fall into the hateful category. As LM says, “it’s a no brainer”.

  28. oh god. just awful.

  29. I have said from the beginning that I considered the parents’ actions in this case abhorrent and sickening. I hope that has been abundantly clear.

    However, I think it’s interesting that so many people here become extremely “intolerant” when faced with varying views. How are your statements ANY different, fundamentally, than people who hold strong views against gay marriage or abortion? (And please, I am NOT trying to enter into a debate about those issues). The point is, you can rally all you want against people who you believe to be “intolerant” and “closed-minded”, but the minute you start to say “I won’t tolerate this” or “I don’t have to tolerate that”, you yourself become the intolerant one. See what I mean? The definitions are different for each person: in this case, we do agree that the adults involved acted hatefully, and thus we are horrified. What happens when we don’t agree that something is hateful, or wrong? Therein lies my question.

  30. No, I really don’t see what you mean.

    Your question in your original reply to this post was: “what, other than blustering about it on blogs, would you have people do?” I assumed you meant as it pertained to this specific issue.

    Pity every single individual can’t always agree on the line that separates hateful actions from acceptable behavior. I guess that’s part of why we have laws.

  31. Evenshine, I think that you have confused tolerance of beliefs with tolerance of actions. I am not intolerant of the parents’ right to abhore homosexuality. I am intolerant of their actions based on those beliefs.

    I have yet to understand the basis for which these parents decided to act cruelly to the other children. Is there a religious basis for their stance on individuals with learning disabilities?

    • ExPat- no basis that I am aware of. The basis, if I read correctly, was a misguided (and I would say *wrong*) attempt to show their disapproval of the young lady in question’s actions in trying to bring a same-sex partner to prom.

      However, this line between actions and words is hard to toe. Some people would say that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples is hateful. Is this an action? Or a lack of action? It matters because it is directly related to dearly-held beliefs. My point is that it is not always as clear cut as it was in this situation.

      Thanks for your civil response.

  32. I agree… Those teenagers are so close to adulthood, and here their parents are, teaching them this horrible, twisted lesson where it is okay to actually plot against those who are different in some way. This is how mean people are created!

  33. Evenshine– In my opinion, the line is drawn when a person or group of people try to impose their views on others and restrict their rights. People will always have differing views and that can be a healthy thing. But it’s no longer solely an opinion when a person’s rights, abilities, or opportunities are affected unfairly because of ones opinions (unless its through political or legal means).

    When you say, “I think it’s interesting that so many people here become extremely “intolerant” when faced with varying views. How are your statements ANY different, fundamentally, than people who hold strong views against gay marriage or abortion?” They’re not different than the views of people who hold strong opinions in opposition to mine. The opinions, however, are not really what’s being responded to in this post. I think you overlook a key difference. The “intolerant” opinions expressed on this board stay as just that–opinions– where the group from Itawamba took action– hurtful, malicious, action. That’s a big difference.

    This forum is an appropriate place to debate varying opinions. Adults inappropriately manipulating the actions and experiences of children is not. Had the (original) prom gone on and students who disagreed with the attendance of a homosexual couple stood outside and protested, voicing their opinions, people might still disagree with their politics, but it would be a more reasonable response. The major flaw is in the action of planning a secret prom and deceiving children in a purposely hurtful way. There is an added layer that the deplorable actions directed toward children come from adults, which seems to me like an abuse of power.

    I hope I have been coherent and detailed enough in my explanation and I hope it’s helpful to you and gives you a possible perspective to answer your question.

  34. I am totally ok with being intolerant on this topic, to me it was abusive behavior towards a CHILD, it was not physically abusive (though I will argue that this community and school put this child and her girlfriend at risk for physical abuse by placing the “blame” of canceling the original prom on their shoulders), but it certainly was EMOTIONALLY abusive and I believe it also falls under the ethical abuse category. While I would hope like HELL that people take an intolerant stance against physical abuse, I think its important that we not only recognize that emotional abuse is just as dangerous and damaging but that we take an stand against it as well.

    To me the line is drawn where one’s beliefs have contributed to the ABUSE of another… I recently took a class and they talked about the following 5 types of abuse, often we only think about physical and sexual, but there is also ethical abuse, emotional abuse and abuse by means of neglect… when you use your beliefs to abuse another (ESPECIALLY A CHILD) you cross the line. I continue to be intolerant of physical and sexual abuse of children, so why would I exclude other abuses against them?

  35. It’s really disgusting. Not only that, but think about the lesson these people are sending to their kids. Going to extreme lengths for your bigotry is one thing but these people are raising a whole host of kids and this is what they teach them? What are those kids going to grow up like?

  36. yes. it’s horrifying

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