Let me say: I am not here to call you names, “take shots” at you as many people are.
I am an educator who is deeply passionate about the well-being and education of young people like yourself. I say what I do out of a genuine sense of concern for you and your future.
I also sympathize with you to a degree. I know that you wanted to just have a good time and cut loose without the world and its uncomfortable realities.
But, unfortunately, you cannot isolate yourself from the world anymore, and that world you are stepping into is a lot different than high school.
There are all kinds of people out there that you are going to have to accept, work with, live near, and deal with if you are going to be a productive member of society. In today’s world, you are not going to be able to segregate yourself from everyone who doesn’t look, walk, talk, or act like you do.
You’re also going to have to accept, work with, live near, and deal with people you don’t necessarily like.
It’s a necessity of life in our pluralistic 21st century society.
Some of you insist that this Fake Prom incident “had nothing to do with the school or with Constance’s sexual preferences,” and everything to do with “proving we weren’t going to let her and the ACLU steamroll us into doing what Constance wanted.”
But I beg to differ.
We all know that had Constance been straight, this never would have been an issue.
Just as had James Meredith been white, his admission to Ole Miss would not have been an issue in 1962.
Just as had 6 million victims of the Holocaust not been Jewish, the world would have been spared that nightmare as well.
I know you didn’t ask to be put in the position you were in. You did not want your town to be at the epicenter of a national debate. You didn’t want your prom to become a Federal case.
But it was, and sometimes in life, we have to play the hand we’re dealt.
You guys had an opportunity. Call it your first “pop quiz” in the school of real life.
You had an opportunity to rally around your classmate, like the Valdosta State University class of 1996 did when a wheelchair ramp was not going to be provided for one of their classmates at graduation.
You had an opportunity to cast yourself and your home state in a positive light like the 1963 Mississippi State Men’s Basketball team did when they chose to defy a racist tradition (and a state court order) to play in the integrated NCAA Tournament.
You could have attended the prom with Constance, disproving the negative press and generalizations being made not only about you and your town, but all of Mississippi and the South as well. But you chose not to.
Now, whatever prestige your school has earned, whatever honors your class has had bestowed upon it, whatever good you did during your years at IAHS will all be overshadowed in the rest of the world’s eyes by this decision.
It is unfair that it should be this way. All of you and everyone in your town are not what this incident and the media, portrays you to be.
But unfortunately, it is now a burden that you will carry everywhere you go:
You declare in your statement of purpose, “We flexed the muscle of the majority and we’ll suffer the consequences,” but do you have any idea what those consequences entail? I don’t think you do.
You guys made what is known as a Faustian Bargain. You traded short term pleasure for long term suffering.
IAHS is one of the state’s best schools, but the world will not see that.
“Oh yeah,” it will be said, “you’re from that school that hates gay people.”
Fulton is a lovely town that I have had the pleasure of visiting several times, but the world won’t see that.
“Oh yeah,” it will be said, “you’re from that town where they hate gay people.”
I say again, this is totally unfair to many of you, but unfortunately, it is something that you have brought on yourself.
You certainly had help. People who should have known better should have warned you. But you cannot control what they do or didn’t do. You can only control your own actions, and make your own choices. In light of what you have traded away for one night of not having to “deal with it,” I would say that you chose poorly.
And it not only effects you, but it could effect everyone else who will graduate from your school for years to come.
I only wish you’d been told this sooner.