With the election of President Barack Obama, the country heralded the coming of an age in which an African-American could overcome significant historical prejudice to ascend to the presidency. But while the country celebrates this collective step forward, a Nettleton, Mississippi public school is taking a clear step back. According to Nettleton Middle School’s rules, children running for certain class officer posts must meet a specific race requirement: to be president, the child must be white.
A school memo, obtained by MixedandHappy and The Smoking Gun, was passed out to every 6th, 7th, and 8th grader to inform them of the breakdown. The upcoming elections are divided between offices delineated for black and white students. Of the 12 offices for which students can compete, “eight are earmarked for white students, while four are termed ‘black seats.” The presidency is reserved for white students across each grade, but a black student is permitted to be the 8th grade vice-president or reporter, the 7th grade treasurer, or the 6th grade reporter. So, along with a “B” average and “a good disciplinary status and moral character,” a child hoping to represent his or her class must be the right race:
According to Nettleton parent Brandy Springer, the school’s handbook also states that “other elections such as homecoming court operate in a similar fashion. Positions are not held by one girl and one boy but by four individuals; one black couple, the other white.”
The middle school “has about 400 students, and about 72 percent are white, according to a source familiar with the school board’s operation. The majority of the remaining students are black.” As MixedandHappy’s Suzy Richardson points out, it is unclear where this leaves any child of mixed race, Chinese, Asian, or Hispanic descent. It is also unclear why these policies don’t strike the school’s African-American principal as completely absurd. While she has not offered comment, the school’s superintendent Russell Taylor issued a statement yesterday saying “the origin of these processes, historical applications, compliance issues, as well as current implications and ramifications” are “under review.”
The “historical application” is undoubtedly rooted in the state’s history of segregation — a history Mississippians seem reticent to move beyond. Last year, actor Morgan Freeman finally succeeded in his 11-year campaign to get Charleston High School in Mississippi to integrate its prom. But while it was “quickly embraced by students,” the idea was “rejected by a group of white parents, who held a competing ‘private’ prom” in protest. And this year, it took a federal order to stop a southwestern Mississippi county from “segregating its schools” into “all-black classrooms” and “allowing white students to transfer to the county’s only majority-white school.”
A Nettleton school survey asks students if they feel “Nettleton Schools are preparing students for what they will face in the future.” If the class elections are setting the example, they are teaching that any future African-American presidents are just not allowed. (HT: Gawker)
Today on MSNBC, Brandy Springer told anchor Contessa Brewer that she has decided to remove her children and “would not put her children back in the school system where school officials have this attitude.” “Even if they changed the policies due to this, the attitude hasn’t changed,” she said. Watch it: