For 37 years, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. have rung like an urgent clarion call: "I have a dream ... that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Well, someone forgot to break the news to the folks at Nettleton Middle School in Mississippi that segregation is over. It took until today for the school board to overturn a policy allocating student leadership positions on the basis of race.
At this year's class-officer elections, for example, the school had predetermined that class presidents and treasurers of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades could only be "white." Black students in the sixth grade were limited to running for the positions of vice president and reporter. In the seventh and eighth grades they were excluded from three out of four positions. The guidelines, mind-boggling in their matter-of-factness, also prescribed that students must have good attendance records, disciplinary status, and moral character. Oh, and at least a B average.
A small town with a population of 2,000, Nettleton is itself said to be highly segregated. The school superintendent has stated in defense that the practice of rotating leadership positions based on skin color has been in effect for 30 years, launched with good intentions to ensure more minority representation.
Still, something about the school's approach doesn't sit right in 21st-century America. Credit goes to Brandy Springer, the concerned parent who raised the alarm, and blogger Suzy Richardson, who kicked the story along—on behalf of children of all races. If a onetime skinny black kid can fulfill the goal of being elected president of the United States, surely another black child should not be forbidden from aspiring to monitor the line at lunch.