It Really Isn’t About That

Prom DressA high school senior was denied access to her prom because she was wearing a dress with the “Stars and Bars” of the Confederacy. (The Tennessean) This controversy has awakened cries of Freedom of Speech, racism and heritage respect. For me, it is pure lunacy in action.

While East Tennessee was a reluctant part of the Confederacy (it actually tried to secede from the rebel states) – it is actually still very much a part of the debate over the appropriateness of displaying that flag. There are some who want to walk away from that history all together. As modern day Germans do not talk about Hitler, the issue of slavery and rebellion is dark and hurtful spot for many – a spot that cannot be erased but at least not brought to mind. For others, the flag represents the heritage of a proud south. Yet others see it as the ultimate testament to free speech and state’s rights.

This incident – though – is really about none of those.

It seems that Texanna Edwards was told by the Prom Advisor some two months before the dance that the dress would be problematic. She had it designed and wore it anyway. She had to have known about some of the race problems – both locally and nationally. She forged on ahead. She was told to talk to administration and see what could be done. She didn’t. Ms. Edwards was given a chance – when denied entrance to the prom – to go home and change and come back. She opted out.

What angers me is that we constantly hear about “Student Rights.” Students – children – do not have any rights because they lack the ability to fight and protect those rights. Adults have the legal and moral responsibility to protect children, to encourage them to grow and think, to provide loving and nurturing homes. But adults do so because that is the RIGHT thing to do – not because we are trying to protect their rights. Possession and exercise of rights also indicates that the converse is also in play – the responsibility for consequences for exercising those rights. For example – I have the freedom to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. I would also be prosecuted – and rightly so – as a result of my irresponsible use of that right.

Ms. Edwards, it seems, wants to have her Constitutional cake and eat it too. On one hand, she is 18 – and therefore has reached the age of majority and can claim certain rights as an adult. If that is the case, then she needs to understand that the result of her actions – of not consulting with school officials and being proactive and mature in her plans – is that she is out one prom and about $500. On the other hand, proms are for children – high schoolers. As children – they are expected to obey the directions of adults. She did not – so as a child her punishment is not to go to the dance – and be out $500. Ms. Edwards now has to decide – is she a child or an adult?

Either way – she needs to get a new dress.

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