The Last Racial Taboo

May 24, 1994|By GREGORY P. KANE

Hulond Humphries has been depicted as a horrible man, a veritable bete noire in the tradition of a Bull Connor or a Jim Clark, two of the notorious lawmen of the segregationist South who did more than their fair share to make life miserable for civil-rights demonstrators.

Mr. Humphries is the principal of Randolph County High School in Wedowee, Alabama. Earlier this year he had the effrontery to make the politically incorrect decision to ban interracial couples from the high school prom. Judging from the reaction, you'd have thought he'd advocated drowning the baby Jesus.

The local NAACP and SCLC chapters wanted him removed. One member of the local school board resigned in protest when Mr. Humphries wasn't fired. The NAACP and SCLC then held a protest prom back in April which interracial couples could attend unhindered by the likes of Mr. Humphries. In so doing, the NAACP and SCLC may have given the impression that blacks are uniformly in favor of interracial dating and marriage. Let me assure readers that we are not.

I must confess to not being enlightened or politically correct or a flaming liberal on this issue. My son had a white girlfriend when he was about 14. I didn't interfere, of course, since I made a promise to myself that I would never butt into my children's love lives. But I was ready to break that promise when the white girl came into the picture.

In between thoughts of ''Why am I letting this boy live?'' I entertained notions of pulling my hair out. Or maybe I thought of pulling my son's hair out. I do distinctly remember that I wanted to do something and that pulling out hair was involved.

''Damn it!'' I fumed to myself. ''The boy's going to have enough problems being black and male. The white girl won't help him with those problems. She'll just be another problem.''

The relationship fizzled, much to my relief, making it unnecessary for me to give the boy my ''Dump the white girl'' speech.

So there it is -- out in the open. My totally reactionary and antiquated opinion on interracial relationships. At least I'm honest about mine, as Hulond Humphries was about his. He nearly lost his job for daring to utter his feelings on the subject. What most folks neglected during the brouhaha is the reason Mr. Humphries wanted a ban.

According to a wire story, Wedowee school board member Gerald Romine cut through the potatoes and went to the meat on this issue: ''Romine said Humphries' ban was prompted by racial tension that has resulted from several white girls dating black boys.''

America's one last, nettlesome racial taboo rears its head again. Oh, we all think that we've advanced and are quite liberal and open-minded on this subject. We go to see Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner force their tongues down each other's throats in ''The Bodyguard'' to help convince us of the lie. But no one asks why director Alan J. Pakula went to great lengths to make the relationship between Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts in ''The Pelican Brief'' non-threateningly platonic.

Read what a current issue of TV Guide had to say about the matter of interracial relationships as they are portrayed on soap operas: '' 'Another World' boldly celebrated its 30th birthday this month with the launch of a story addressing one of the last remaining bugaboos in Soapland: romance between a Caucasian woman and an African-American man. Daytime viewers have grown somewhat comfortable with black/white pairings over the last few years. But in every case in recent memory, it's the female who is African-American -- a scenario suggesting that the reverse, a black man paired with a white woman, may still be too much of a powder keg for mainstream America.''

Still not convinced? In March of 1993, during the federal trial of the four Los Angeles police officers accused of violating Rodney King's civil rights, U.S. District Judge John G. Davies ruled that a prosecutor couldn't ask Sgt. Stacey Koon about his ''Mandingo sexual encounter'' reference in his book ''Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair.'' The phrase was how Sergeant Koon described Rodney King's gesture of shaking his fanny at a California Highway Patrol officer who just happened to be -- and I'm sure you've guessed it -- a white woman.

Such questioning would be prejudicial to the defendants, Judge Davies ruled. He might have added that he didn't want a portion of the white American male psyche exposed to the world during what was already at that point a racially explosive trial.

Sergeant Koon claimed the phrase was taken out of context and that the entire King incident was not racial. Nonsense. If it wasn't racial, it wasn't necessary to use the phrase in any context. Rodney King may have taken that beating back in 1991 for having the indiscretion to shake his hiney at a white woman.

The NAACP and SCLC wanted Hulond Humphries' head on a platter for banning interracial couples at the Randolph County High School prom, but methinks the man was on to something.

Gregory P. Kane is a reporter for The Sun.

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