"I didn't realize it was getting to the point anyone should worry about it," said Jay Boyd, the school board president, who is white. "I just thought we need to do what's best for students -- if they're happy, let them go to Salem. Who's it hurting?"
Boyd, the school board president, reluctantly acknowledged that racism probably played a role in the transfer requests. "I thought that was a thing of the past," he said. "You live and you learn."
The ruling has led some white parents in Walthall County to reconsider the systemic effects of individual choice. Roger Ginn, a white parent whose children graduated from both Tylertown and Salem, said he'd always considered the transfer issue to be a simple matter of student happiness, not race.
"But if all that adds up to segregated schools?" he asked, and then paused for a while. "That wouldn't be right, no."
It's easy to lapse into defensiveness when faced with an order like this -- a tendency, I can't help but think, that is accentuated when the rest of the country is holding you up as the racist hillbillies who got stuck in the last century. To their credit, it looks like the residents of this county aren't taking that route. And that's worth commending.