A new article on segregated high school proms in the Deep South — which are still going on today — reveals a lot about the myths and realities of racism in America.

The article, from today’s New York Times Magazine, concentrates on Montgomery County High School, a small school in a southern Georgia community that’s about two-thirds white. The school itself didn’t integrate until 1971, and its proms have been segregated ever since.

Or rather, its white prom has been segregated. The students refer to the proms as “the black-folks prom” and “the white-folks prom,” but the black-folks prom is open to anyone, and it’s not uncommon for a few white students to show up. As with historical segregation, the point of the whites-only prom is less to keep the races separate than maintain whites-only space.

Another important fact about the proms is that it’s mostly white parents, not white students, who are behind the segregation. As one student told the Times, white parents tell their kids, “if you’re going with the black people, I’m not going to pay for it.”

At the same time, though, the article doesn’t let the white students off the hook. As one black student notes, “half of those girls, when they get home, they’re gonna text a black boy.” That’s white privilege right there — participating in a exclusionary racist institution one moment, re-engaging with your black friends the next, and in many cases not even noticing the transition from one to the other.