Friday, July 10, 2009

Maybe They Thought the Black Would Run Off Into the Pool Water or Something...

When President Obama was elected into office, more than a few folks were shouting practically from the roof-tops that racism in America was dead. Um, yeah—like I wrote in my post, "They'll Wear The Armor," I never drank that Kool-Aid, and with very good reason. Exhibit A (from Philadelphia's NBC affiliate):

More than 60 campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club and left to wonder if their race was the reason.

Kids at Creative Steps Day Camp were thrilled to go swimming once a week at the Valley Swim Club. But after only one trip to the private club, they were...

"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor.

The Creative Steps Day Camp paid more than $1900 to The Valley Swim Club. The Valley Swim Club is a private club that advertises open membership. But the campers' first visit to the pool suggested otherwise.

"When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool," Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. "The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

The next day the club told the camp director that the camp's membership was being suspended and their money would be refunded.

"I said, 'The parents don't want the refund. They want a place for their children to swim,'" camp director Aetha Wright said.

Campers remain unsure why they're no longer welcome.

"They just kicked us out. And we were about to go. Had our swim things and everything," said camper Simer Burwell.

The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded.

"There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club," John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

While the parents await an apology, the camp is scrambling to find a new place for the kids to beat the summer heat.

In the event that you just can't believe your eyes, here are several more news stories about the incident, including video from NBC Philadelphia...

View more news videos at:

And here, an additional story as posted on The Philadelphia Inquirer (warning: the commentary in the "comments" section from readers—both white and black—will literally make you scratch your head/wanna cuss someone out/hang your head in shame/cry).

Now what in the hell kind of tomfoolery is this madness? Change the complexion? Are we living in 2009 or 1959? And what special brand of human being tells a bunch of children, in front of their own children, that they're scared... of children? I swear, I'm HOPPING mad that in this day and age, there are actually mothers and fathers out here who would still treat somebody else's child like some kind of wild animal rather than with the humanity, dignity, and respect that their fellow human beings—and the most vulnerable among us—deserve.

Responding to charges of racism, officials at the Valley Swim Club claim that they revoked the camp's membership and refunded their dues because they "underestimated the capacity of our facilities and realized that we could not accommodate the number of children from these camps." Mind you, they knew the numbers of kids who would be attending, and the camp's board voted unanimously to allow the camps to pay to swim. Until, that is, some of the members of the almost all-white club saw all those black babies getting into the water.

I would find it quite hard to try to make sense of this kind of behavior to my kids, who have lived all of their young lives in diverse communities with friends of every color—friends whose race/cultural and economic backgrounds/familial history are acknowledged and celebrated (never, ever ignored!). The idea that a grown butt mom would take her child out of a pool because black and Hispanic kids got in the water would confuse and confound my babies—because it's foul. And extremely dumb. And downright maddening. The Chiles girls would want explanations. And it would tear my heart out to have to try to make sense of something so damn nonsensical.

I can only imagine how the parents of Creative Steps Day Camp children feel. To their credit, the parents of Creative Steps Day Camp are agitating—making it plain that you can't treat their children, or anybody else's children for that matter, like this and get away with it. U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is launching an investigation into the discrimination claim, several organizations are mulling a discrimination lawsuit against the swim club, and the parents of the campers are speaking out here, there, and everywhere about the incident, demanding an apology—and justice.

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  1. I read about this on another forum where there was a lot of (ridiculous) discussion about laws governing private sector versus publicly funded establishments and it occurred to me that we've come so far yet gone nowhere.

    Anyone who needs a writ in 2009,to protect the rights of children at play is a cretin. The whole situation is maddening. In the worst case scenario-even if the staff has a clipboard rationing or otherwise restricting the number of beautiful brown babies, this would not have been accessible to the children who EXITED the pool upon their entry. Even if this case is won in a court room, the battles brewing in family rooms across the US- where young people are being taught to hate, have been shamefully lost.

  2. My mother would not let me call names, so she would be very disappointed to say that the people who took their kids out are white trash with no home training.
    I have found with our public charter school in South Carolina that there are a lot of "liberal" and not so liberal white folk who don't mind diversity as long as most of the faces are white. It doesn't matter that the black faces are children of teachers, lawyers, businessowners, if the percentage of white people falls below about 50% (higher for some), they start worrying that their children will ... I don't know. I'm not sure what they are afraid of and most are too well mannered to say anything overt. I don't think some of them know.
    It is better than when I was a kid, and it would be disrespectful to the people who have worked so hard to get things THIS far. But there is a long way to go. And it is often the children who suffer.

  3. I don't understand what the hell is wrong with people. Anyone who would demoralize a child in this manner is an emotional terrorist!

    Had the situation been reversed, I cannot imagine african american folks pulling their kids out of a pool because a bunch of white kids came to swim.

    This infuriates me!

  4. I heard the story this morning and I could not believe it. Well, to be honest I could - post-racial America is a fallacy and I see it everyday. Some say that I look too hard, but I don't think that I do, I just pay attention. Racism is alive and well, it just so happens that this instance made the news.

    It's sad that this situation involves kids and I hope that they don't become jaded by the experience.

  5. This is the most shocking and depressing thing I've read all morning. We're worried about North Korea and Pakistan and Iran and here we have THIS right on our home front. It's really horrifying. It IS surprising because it's like these people aren't even trying to hide their racism. They don't have the decency to know they should be embarrassed. Crazy, crazy.

  6. wow. This is so horrible the only thing I can think of is from a gut reaction of wanting to slap one of these hoity toity club members.


  7. That is senseless. I just knew that this had to be in the 1950's but today??? Give me a break! Racism is very much alive.

  8. I saw this on the news this morning and I was so hurt. I wasn't shocked but I was hurt that they would do this to children, in this day and age with a black president.

  9. When I first heard this story I was sure it was some sort of sick joke. This is absolutely repulsive! I am speechless.

  10. This is absolutely astonishing, and depressing, and disheartening.

  11. Wow...2009----scratching my head. This makes me incredibly sad.

  12. In this day and age. I tell you, this type of stuff truly infuriates me!

  13. Racism is wrong - period.

    I will tell you this though, as a white, it sucks just as much when the racism is reversed!! I am a minority where I live, where I'm looked down upon, pushed aside (quite literally) and generally treated like crap. I cannot WAIT to leave Georgia!

    So it really does go both ways!!


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