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...
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.