Tuesday, July 14, 2009

White Club Votes for Black Children to Return to Pool, But ...

A white swim club voted on Monday, July 13, to ask the black and Hispanic children that members kicked out to come back to the pool. Last week the Internet roiled with outrage at the Valley Swim Club of Huntington Valley, Pa., after its members ousted the young campers. Some people were flabbergasted that its president spoke freely saying the children's presence would "change the complexion of the club."

Many people of all ethnic groups hearing the story screamed it was an example of blatant racism. Others thought it was a misunderstanding. Some felt the children must have misbehaved, even though club members did not say that.

Oh, the club members have felt just awful about this, and now warmly open their arms saying it's been a big misunderstanding, words have been taken out of context, the event--blown out of proportion.

Too little too late, says Alethea Wright, director of the daycare and summer camp program.

She told CNN, "These children are scarred. How can I take those children back there?"

The center has lawyers and it's off to the courts they go, lawsuit filed. In addition, Sen. Arlen Specter has called for an investigation into the incident.

Shortly after the initial story of the children's rejection ran at NBC Philadelphia, another facility contacted the camp and offered the children time at its pool. Also, a local business treated them to ice cream, the international childhood comfort food.

Before the re-invitation, some black mothers on the Web had already said that it wouldn't matter to them if the club apologized and opened its doors to the black children. They said they wouldn't let a black child, especially one of their own, near Valley Swim club members.

MsLadyDeborah of My Brown Eyed View said in comments on the BlogHer post: ... Please continue reading this full post at BlogHer.com


blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there Nordette!

Thanks for covering this story! I wrote about it but I think that the director of the day camp should be ashamed of herself for not screening the club atmosphere PRIOR to having the children arrive there. Now...she wants to say that the children are "scarred"?? Please... black children need to be taught about racism PRIOR to encountering it...

I am sorry that this incident was painful for these children, so please don't get me wrong here...

Still...black parents need to mentally prepare their children for the harsh realities of AmeriKKKa...

My parents did.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

PPR_Scribe said...

Wow. Just wow. Now the children are welcome to come swim? What makes them think that now anyone from the day camp wants to be associated with them?

PPR_Scribe said...

BWBTH: Honestly, I do not know what kind of groundwork the director did prior to making these arrangements. I also think that getting lessons about racism is a lot different from experiencing it first hand. With my own kids I teach and tell and demonstrate and read and go to museums and everything else. But only experiencing racism really prepares you to know about and deal with it.

In that light, I do wonder what is being said at the camp and in the homes following this incident. I hope real lessons are being taught--that this is being exploited for its teaching moment for the kids. I fear, however, that the kids may become exploited by folks wanting something for themselves, and that the only lessons some of the kids may learn is how to gain notoriety by being a victim.

I hope my fears are unfounded.

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Hi, Lisa. Thank you for the visit. I don't know what Ms.Wright would have been looking for, how she would have vetted this club? If they treated her cordially, and she is black, for what else should she have been on the look out, swastikas in the bathroom, klansmen chilling in full sheet by the poolside, "no coloreds" signs on the fences?

I think you're nearly 20 years younger than I am. I dont' know where you grew up, but I grew up in New Orleans, La., during desegregation. I attended boarding school in Va. in the 70s, a ritzy school that wanted more black students where I discovered a different kind of racist behavior--subtle distaste.

I got married and raised children in white suburbs in five different states in the northeast, borderline south, deep south and midwest, and so I've done my share of checking out places. I doubt that there was anything that Wright could have seen that would let her know to expect this kind of reaction in 2009, especially at a club where people think they've overcome because they "voted for Obama." If she didn't encounter exactly the same members who were in the pool the day she showed up with the children, she wouldn't even get a sense of discomfort. She was only one black person.

However, it seems the club rep. who took her money would've known VSC had members who would fear a lot of black children in the pool just as the rep. knew the number of children coming and that they came from an urban summer camp. Inner city Philadelphia is not not known for its abundance of white people living in the hood. Also, the camp director being black was a clue that Creative Steps was not a white camp.

The only way I could fault Ms. Wright in this would be if I knew for a fact that she had heard that Huntington Valle, Pa., is known for racists. For instance, there are certain suburban clubs in New Orleans that black people here would know not to take a group of black children. However, those clubs also know not to take money from black clubs. If you contacted them, identified yourself and they knew you were coming from a certain part of New Orleans, they'd say, "Sorry. We're full that day."

I'll tell you what I think happened. I think that the person who took $1900 on behalf of the club was unaware that the club had members who would object b/c whoever accepted the $ is not a conscious racist himself or herself, more than likely a young naive white person of the HipHop generation. The club claims it's multicultural, which probably means they have one or two Asian and Indian families, and whoever took the $ believed everyone was welcome and gave Ms. Wright the same impression.

So, I suspect the day the 65 "ghetto" kids showed up, the members who in the pool with their children were the ones who moved to Huntington specifically to escape the black horde. I'm not talking subconscious racists, I'm talking white people who've accepted that they don't like black folk. It was probably one person at first who yanked her kids from the pool. She voiced her concern to other members. They all became hysterical, got on their cell phones to the other white suburban moms telling the worst possible stories reflecting their fears. "Oh, Jeannie. We're down here and a bunch of thugs have gotten into the pool. A gang. They've all got on these orange shirts."

The president of the club started getting irate calls. Like most men, he can't deal with a bunch of hysterical women. When he talked to Ms. Wright, he was so frustrated and on edge that without thinking, he told her exactly what he'd been hearing all day long, that these people will "change the complexion of the club."

I think this was the perfect racist storm in a swimming pool in 2009, the true fear of suburban whites staring them in the face, fear of the "other" as horde.

It probably never occurred to Wright white people would run from black and Hispanic children. I personally haven't heard a story of white folks clearing a swimming pool b/c black folk dropped by since the 70s.

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Thank you, PPR. I agree that experiencing racism is what really prepares you to deal with it, and I would add that experiencing racism is also what grooms you to expect it. We do have black people in this day and age who have not experienced racism directly and as a result don't expect it and aren't prepared for it.

We also have white people whose parents have raised them not to be racist and whose friends appear to be "not racist" or so they think because many white people have learned to hide their racist thoughts and behavior. Many of these people haven't actually thought about racism and its impact on society. They haven't internalized that racism is wrong as much as they have understood its expression is "impolite."

And so they belong to organizations that have never had any black or Hispanic members because no one in the club has ever solicited black or Hispanics to be members and yet the organization has written policies loaded with buzz word phrases such as "does not discriminate" or "is a multicultural organization welcoming people of all races, creeds, and sexual preference."

Your point on lessons being taught is well taken. And unfortunately, whenever money's involved, the door is open for exploitation. However, it could be argued that some people of color learned how to gain notoriety by "being a victim" during the last days of the Civil Rights movement. Some people feel that's what Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson exhibit this mentality.

We can never know how others perceive events at which we are all present. Some people see victims. Some people see warriors.

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Lisa, one more thing. I do agree with you that black parents need to prepare their children. I've posted before elsewhere on this very topic and heard from black mothers who say things like "We can't teach our children fear." This is true, but you can teach your children "how to walk in wisdom."

White people may want to live with rose-colored glasses telling themselves this is a post-racial society, but black people cannot do this.

For all we know, Wright herself was not taught what she should have been taught on this subject. She could be someone who's never experienced racism directly and doesn't know enough of her own local history to have known there could be trouble at VSC.

PPR_Scribe said...

Nordette, your further thoughts in these comments deserve a separate post of their own. BlogHer perhaps???

Houseonahill said...

Thanks for keeping this story alive. I watched in horror with my 13 yr old son. He just looked at me with the "See, this will never end" gaze. I smiled trying to offer that "One Day" look - but the comments that we must continue dialogue and preparation with them {esp the males} are vital to our survival. We can't always show our anger but that we will still, as Dr. Angelou says - "rise".