No one wants to be considered a racist; even if they are one.
Contrary to the overt racism of yesteryear, in which members of the Ku Klux Klan and “concerned citizens” wore their bigotry like a badge of honor, today’s more politically correct and diversity conscious atmosphere has forced outright discrimination into the closet of social unacceptability…or so I thought.
The Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, has managed to provide a vivid reminder of an America where negative stereotypes of black people ran rampant, and served as the fundamental justification for the practice of segregation.
On June 29, 2009, 60 campers from the Creative Steps Day Care Center had planned to enjoy a day of swimming at the private swim club. A contract had been signed, and fees had been paid by the Philadelphia camp for the mostly African-American and Hispanic youth to use the pool facilities at the suburban club.
As the campers and day care staff arrived for their first day of swimming, the nefarious nostalgia of race-based discrimination began to ripple through the pool area and quickly evolved into a wave of bigotry that now has Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) initiating an investigation into a incident that reeks of unabashed racism.
Apparently, the influx of minority children into the private swim club caused some of the members to exercise “White
Flight” from the pool and, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, at least one camper heard a woman from the club express fear that the visiting children “might do something to her child.”
A few days later, the camp’s $1,950 check was returned, and their contract to swim at the club was revoked.
Valley Swim Club President John Duesler, in his attempt to explain the facility’s change of heart, stated, “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.’’
Changing the complexion? This was either a Freudian slip of the highest order, or the brutal honesty of an inherent racist unwilling to forfeit his prejudices for the sake of political correctness.
Like many businessmen out there, Mr. Duesler was probably motivated by something more basic and less complex than racism: Money.
By his own admission, Mr. Duesler had exercised due diligence in extending the “come-swim-at-my-pool” contracts to not only this camp, but also to two other organizations in order to supplement the swim club’s membership income.
What Mr. Duesler did not expect was how his members would respond to a bus load of ethnic kids showing up to share the same water as their children. With “Jamal’’ and “Jose’’ heading for the diving board, Duesler saw his regular members heading for the exit. Since those regular members represented his bread and butter, his allegiance was to them even if their concerns were based on paranoia and prejudice.
Though Duesler went on to say that the ratio of lifeguards to campers presented a safety hazard, common sense makes this explanation less than plausible. Why not let the campers swim in shifts, and in the future, hire more lifeguards to live up to your contractual obligation?
The fact is, Duesler felt his obligation was to preserve the relationship with those families who pay their membership fees even at the cost of being labeled racist, and subjecting those African-American and Latino young people to a hurtful lesson in discrimination.
What bothers me the most is that many of those parents who made it clear that sharing a pool with minorities is not their idea of family fun are the same people who are the quickest to denounce their own racist inclinations.
They have black friends, black co-workers and, who knows, may have even voted for a black president.
When push came to shove, however, they sent a contrary message loud and clear: “Maybe in the White House, but not in my pool.”