Just Another Guy with Opinions

Racism and the Pool

Posted by shadmia on July 10, 2009

Valley Swim Club Protesters

The president of Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., John Duesler Jr. issued the following statement after kicking out 65 kids (mostly Black and Hispanic) from the private club and returned the $1950 they had paid for swimming privileges.

“There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion and atmosphere of the club,” said Valley Club president John Duesler Jr.

Creative Steps Day Camp paid The Valley Swim Club $1950 for one day of swimming a week, but after the first day, the money was quickly refunded and the campers were told not to return. Several campers said they heard pool members making racial remarks during their time inside the club.

“I heard one lady saying ‘Why’s there so many black kids here’ cause she said she was afraid that we might do something to her child,” recalled camper Dymire Baylor. “How could they say that?”

The Valley Swim Club was closed and its gates were locked as a firestorm of controversy surrounded its decision to expel the kids from Creative Steps Day Camp. Some Club members, who were at the pool on the day of the incident, came forward to defend the organization.

“This has nothing to do with race,” member Lori Slowinski said. “I paid my money for a private swim club…if they’re gonna have it out to camps, then I want my money back.”

“I was the first person to talk to the president, because the pool was overcrowded,” said Flynn. “As members we have nothing to hide. There’s good people here.”

In an effort to clarify its position the Valley Club issued the following statement:

The Valley Club is deeply troubled by the recent allegations of racism, which are completely untrue.

We had originally agreed to invite the camps to use our facility, knowing full well that the children from the camps were from multi-ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, we quickly learned that we underestimated the capacity of our facilities and realized that we could not accommodate the number of children from these camps. All funds were returned to the camps and we will re-evaluate the issue at a later date to determine whether it can be feasible in the future.

Our Valley Club deplores discrimination in any form, as is evidenced by our multi-ethnic and diverse membership. Whatever comments may or may not have been made by an individual member is an opinion not shared by The Valley Club Board.

This will not be tolerated,” said Alethea Wright, executive director of Creative Steps, Inc., which has run the day camp since 1997. During the day at the club, Wright said she was approached by a 7-year-old boy who asked her, “Am I too black to go into the pool?

“The children were very, very upset,” she said. “They still don’t understand.”

Wright said that Creative Steps had prior approval from the Valley Club board to buy memberships for 65 campers to swim at the club’s pool once a week. When they arrived June 29 for their first session there were problems from the beginning.

As her campers — boys and girls from kindergarten to 7th grade — entered the pool area to swim, parents began pulling their children out of the water and standing poolside with their arms crossed. Wright didn’t hear any racist comments made directly to them, but was told by three campers later that one white woman asked “what are these black kids doing here?

Out of the more than two dozen white families swimming at the pool that day, Wright said, just three parents allowed their children to swim with her campers.

The controversy drew national and even international attention. It also caught the attention of U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who represents the state of Pennsylvania.

Specter called the allegations against the swim club “extremely disturbing.” He wrote a letter to Valley Club president John Duesler Jr., demanding to know the facts and offered his opinion on what should be done about the situation.

“The allegations against the swim club as they are reported are extremely disturbing,” Specter said in a statement. “I am reaching out to the parties involved to ascertain the facts. Racial discrimination has no place in America today.

“As a first step, without getting into all of the legal issues, it is my suggestion that you promptly reinstate the contract and welcome Ms. Alethea Wright’s group back to the pool. Whether they accept is up to them,” Specter wrote. “It may be that further action will be taken but my suggestion, as an immediate first step, would diffuse the situation and obviously be helpful.”

In the meantime, due to all the publicity, Girard College, a private Philadelphia boarding school for children who live in low-income and single parent homes, stepped in and offered their pool to Creative Steps.

“We had to help,” said Girard College director of Admissions Tamara Leclair. “Every child deserves an incredible summer camp experience.”

The school already serves 500 campers of its own, but felt they could squeeze in 65 more — especially since the pool is vacant on the day the Creative Steps had originally planned to swim at Valley Swim Club.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission said today it will launch an investigation of the country club’s actions at the request of the NAACP.

Wright said she will meet with parents to decide what further action the camp would take against the Valley Club.

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2 Responses to “Racism and the Pool”

  1. coffined said

    Well, maybe it wasn’t racism. After all, we know none of the white parents are racists. They were just afraid that some of the black and brown stuff might rub off on their kids and then their kids would banned from the pool.

  2. Michael Hill said

    OK so here’s the deal. It’s 2009 and one thing that all are gonna have to realize is that since the gentrification of many communities nationwide we still have perceptions that haven’t changed to the degree that we had hoped. Children are children, they, left alone, can figure things out on their own, usually demonstrated when you have a room of mixed race preschoolers together. And Yes, the Valley Swim Club needs to hire a PR firm to handle all public statements since the director showed poor judgment in issuing his statement. (Note for future reference, sir)
    No matter what laws are passed over the decades you cannot legislate the ideas and perceptions of individuals who moved out of the inner city years ago and no longer desire to live near communities of those who are “different”. Since the two groups rarely associate with one another, there is a cultural divide that makes most liberals think that they are not prejudiced but we all have the specter still lingering and it will continue to do so until we start living in the same zip codes and over time discover that we are essentially the same as human beings, despite disparities in education, culture, income, class and status. It’s the same reason why the Valley Swim Club has it’s exclusive membership. Emphasis on the word “exclusive”–adjective
    1.) not admitting of something else; incompatible 2.)omitting from consideration or account 3.)limited to the object or objects designated 3.) shutting out all others from a part or share 4.)fashionable; stylish 5.)charging comparatively high prices 6.) noting that in which no others have a share 7.)single or sole 8.) disposed to resist the admission of outsiders to association, intimacy, etc. 9.) admitting only members of a socially restricted or very carefully selected group 10.) excluding or tending to exclude, as from use or possession 11.)
    an exclusive right or privilege

    Synonyms: select, narrow, clannish, snobbish, restrictive, cliquish, illiberal.

    Antonyms: inclusive

    Next time you want to host a swim party for 65. Have the good judgement to hire more lifeguards if safety is truly a concern. Beaches across the nation have done this for awhile.
    Welcome, my children to your first life lesson on the real world. Succeed anyway! That’s the best solution. Get an education exposure to other cultures and you too can make your place in the world. Not just here in Amerikkka. Never forget who you are and your history. The minute someone says “I’m not racist” they’re only lying to themselves. They need to quit! It’s like when someone says “I’m gonna tell you the truth…” brace yourselves – a lie is about to be told you. “I have lot’s of black friends…” – only those of my choosing, that is. Get it? Good!

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