White Swim Club Invites Black and Hispanic Children Back But Parents Say Lawsuit

BlogHer Original Post

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:

There is no way that I would trust these people with the safety and well-being of my children. If their Blackness was an issue-why would any parent insist that their children be allowed to swim there? There is no way my sons would of put one toe in that pool without me being present everytime. It really made me angry that there were mothers who still wanted their children admitted. (comments)

SJP of Sojourner's Place in an eloquent post, "What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?" said in her comments section the following:

I mean didn't they know that this was a white-only club? Now I'm all for exposing them - but not at the expense of the children. They had no idea, no frame of reference, for what they were about to experience. (SJP)

If the comments section on the re-invitation story at Jack & Jill Politics is any indication, few are feeling the love after the club vote either.

The sentiments to protect the children are very similar to those expressed by women in my family who questioned my mother's decision to let me be an "early integrator" in the south. I attended at least two schools in my lifetime that were either attempting to integrate by choice or were being forced to integrate by law, and I remember one of my mother's friends saying to her, "Fannie, I just don't know. I wouldn't sacrifice my child to the cause."

My mother did it because it was an important step toward freedom during her time. By example, she taught me not to cower, and yet years later when it was time for me to go to college, she was disappointed that I chose at first to attend a predominantly white university instead of a Historically Black College or University. I suppose she felt enough with making points and taking stands. Just get your degree. This may be the line of thought that drives some black mothers to say in 2009, "Enough is enough. We've done our part. Our children's psyches are more important than solving a societal evil that we suspect will never go away."

If some white private club doesn't want black members or even black and Hispanic guests, how important is it to fight for the right to be there in the Age of Obama? Should the response of the black community be "Fine. It's their loss," or should it scream like hell, join hands with white people who think racist behavior should never be tolerated, sing "Kum By Yah" with lawyers as they file lawsuits and ram down doors?

There are African-Americans who want nothing from the white community other than equal rights. They say to the black community, "Divest and let go." When incidents like the one at the Valley Swim Club arise, they see it as proof that racism is a given. Stop thinking about it and move on. However, if such attitudes of accepting separation and the natural tendency toward ethnic isolation in both communities prevail, will that harm democracy or help it?

Will accepting that the black kids still gravitate toward the same side of the lunchroom in some schools and in some cities black and white high school students feel more comfortable with separate proms make us stronger or is turning a blind eye to tribalism the same as leaving a powder keg in the middle of a room of smokers? Eventually somebody's going to drop a match.

For the record, the Valley Swim Club of Huntington Valley Pennsylvania, maintains that their initial action of kicking the black children out and telling them not to return had nothing at all to do with racism.

A private suburban swim club rocked by allegations of racism is still waiting to hear if a premoninantly black and Hispanic Philadelphia day camp will accept its invitation to return.

Valley Club president John Duesler said today that club members had voted overwhelmingly to reinvite the day camp students who had earlier been asked not to return.

"We realized it was the right thing to do," Duesler said today in the club's Lower Moreland driveway.

After he and other club officers endured withering criticism for revoking contracts that allowed dozens of children to swim at the club, Duesler said the board unanimously recommended to reinvite the groups. At a general meeting Sunday for the club's 150 member families, there was only one vote against the idea.

"It was nearly unanimous," Duesler said. (Philly.com)

Duesler is the person who said the children's presence would change the "complexion" of the club, and later changed that wording to say the children would "change the atmosphere." He is now saying what he meant was that there were too many children in the pool and it was a safety issue.

Then why didn't he say that when he told them to hit the road and not come back?

Pam at Pam's House Blend writes:

Plus, as Creative Steps founder and director Alethea Wright said "unless there's been some additional footage added to the pool, I don't see how we could return." Really. If the safety issue was the real concern (you know how that whole complexion thing is about numbers, right), what's changed to generate the invitation? No one's buying it. In order to accept an offer to return to the Valley Club, Creative Steps' attorney said the club's entire board must resign, and the bigots who hurled racist comments at the children need to be expelled from the club. (PHB)

Duesler, the VSC spokesman and president, has also been doing a lot of moaning and groaning that racism is against everything he stands for. According to Siditty, some people believe and defend him saying that he's a "liberal" who voted for Obama. Such a defense has prompted the observation that saying "I voted for Obama" may be the new form of "Some of my best friends are black."

Nordette Adams is a BlogHer CE and is also the African-American Books Examiner at Examiner.com. You may see what else she's up to at Her411.

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