I am part of a listserv of solo attorneys and received a link to a disturbing situation in Philadelphia that harkens back to the days of segregated water fountains among other things. Here is the story as reported by NBC Philadelphia:
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.
“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.
The actions of the camp officials are disturbing to say the least. But I wonder what the kids who were already in the pool were thinking when they ran for the hills after seeing the “minority children” enter the pool. Were they simply acting out their fear of the unknown because few if any of them have non-white friends or was there something more invidious at work in their little noggins? Granted both scenarios are less than encouraging signs of our country’s progress toward racial equality, the former is at least forgivable from a moral standpoint – that is, if children are as impressionable and ignorant as they are often made out to be – while the latter would, I think, be condemned by almost every decent individual.