A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When Stupid (White) People Run Swimming Pools – Part 2

I did not intend to make the Huntingdon Valley Swim Club controversy into a continuing saga, but recent developments beg for an update.

As you may recall from our last episode, a group of African American and Hispanic children attending the Creative Day Camp had arranged swimming dates throughout this summer at the Huntingdon Valley Swim Club. The campers were disinvited and their membership fee was refunded after their first trip. Based on comments made by other club members — and the subsequent ill-worded statement by the club president — all assumed that the snub was racially motivated. Vows of litigation have ensued.

Since last week, the club voted to invite the campers back by an overwhelming vote of 149-1. This, coupled with several club members' on-camera interviews insisting that the club's motivation was concerned with safety and not skin color, gave the appearance that the club was attempting to make amends for its gross error.

Unfortunately, the original perception of racial discrimination won’t go away. The day camp director rejected the invitation to return, saying that the children had been permanently scarred by the events that day. It appears that the camp will move their racial discrimination suit forward and seek justice in the court system. The camp of course has every right to do this, but perhaps it's time to rise above the temptations of human nature and take the high road.

I can’t predict the future, but I will lay out a number of possible results from this lawsuit. The lawsuit may/may not force a change of leadership at the swim club. The lawsuit may/may not make the club members more racially sensitive. The lawsuit will reopen the children’s “scars” every time the filing makes its slow, meandering way through the judicial system. The lawsuit will enable a lawyer (or two) to pay off the mortgage on his/her multi-million dollar McMansion somewhere in suburban Philadelphia, far from the maddening urban crowd living in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Philadelphia Inquirer showed several good arguments for dropping this suit. On one side of the page, African American columnist Annette John-Hall called for the children to return to the swim club with their heads held high. This action, she argues, would give the children a great opportunity to demonstrate to the narrow-minded adults at the club that their old-fashioned racial attitudes are baseless.

On the other side of the same page, there was an article about the Philadelphia school district settling a racial discrimination suit which was originally filed in - are you sitting down, kids - 1970! That’s 39 years! I know people who have lived their entire lives within 39 years. Just a word of caution: you have every right to pursue this matter in court, but you may be welcoming your own grandchildren by the time the suit is resolved.

I realize that the children’s lives are controlled by well-meaning adults who are looking out for their offspring’s best interest. Nobody can argue with that, but the charges of racial discrimination may be muted now by the club’s call to return to the pool. Some of the children have been quoted as saying that they don’t want to go back. That’s fine, and no one can blame them for those feelings, as long as it is their decision and not the decision of the adults in the day camp.

Several children have also been quoted as questioning if the adults at the club knew that we have an African American President now. I’m sure they do, but, unfortunately, the historical gain last November does not necessarily translate into an overnight change in attitudes. We would be wise to remember that President Obama’s overall emphasis is to look ahead to resolve our problems. This is difficult now that many in his party are calling for the Bush Administration to be hung by its scrotums for alleged Congressional misleading...ah, but that’s another blog entry.

Perhaps the children — and adults — should consider looking forward, and accept the new invitation at face value. It does appear to be a sincere gesture, but we may never make any progress in race relations in this country if people aren’t willing to accept the outstretched hand in friendship. Why should we even try to improve relations between blacks and whites if we’re all too suspicious to do such a simple act as forgive those who have offended us?

(Thanks for reading. Please watch your step as you leave the blog!)


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