It's a sad irony that while the President and First Lady are taking their two young daughters on the trip of a lifetime, other African-American parents had to explain to their children why a group of White parents didn't want them to swim with their children.
In July of 2002 the Ad Council and the Freedom Center launched "the Racial Cooperation campaign" which was designed to inspire Americans to speak out against incidences of discrimination and do their part to promote racial equality. You've probably seen at least one of the PSAs which all end with the line, "imagine the power of one voice." However, one of those PSAs quickly comes to mind.
Imagine this scene:
A white mom comes to a public playground with her young daughter and they take a seat on a bench. The young girl quickly spots who good friend and classmate, a young African-American girl who is playing with other children on a jungle-jim set. The young African-American girl invites her friend to come play and the young white girl starts off to join in the fun. However, before the young white girl can get off the bench her mom sees another group of children (all white) playing in another area, points to that group then says to her daughter, "Why don't you go play with those children". The little girl asks her mom, "Why?" The mom is silent. The PSA ends with the voice-over, "imagine the power of one voice."
By now you know that two weeks ago outside Philadelphia, sixty-five children from a summer camp were rudely turned away from a private pool that they had contracted to use.
When the campers entered the pool, White parents took their kids out of the water, and the swimming club's staff asked the campers to leave. The next day, the club told the summer camp that their membership would be canceled and that they would refund their money. When asked why, the club's leader said the "kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club."
I wonder if any of those white children asked their parents, "Why?" I know that the young black children. many with tears streaming down their faces, asked theirs.
I've just joined ColorOfChange.org in doing exactly that -- will you join me, and email your friends and family asking them to do the same? We're also calling on the Department of Justice to evaluate suing the facility under federal law. It takes just a moment to do both, here:
We all know stories like this one -- similar incidents play out quietly every day in different communities across the country. The difference in this case is that folks got caught and there was a contract in place that makes for a potentially illegal act.
Standing up now isn't just about making things right for these kids in Philadelphia or bringing consequences to this swim club (called the Valley Swim Club). It's about creating a climate of accountability everywhere. If we can publicly shame the Valley Swim Club and hold them accountable for this incident, it will make others think twice before engaging in this kind of discrimination.
Please join me in condemning the Valley Swim Club's blatant discrimination and calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether they violated civil rights laws. And please ask your friends and family to do the same.
And after the protests, the investigations and the legal actions, I hope that this incident will encourage EVERY parent to consider investing their time, energy and, if they have it, money into their community recreation center & public or private pools so that NO child ever has to experience what these children have.
ALL children should have a safe, clean, fun, well supervised place to play. And there are enough racially enlightened residents and businesses in Philadelphia and the surrounding area to make this happen.
Sadly there may always be bigots among us, it is up to us how we choose to respond to their ignorance.
Surely, this will be a summer that all of those children will remember.
Here are some links to more info:
"Pool Boots Kids Who Might 'Change the Complexion,'" NBC Philadelphia, 07-08-09
"60 Black Kids Booted from Philly Pool For Being Black -- Speak Out," Jill Tubman at Jack and Jill Politics, 07-08-09