Black Campers Offered Another Pool: Racism Charges Linger

July 9, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The African American and Hispanic children at Creative Steps day camp in Northeast Philadelphia, kicked out of a private swim club, learned some powerful and hurtful lessons this week about racism and bigotry in America, as well as the capacity of the human spirit to show goodness, compassion and generosity in combating hate and fear.

Once the children recover from their painful experience at the Valley Swim Club, we hope that the memories they take away from this ordeal in years to come, are ones of the kindness of strangers who reached out to offer a smile and acts of human kindness.

With their money returned and their membership rescinded just a few days later on July 3, and a racially insensitive statement issued by club president John Duesler, now the day camp is considering legal action against the swim club and a step-parent of one of the campers filed a complaint with the state Human Relations Commission.

Even U.S. Senator Alen Specter (D-Pa.) has taken notice of the racially charged incident and plans to conduct an investigation. “I am reaching out to the parties involved to ascertain the facts. Racial discrimination has no place in America today,” said Specter.

Amid all this hurt and controversy comes human generosity, as Girard College, a private Philadelphia boarding school for children has stepped up and offered the use of its pool to the campers. “Every child deserves an incredible summer camp experience,” said director of Admissions Tamara Leclair. Ironically, Girard College was once an “all-white” school that now has come full circle to offer assistance to black children.

The camper’s ordeal began when they excitedly boarded a camp bus, leaving the city limits behind for a special outing of an outdoor swim at a nearby pool.

The campers arrived at the Valley Swim Club, in Huntingdon Valley, a mostly white wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, on June 29, to begin their first of 90-minute weekly swims at the private swim club. The day camp paid $1,950 in advance for the privilege, arranged by email with club president John Duesler.

As reported earlier, as soon as the children arrived at the pool, the adult members began pulling their white children out of the pool and made loud, hurtful and racially insensitive remarks overheard by the campers saying, “What are all these black kids doing here?”

The 65 campers aged from kindergarten through 7th grade, were mortified and upset, but they continued their swim. According to a report from local radio station KYW News Radio 1060, the ugliness escalated, with one adult member shouting at the campers, “We’re gonna see to it that they don’t come back anymore.”

Alethea Wright, the camp’s executive director, spoke to club president John Duesler about the racially insensitive remarks before she left the pool that day and he seemed apologetic.

However, Duesler issued a statement to NBC10 making it clear where he stood on the matter saying, “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion . . . and the atmosphere of the club.”

The hurtful and hateful treatment of a group of children by white swim club members has captured the attention of the nation. Major media outlets have descended upon the Valley Swim Club, with club president Duesler demanding that a CNN reporter leave the premises on Thursday.

Philadelphia community organizer Marc Stier organized a small protest outside the Valley Swim Club grounds on Thursday. “Not to stand up and say that this sort of behavior is beyond the pale, is to allow it and the attitudes behind it, to survive one more day,” said Stier.

Many commenters to this writer’s earlier report went out of their way to deny that racism took place, claiming that the pool was too small to accommodate 65 children at one time, which deprived full-time seasonal members of the use of the facilities.

This may well be the case, but that’s an issue club members need to take up with the club administrators. Club president Duesler was well aware of the size of the club’s pool before he rented it out to non-member groups, like Creative Steps.

And if full-time pool members were unaware that the club rented out the facility to non-member groups, then that’s a membership issue that is certainly worth discussing with the pool staff.

But, none of these membership concerns are the issue here. The issue is one of blatant bigotry and racism in the way white adult pool members treated innocent children, by removing their white children from the pool, and loudly voicing racial comments within earshot of black children.

One day camper even overheard a white adult pool member say, that she was afraid the black campers would hurt her kids.

There is no excuse for such hateful racism in the twenty-first century and it should be loudly and strongly condemned whenever it appears.

Meanwhile, the Creative Steps day campers are swimming two days a week in an indoor pool at the Jewish Community Center in Philadelphia and are anxiously awaiting for their opportunity to swim in an outdoor pool at Girard College, as soon as the insurance issues are resolved.

And in another display of human kindness, a local ice cream shop, Gumdrops & Sprinkles, recently treated all 65 campers to an outing for a free day of candy and ice cream making.

Despite her suffering, even Anne Frank retained faith in the human spirit. “I believe that, in spite of everything, people are really good at heart,” said Frank in her diary.

Photo Source: James Heanew-Philadelphia Daily News


Comments

7 Responses to “Black Campers Offered Another Pool: Racism Charges Linger”

  1. Black Campers Offered Another Pool: Racism Charges Linger on July 9th, 2009 10:20 pm

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  2. Drewslew on July 10th, 2009 8:24 am

    Being white is so great . I’m praying to god that all my children come out White [like michael jackson’s] for my nigger skin is not right for this world.

  3. Ashley Tranee Wright on July 10th, 2009 9:19 am

    This is so sad and disturbing!!!!!!!!! Bleack President, so many obstacles overcame and the white race still have the ignorance bthat they do! it makes me sick to my stomach and i’m disgraced by this offensive ordeal! they need to get out of the sixties and get real literally quick, fast, and in a hurry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. huh on July 10th, 2009 12:15 pm

    Akron police say they aren’t ready to call it a hate crime or a gang initiation.

    But to Marty Marshall, his wife and two kids, it seems pretty clear.

    It came after a family night of celebrating America and freedom with a fireworks show at Firestone Stadium. Marshall, his family and two friends were gathered outside a friend’s home in South Akron.

    Out of nowhere, the six were attacked by dozens of teenage boys, who shouted ”This is our world” and ”This is a black world” as they confronted Marshall and his family.

    The Marshalls, who are white, say the crowd of teens who attacked them and two friends June 27 on Girard Street numbered close to 50. The teens were all black.

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