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Not So Much 'Brotherly Love?'
July 9, 2009 12:23 PM   Subscribe

More than 60 African-American day campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club because -- according to John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club -- "there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club." Creative Steps Day Camp paid The Valley Swim Club more than $1,900 for one day of swimming a week, but after the first day, the money was quickly refunded and the campers were told not to return.

"I heard a white lady say, 'What are all these black kids doing here? They might do something to my child,' " recalled [14-year-old camper Dymir] Baylor [video | 01:52], who says he lives in a neighborhood so diverse, he'd never heard anyone speak like that before. "It was rude and ignorant."*

Fortunately Girard College, a private Philadelphia boarding school for children who live in low-income and single parent homes, has stepped in and offered their pool to the campers.
"It may surprise some Americans to learn that not only do certain private clubs still refuse to admit African-Americans, women, and gay people, but that this kind of enrollment discrimination is considered perfectly legal."*
posted by ericb (237 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
*tosses candy bar in the pool*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2009 [19 favorites]


As a Philly resident, I like to focus more on Girard College (which was all-white until the 60s, and all-male until the 80s) stepping up and countering this absurd douchebaggery, rather than the absurd douchebaggery itself.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Comments from a neighbor of The Valley Swim Club.
posted by ericb at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Valley Swim Club is now going to be an extremely unpleasant place to be, until it shuts down.

On the other hand, I can't imagine it ever was a pleasant place to be.
posted by gurple at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Double.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2009


Video (sadly via fark).
posted by cjorgensen at 12:34 PM on July 9, 2009


a;slkdfj;asdklfj;asldig;aisdhgaguas;ioh;aiobhj;ioaerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

(has rage-induced stroke, collapses on keyboard)
posted by Rangeboy at 12:34 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The swim club has been closed due to concerns of protests -- specifically being coordinated on Facebook and Craigslist
posted by ericb at 12:34 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh my god. When I was reading the post I kept waiting for the "fifty years ago today" part of it.
posted by marxchivist at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2009 [21 favorites]


I understand the rationale that a private club can discriminate in terms of who can become members; that makes perfect sense. You have every right not to want to spend your time with blacks, or Christians, or gays, or redheads, or Trekkies, or whatever. But the fact that the club took money in exchange for services seems to me to cross the line into business territory, where you are most certainly not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, right? Couldn't it be argued that this constitutes a breach of contract?
posted by EarBucket at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dammit, BitterOldPunk, I'm taking my favorite back. Racism is not over!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:37 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


what!?!?!?!? people in northeast philly being unsophisticated bigots?

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!

:-/
posted by Addiction at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"One of the members was shouting out, 'We're gonna see to it that they don't come back anymore.' And two days later, Dr. John called me [Creative Steps executive director Aletheah Wright] and said, 'Miss Wright, I truly apologize, I'm so embarrassed, but the membership has overthrown me in votes and you're not going to be able to come back to the club.'"*
posted by ericb at 12:40 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I typed up a response when it was on the front page yesterday but the FPP was deleted before I could post it. Good thing I saved a draft!

Northeast Philly, speaking in broad generalizations for a minute, is Frank Rizzo's Philly. It's comprised of a lot of white flight families who used to live in North Philly, Kensington, Port Richmond, etc., the old working class stronghold neighborhoods that have since been eroded by drugs and crime. Northeasters have spent the past 30 years harboring racial resentments against "those people" who ruined the old neighborhood. The comment sections of news articles on Philly websites are packed full of culture warriors from the Northeast who never miss an opportunity to chime in on crime reports to lament about "the animals" and "the locusts" who they fear have their sites set on their neighborhoods. The Northeast is heavily Republican, and is a refuge for the city's law enforcement officers, many of whom wish they could move even further away but are constrained by residency requirements.

That's the broad characterization. However, there's also a big Brazilian neighborhood, a big Russian neighborhood and a substantial Orthodox Jewsih community there, among other things. However, the general notion of the Northeast Philly as a cluster point of xenophobes with the sense of embattled victimhood typical to your average conservative AM radio talkshow listener is not totally untrue.

Just to give you the background.

Also, the Daily Beast was practically tripping over themselves this morning to get me to write about this so hopefully you'll read some version of this comment worked into that story next week.
posted by The Straightener at 12:40 PM on July 9, 2009 [22 favorites]


Sen. Arlen Specter Wants Probe into Club's Rejection of Black Swimmers.
posted by ericb at 12:41 PM on July 9, 2009


The good news is that with the help of some skillful attorneys, Creative Steps Day Camp could find itself the owner of a shiny new swim club.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


Ach, go probe yourself Arlen you old blow-hard. Go investigate the Phillies starting pitching you sack of shit.
posted by Mister_A at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2009


Is there an over-under pool (sorry) on the first lawsuit being filed?
posted by jquinby at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2009


Wasn't there a flap during the election where someone had the temerity to insinuate that there was still racism in Pennsylvania?
posted by klangklangston at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


a;slkdfj;asdklfj;asldig;aisdhgaguas;ioh;aiobhj;ioaerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

(has rage-induced stroke, collapses on keyboard)


You are aware that there are still restricted clubs in the U.S.? And one of them is less than 10 miles from Times Square: Knickerbocker Country Club in Tenafly, NJ.
posted by Zambrano at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2009


I like to focus more on Girard College...

It's an amazing school with many distinguished alums.
posted by ericb at 12:47 PM on July 9, 2009


At least the police didn't firebomb the pool.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:48 PM on July 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Oh boy how that guy must regret using the word "complexion"! You know, it is possible that the main complaint made to the club management was not "what are all these filthy black people doing in our pool" but "who let all these rowdy kids into our pool!"If I were, say, a club member who uses the pool for lap swimming, the latter complaint might be a fair one. I guess it would be interesting to see if they have rented the pool out in the past to groups of predominantly white kids.

Still, that sad-eyed kid at the end of the video saying "but I guess it didn't last" and the angry-old-white-dude manager guy threatening to call the cops means that it really doesn't matter what actually happened here: this is the kind of total PR disaster from which there's just no coming back. If the club has a board it should demand the resignations of the entire management, welcome the kids back while refunding the fee, promise them all lifetime membership in the club when they come of age, and establish some kind of scholarship fund for their futures.
posted by yoink at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


'What are all these black kids doing here? They might do something to my child'

Yeah, your kids might catch the terrible Skin Darkening Virus. Assholes: is there any kind of shit they can't rationalize their moral retardation out of? (Not US-bashist: around here down south, scared whitey-er ladies could definitely teach these people how to expand their BS exponentially, believe me.)
posted by Iosephus at 12:50 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


a;slkdfj;asdklfj;asldig;aisdhgaguas;ioh;aiobhj;ioaerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

(has rage-induced stroke, collapses on keyboard)


Get on the wire, tell them how to bring those lefties down.
posted by codswallop at 12:52 PM on July 9, 2009


'What are all these black kids doing here? They might do something to my child,'

Like shatter your kid's carefully spoon-fed illusions that you can determine danger levels of people by skin tone?
posted by yeloson at 12:52 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"My daughter's only half-African-American, can she go in up to her waist?"
(props to Groucho)
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:54 PM on July 9, 2009 [30 favorites]


Kind of thinking along the same lines as yoink...was just curious to hear if there's another side of this story before folks burn the place to the ground. However, at this point, it doesn't really matter; irreparable damage has already been done.
posted by brandman at 12:54 PM on July 9, 2009


this is the kind of total PR disaster from which there's just no coming back. If the club has a board it should demand the resignations of the entire management, welcome the kids back while refunding the fee, promise them all lifetime membership in the club when they come of age, and establish some kind of scholarship fund for their futures.

Don't get your hopes up. It sounds like you haven't met many of these people. If anything, they will feel vindicated, blaming the bad PR on the children and convincing themselves that they were obviously right to exclude - just look at the commotion they caused.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


No chance that the kids were ill-behaved and the club was absolutely justified in not wanting them, and then the president of the club made an epic mistake in his choice of words? I say this as a parent and a former camp counselor: kids are dicks, and kids being watched by people other than their parents are double dicks.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:56 PM on July 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


But I thought all racists knew that black people can't swim?
posted by klangklangston at 12:57 PM on July 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


As a Philly resident, I like to focus more on Girard College (which was all-white until the 60s, and all-male until the 80s) stepping up and countering this absurd douchebaggery, rather than the absurd douchebaggery itself.

That's not really how these kinds of thread work.
posted by Artw at 12:58 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


"who let all these rowdy kids into our pool!"
"The Michael Smerconish Program interviewed [audio | an eyewitness named “Jan,” who is a member of The Valley Swim Club. Jan says the children from The Creative Steps Day Camp were very well-behaved, and the camp supervisors were highly attentive. This puts a dent in the argument that, perhaps, the children were behaving in an overly rowdy fashion, which is why they were ejected."*
posted by ericb at 1:02 PM on July 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


No chance that the kids were ill-behaved and the club was absolutely justified in not wanting them, and then the president of the club made an epic mistake in his choice of words? I say this as a parent and a former camp counselor: kids are dicks, and kids being watched by people other than their parents are double dicks.

Apparently not. This HuffPost article on it includes a link to a Michael Smerconish interview (local talk show host, right-of-center but generally sane) with a club member who described the kids as "very well-behaved."
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:02 PM on July 9, 2009


But I thought all racists knew that black people can't swim?

Nor can they skate and ski!
posted by ericb at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2009


Jinx, Tomorrowful -- you owe me a coke!
posted by ericb at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2009


No chance that the kids were ill-behaved and the club was absolutely justified in not wanting them, and then the president of the club made an epic mistake in his choice of words?

Didn't I just read an article that explained how black children are seen more often as "rowdy and disruptive" when doing the same things as white children?

I'm almost certain that the word "complexion" was a Freudian slip on the part of the club owner, but people from the day camp reported feeling discriminated against long before that unfortunate comment:

"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."
posted by muddgirl at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2009


It would be interesting to see if the initial incident was less racially charged than originally reported but once that scab is ripped off things get nasty pretty quick and that seems to be the case here.
posted by 2sheets at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2009


No chance that the kids were ill-behaved and the club was absolutely justified in not wanting them, and then the president of the club made an epic mistake in his choice of words?

I'm under the assumption that this place has rented out to groups of kids before- which would mean there should be some kind of written policy about acceptable/unacceptable behaviors, and incident reports when folks are acting unruly (especially since, one kid busting their head on the floor = lawsuit).

In that case, when the media comes knocking, you say, "This group was out of line, here's the incident reports, including documentation of verbally speaking with the camp counselors, etc."

NOT: "There goes the neighborhood!"
posted by yeloson at 1:06 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then this really is outrageous.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:09 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The more important question is, what the fuck is a private swim club? Philly not have community pools? Community Centres?

Private swim club, I'm going to be processing that one for the next few days at least.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2009


Has FOX News reported on this yet?
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2009


I'm under the assumption that this place has rented out to groups of kids before...
"Have Your Birthday, Graduation, or Family Party at the Club!"
posted by ericb at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has FOX News reported on this yet?

Yes.
posted by jquinby at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2009


Has FOX News reported on this yet?

Arlen already chose to be a Democrat. There are no Senators from Pennsylvania available to smear.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:16 PM on July 9, 2009


"Black people can't swim" is one of those weird things I heard first, and most, from people who are black, although it was usually phrased like "black people don't swim." The first time I heard it, I chalked it up to someone's personal eccentricities. After about the third time I heard it I said, "I will take off my shoes and prove that I do not have webbed toes."

After a while, I had unlikely, casual paranoid suspicions that I was the mutant white guy who was born without the Caucasian secret gills and nictitating third eyelid and was never clued in because it'd make me feel bad.

Is this just black kids in the city would have less access to pools than white kids in the city, and therefore some statistically smaller experience with swimming, and then that small disparity became amplified via the Great Racial Meme Magnifier into "black people can't swim"?
posted by adipocere at 1:16 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Remember folks, Obama becoming President proved something something something.

Remember that for every story heard, there are many that aren't.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:16 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The swim club's website now simply reads:
The Valley Club is deeply troubled by the recent allegations of racism which are completely untrue.

We had originally agreed to invite the camps to use our facility, knowing full well that the children from the camps were from multi-ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, we quickly learned that we underestimated the capacity of our facilities and realized that we could not accommodate the number of children from these camps. All funds were returned to the camps and we will re-evaluate the issue at a later date to determine whether it can be feasible in the future.

Our Valley Club deplores discrimination in any form, as is evidenced by our multi-ethnic and diverse membership. Whatever comments may or may not have been made by an individual member is an opinion not shared by The Valley Club Board.
Basically they're going to pick an employee to throw under the bus, wait for the HuffPo/Facebook crowd to find something else to protest, and probably return to business as usual. Let's not lie to ourselves and pretend like anything good is going to come out of this, besides reminding everyone that "if you're going to be racist, for the love of god try to be subtle about it." I'm sure there are a ton of private clubs around every bit as racist as this one; Valley just happened to get caught.

On the whole, the kids probably ended up with a better facility to go swimming at than they would have had anyway. So I guess that's a plus, somehow.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:18 PM on July 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


JESUS FUCKING CHRIST IT'S 2009 PEOPLE

This makes me sad and angry. I don't have anything worthwhile to say that someone hasn't already said better than I could, but Jesus FUCK.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:20 PM on July 9, 2009


I'm all for truly private clubs doing whatever the hell they want, but DUDE.

I cried my eyes out and screamed at camp counselors when, as a fifth-grader, I was turned away from a day-camp outing to a swimming pool because my mother forgot to turn in the permission slip.

I can't imagine the pain and confusion a kid would feel over this horseshit.

I hope those 60 kids end up smarter than me. Maybe one of them can run for president and wipe the floor with jackals like these.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:20 PM on July 9, 2009


Why does that FOX News story not include the "complexion" remark? Pretty crucial to the story, I would think.
posted by naju at 1:21 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Keith: I'm pretty sure the establishment of private swim clubs tracks the desegregation of public swimming pools.
posted by mrstrotsky at 1:21 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sitting here trying to imagine what it would've been like for me, at the age of say eight or nine, to be approached at a swimming pool and told that my friends and I weren't welcome because of our race. I just can't do it. I can imagine the likely shame and anger (probably confusion, at first) but there's just an experiential gap there I can't cross. It's anecdotal but it's enough to convince me that white privilege does exist and I am the beneficiary of it. And that -- and this -- is fucking ridiculous. I made the mistake of reading the reader comments from the latest Philadelphia news update to this story and I'm still furious.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:23 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kadin, I think there is some good to come out of this, even if the situation at this particular club doesn't change. There are some people who really, honestly believe that we're living in a post-racist world, that Obama's election proves that we don't need to worry about racism anymore. At the very least, this incident should serve as an indicator that, even though we've come a very long way, there's still work to be done.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:23 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The more important question is, what the fuck is a private swim club? Philly not have community pools? Community Centres?

A lot of city-run pools are closed this season due to budget problems.
posted by gac at 1:24 PM on July 9, 2009


Good on Dr. Duesler for bringing this to the public's attention.
posted by boo_radley at 1:25 PM on July 9, 2009


"The Michael Smerconish Program interviewed [audio | an eyewitness named “Jan,”

Ouch. That has to be about the best possible "witness for the prosecution" you could imagine. She sounds so incredibly fair and even handed, but she just leaves no room at all for any excuses.

Kinda heart-breaking, really.
posted by yoink at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2009


AP Video: Did Philly Swim Club Turn Away Black Children?
posted by ericb at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2009


As a lovely side note, it is so wonderful that they mentioned sexism and homophobia with this act of racism. Good on Girard College.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2009


I think the map that the Valley Swim Club saw fit to include on its little website nicely encapsulates its world view.

I just moved out of Philadelphia a week ago. While I will really miss a lot of wonderful people there, I absolutely will NOT miss the stream of ridiculous small-mindedness that I found to be consistent there.

To all you amazing Philadelphians, fight the good fight. Your city really should rise above this kind of shit, and if it can, it will truly be one of the greatest places in the world.
posted by nosila at 1:29 PM on July 9, 2009


Please don't miss the thread on Domelights, Philly's cop forum.
posted by The Straightener at 1:29 PM on July 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the establishment of private swim clubs tracks the desegregation of public swimming pools.

"The Valley Club -- Swimming Since 1954."

"The separate but equal doctrine prevailed for over a half-century until in 1954 the Supreme Court reversed the earlier ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, in which the court found that racially separate facilities were inherently unequal." *
posted by ericb at 1:31 PM on July 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


"Why does that FOX News story not include the "complexion" remark? Pretty crucial to the story, I would think."

QED
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The geoff. Swim Club located adjacent to the lush facilities of geoff.'s deck has been welcoming to ladies of color all summer long and free of charge!
posted by geoff. at 1:39 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Please don't miss the thread on Domelights, Philly's cop forum."

Wow, what a cesspool that is. Philadelphia's finest, eh?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


"The separate but equal doctrine prevailed for over a half-century until in 1954 the Supreme Court reversed the earlier ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, in which the court found that racially separate facilities were inherently unequal."

The club isn't actually racially segregated though, is it? "Jan"--in that interview you linked to--claims that it has a mixed-race membership.
posted by yoink at 1:44 PM on July 9, 2009


From the Domelight thread:
What don't you people understand. We join these PRIVATE CLUBS to get away from "you people." We are willing to pay high prices to join PRIVATE CLUBS so our children have a nice place to spend their summers. "You people" are like locusts.You move into an area and destroy it and move on to the next. You are the main reason this city is going to hell. Even the liberals in this city are complaining about what you are doing to the city. When all the decent hardworking people move out of the city (as they are) who will be left behind to pay for all you low life bums.

Started reading this comment, thought that putting the phrase "you people" in quotes meant that the comment was mocking all of the racism in the thread. Read on, realized it wasn't sarcastic at all. Wanted to cry.
posted by hopeless romantique at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


Re: black people don't swim: I was told by a former co-worker, who was black, that she didn't swim because it would totally mess up her hair. Apparently if you get your hair relaxed you can't get it wet, at all. FWIW.

How that goes to "back people can't swim" is less clear, though probably not that surprising.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2009


I hope Obama brings Sasha and MAlia for a swim next time he's in Philly.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


The club isn't actually racially segregated though, is it?

No. But, I think mrstrotsky is right in that private swim clubs started to appear in the summe of 1954 after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education that May.
posted by ericb at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2009


I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find intrepid internetsizens piping in with the requisite measure of rationalization and doubt. There's always gotta be another side of the story... right?

I mean, maybe it wasn't a racial thing. Maybe it was [insert low probability justification, usually itself a more "acceptable" racial stereotype here] Well, the one thing I know is that we'll never know for sure (with 110% certainty) if its racism, SO FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE LETS STOP TALKING ABOUT RACISM ALREADY.

PS, and in the same vein, the only racism we can point to with judicious certainty is historical, events taking place so long ago that noone alive today could possible be held accountable for it in any way. Or possibly a contemporary caricature of such, something that society so categorically rejects that it impacts noone... such as the nazi white power movement, which noone takes seriously, since they shoot museum guards and blow up buildings in Oklahoma so rarely these days.

posted by mano at 1:52 PM on July 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


POOL'S CLOSED
posted by klangklangston at 1:53 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The more important question is, what the fuck is a private swim club?

Valley Swim Club is in the suburbs maybe 20 miles north of the city. For context, it's right next to a golf course. I grew up going to a swim club just like it, a few miles away. I'm not at all surprised at this happening - first thing I did when I saw the story was to check if it was the pool I went to when I was a kid.
posted by scalefree at 1:54 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mayor Curley : No chance that the kids were ill-behaved and the club was absolutely justified in not wanting them, and then the president of the club made an epic mistake in his choice of words?

When I first heard about this earlier today, I was certain that this had to be the case. I mean, no one is so fundamentally out of touch that they would think that something like this was even remotely acceptable nowadays. In an age of ubiquitous communications, a colossally racist move like this could be heard around the world in minutes, and no one would be so stupid as to open their business up to that kind of unwanted scrutiny, so it had to be a misunderstanding.

But the more I hear, the more I'm realizing that some people just fucking suck and they don't care if the world knows it.
posted by quin at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Holy hellcats, that Domelights thread is fucking nauseating. Scattered among the comments are gems such as "rift raft" and "liberal fanny bandit." Jesus, I need a shower.
posted by Skot at 2:01 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I cried my eyes out when... I was turned away from a day-camp... because my mother forgot to turn in the permission slip.

I can't imagine the pain and confusion a kid would feel over this horseshit.


I would like to believe they were "confused", but even in 2009 America, I have no doubt at all those those kids knew exactly what was happening.
posted by rokusan at 2:01 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, private swim clubs are fairly common for all sorts of reasons. There certainly were a lot of them that formed in the 50's to keep non-whites out, but thats only one type.

For example, many suburban neighborhoods have a pool that requires membership in the neighborhood association to use. This means people using the pool have to live there and pay to keep it up (and can usually bring guests as well of course), but there's no racial aspect to it (depending on your neighborhood's racial makeup, but even in the South suburban neighborhoods are often mixed).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:01 PM on July 9, 2009


Midnight Rambler: "I hope Obama brings Sasha and MAlia for a swim next time he's in Philly."

And I'm sure they'd welcome him and be very polite. It's possible for class to override race, if the class difference is big enough. Being President pretty much pushes you off the top of the "class" scale, so he's guaranteed to be treated like a white guy, as long as people are aware of his position.

Actually I suspect this whole thing is more of a class issue than a race one; I don't doubt that they swim club has black members, and that most of the white members probably do in all honesty have black friends — but they're members of the same social class. They're not low-income kids from somewhere in the ghetto.

At least in my experience, one of the most common reasons for apparently racist behavior is because people use skin color as an easy identifier of class or culture. You could argue, I suppose, that they're actually being "classist" or "culturist" and just being lazy about it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:02 PM on July 9, 2009 [23 favorites]


The more important question is, what the fuck is a private swim club?

Plenty of places have private swim clubs; we were a member of one when we lived in Virginia, and it wasn't the only one in the area, either. You pay to join (I just checked the price for the one we went to, it's $500 a year with a few ways to get back $50 here and there) and you get access to a pool for the whole summer, plus you get to know all the members so all your friends are there when you get there. Magic. That was my childhood, right there, going to pool every day, first with my mother and then by myself when I was old enough and passed the swim test.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:05 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The media relations professional in me spent a few minutes this morning wondering how the swim club higher-up could have responded to this, and the best I could up with was something about how the members took exception to the fact that their private club had been opened to a camp of kids, they pay good money, blah blah blah...

But then I realized that there is no talking around this one, and that these people are complete assholes who keep my city five decades behind the social curve.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 2:05 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remember folks, Obama becoming President proved something something something.

That a black guy can become president, the second worst nightmare of racists. Well, maybe third worst: when we have a black commie lesbian president, *then* their worst nightmare will come true.

I've been wanting to vote for Angela Davis for President for decades.
posted by shetterly at 2:06 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will say this–as a former lifeguard, 60 kids is a whole lotta kids to dump on top of the normal traffic. How big is this place?
posted by Mister_A at 2:07 PM on July 9, 2009


"I hope Obama brings Sasha and Malia for a swim next time he's in Philly."

Deus Ex Obama? Wouldn't that be great for them- to be able to say, hey, we're not racist, we let the President swim here, after all. That's not Obama's job, to go around redeeming pool clubs. And why would he go to a pool club, anyway? He has a pool at his house.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:07 PM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


To expand a little on my explanation, being private is not (all) about racism. These are neighborhood clubs, supported with hefty yearly fees by members who mostly live close enough to walk to the pool. It doesn't make economic sense for a whole township to pay taxes for a space that only a very few taxpayers would ever use.
posted by scalefree at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2009


Holy hellcats, that Domelights thread is fucking nauseating.

At the risk of defending nausea-inducing cop behavior, I wonder how much of this is firmly engrained by the way cops are given assignments and how their careers develop. I'd appreciate some insights from current or ex LEOs, if we have any here.

It seems to me that in most cities, neighborhoods are predominantly split on racial lines, and cops are assigned (I believe) to neighborhoods (or districts). They then spend many years dealing with the same group of people and the same types of crime over and over again, until they end up sick of it. They're sick of their job, and they're sick of people, and they're generally disgusted at humanity. But if they've gained this disgust because they were "forced" to spend every day among the same racial/socioeconomic group... with senior cops who were already sick of the same thing and ranting against it... and all that misery just gets transferred on the surrounding people.

Promote those guys out of that assignment, and now they're in a position where they can assign other newbies to that same environment, even use it as "punishment" by treating it like the "bad" assignment. Now you have a cycle.

I smell some kind of parallel, not sure how strong, with the nice boys from Nebraska who go off to war in Iraq and come back hating all the brownskinned camelfuckers... or whatever it is they learn to think. What they really hate is their own situation, and maybe something bigger and existential about life, but they transfer it to the predominant "target" group around them, a transference that's supported (even nurtured) by their training and superiors.

I don't know if this is a good point or not, but it's occurred to me a few times. If it has any merit, a solution might be to vary cop's assigned neighborhoods randomly and for shorter periods, instead letting them get soaked with one subgroup of citizen for years and years. I suspect there'd be some more "all people suck", which would be a bit of an improvement.
posted by rokusan at 2:10 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The entire text of their web site:
The Valley Club is deeply troubled by the recent allegations of racism which are completely untrue.

We had originally agreed to invite the camps to use our facility, knowing full well that the children from the camps were from multi-ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, we quickly learned that we underestimated the capacity of our facilities and realized that we could not accommodate the number of children from these camps. All funds were returned to the camps and we will re-evaluate the issue at a later date to determine whether it can be feasible in the future.

Our Valley Club deplores discrimination in any form, as is evidenced by our multi-ethnic and diverse membership. Whatever comments may or may not have been made by an individual member is an opinion not shared by The Valley Club Board.
Pool's closed.
This happens in real life? Seriously?
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 2:10 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Midnight Rambler said: "I hope Obama brings Sasha and MAlia for a swim next time he's in Philly."

As stunning a statement as this would make, I actually hope he doesn't. Photo ops are one thing... but I suspect that using one's children as such pointed political props is beneath Barack Obama.
posted by pineapple at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Couple of missing articles in that last paragraph. This keyboard is annoying.
posted by rokusan at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2009


What don't you people understand. We join these PRIVATE CLUBS to get away from "you people." We are willing to pay high prices to join PRIVATE CLUBS so our children have a nice place to spend their summers. "You people" are like locusts.You move into an area and destroy it and move on to the next. You are the main reason this city is going to hell. Even the liberals in this city are complaining about what you are doing to the city. When all the decent hardworking people move out of the city (as they are) who will be left behind to pay for all you low life bums.

Thank you, domelights.com, "the voice of the good guys," for reminding me why I hate the police.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:13 PM on July 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


The more important question is, what the fuck is a private swim club?

In the Philadelphia suburbs where I grew up there were, as far as I remember, no public swim clubs, they were all private.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:13 PM on July 9, 2009


just turned on the city news, they are trying to label it as not a "black" thing as much as they didnt want their pool overcrowded. lol

SO WHY BOOK A PARTY YOU KNEW THE SIZE OF IF YOU DIDNT WANT IT OVERCROWDED.
posted by Addiction at 2:14 PM on July 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


"I hope Obama brings Sasha and MAlia for a swim next time he's in Philly."

A better response might be to ramp up the ramifications for the pool (or the social club, or whatever it is) so that the penalties are so ridiculous it might dawn on a few people that racism won't be tolerated by this administration. "Make an example" as it were.

This would be useful even if it only meant we could hear Fox and some dinosaur (R)'s squawk and squirm and further hurt themselves with every word of opposition they'd raise.

Anything that squeezes the latent racism out out of the weasels, and lays it bare on the table for voters, is helpful.
posted by rokusan at 2:14 PM on July 9, 2009


I will say this–as a former lifeguard, 60 kids is a whole lotta kids to dump on top of the normal traffic. How big is this place?

That's the one viable line of defence that "Jan's" testimony seems to leave the management. She does say several times the pool was extremely crowded. On the other hand, the management must, surely, have known how many kids the camp would be bringing to the pool, and Jan also points out that it was midweek, that there weren't many members there anyway, and--most tellingly--says something about these midweek times always being the times that they bring in large groups. You should listen to her interview if you haven't already because it's so clearly not trying to push any particular agenda.
posted by yoink at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


SO WHY BOOK A PARTY YOU KNEW...

Addiction, please stop yelling at the screen. This isn't a movie.
posted by rokusan at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


not a "black" thing as much as they didnt want their pool overcrowded.

That's pretty much the argument against integration, school busing, and immigration. Convenient.
posted by rokusan at 2:16 PM on July 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


I will say this–as a former lifeguard, 60 kids is a whole lotta kids to dump on top of the normal traffic. How big is this place?

Can't quote you exact numbers but the club as a whole would have an occupancy limit in the several hundreds, certainly less than a thousand.
posted by scalefree at 2:17 PM on July 9, 2009


Yes, I'm going to do that, yoink. I don't doubt that this was racism –the complexion quote from the president of the club seals the deal– but I was legitimately concerned about putting so many kids in the pool! Thanks.
posted by Mister_A at 2:18 PM on July 9, 2009



"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.


FOX (Philly) has the quote as:

The president of the Valley Club, John Duesler, told Fox 29 by phone the club "underestimated the impact the children would have." He said they "fundamentally changed the atmosphere" at the pool.

I'd like to see the whole quote without ellipses.... because it sure looks like FoxPhilly uh, changed the complexion of that quote. paging unixratbullshitsnifferguy
posted by Rumple at 2:20 PM on July 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Addiction, please stop yelling at the screen. This isn't a movie.

I very strongly doubt I am the only person who is yelling at their screen. And it would be much more comforting if this was a movie instead of being at a place I live 6 miles away from.

As for the comment : I will say this–as a former lifeguard, 60 kids is a whole lotta kids to dump on top of the normal traffic. How big is this place?

Didnt they pay over a grand for access to the pool? If you cant afford another lifegard after being paid well over a thousand dollars well I am in the wrong line of business.
posted by Addiction at 2:23 PM on July 9, 2009


Thankfully, whatever the cause was for this mix-up we know racism wasn't involved. It's well established fact that racism died when we elected a black president.

Yes, I know that particular snark has been made above, but I had to make it again because I heard that argument was actually being used to legally challenge Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act
posted by heathkit at 2:28 PM on July 9, 2009


"Deus Ex Obama? Wouldn't that be great for them- to be able to say, hey, we're not racist, we let the President swim here, after all. That's not Obama's job, to go around redeeming pool clubs. And why would he go to a pool club, anyway? He has a pool at his house."

Why would he go to a pool anyway? It's no fun to put on your trunks, then stand around on top of the water.
posted by klangklangston at 2:34 PM on July 9, 2009 [36 favorites]


Didnt they pay over a grand for access to the pool? If you cant afford another lifegard after being paid well over a thousand dollars well I am in the wrong line of business.

The issue is how many people can fit into the pool at one time. On a hot day when everybody turns out, it can get pretty crowded. If I remember right occupancy of our pool was about 300; I assume theirs is the same size, half-Olympic (25 meters). Pretty much all the pools in the area are that size. Honestly, it's a legitimate issue. In our club we'd have "adult swim" every couple hours so the older folks could have some time to mostly stand around without being jostled.
posted by scalefree at 2:36 PM on July 9, 2009


This makes me puke. Can't a federal prosecution under current civil rights laws be initiated?
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 2:37 PM on July 9, 2009


Just as a side note regarding occupancy, occupancy is often determined by an absurdly complicated local calculi. For example, in my old hometown of Ann Arbor, occupancy is determined by overall egress door width, which makes some sense but has nothing to do with how many people could fit in a building or pool.
posted by klangklangston at 2:42 PM on July 9, 2009


I will say this–as a former lifeguard, 60 kids is a whole lotta kids to dump on top of the normal traffic.

In her interview "Jan" (who was there with her 6 y.o. grandson) mentioned:
"It was crowded, but I can tell you that within the pool and all of these campers there were at least two adult counselors that I saw in the pool. The pool had two lifeguards on either side of this area of the pool which is only three feet deep and there was also a supervisor who called the children out when it was time for them to leave. As a matter of fact it was a very orderly. She called first for the female campers and then the male campers. And when one of the girls was not moving out of the pool quickly enough she was quick to say "You'll lose your swimming privileges." It was so orderly and so well-regulated both by the part of the staff from the camp and the staff of the pool. I knew of no problems..."
posted by ericb at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


The issue is how many people can fit into the pool at one time. On a hot day when everybody turns out, it can get pretty crowded. If I remember right occupancy of our pool was about 300

Again, I don't see how overcrowding is an issue. The club owner never said that overcrowding was an issue. They were 60 kids who paid to use the pool once a week. Scheduling should not be the problem of the day camp. The club should not have taken their money and agreed to let them swim if an an additional 60 children would strain their resources.
posted by muddgirl at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2009


Wait, there are racist, ignorant cops? Whoa!

Brilliant link, The Straightener. You really cranked the whole discussion up an unexpected notch.
posted by nevercalm at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2009


So if the president of the club hadn't used the word complexion, instead of saying "we don't want to take Black kids' money," he'd still be saying "we don't want to take poor kids' money."

That's not much of a fucking improvement.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:45 PM on July 9, 2009


I hope Obama brings Sasha and MAlia for a swim next time he's in Philly.

It would be more fun to change the girls' hairstyles to make them a bit less recognizable, have some anonymous staffer who's also black take them to the pool and give false stereotypically black names, and see what happens. It would be especially fun if they were asked to leave but then said their daddy would pick them up soon.

If you wanted to use them as pawns, anyway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The word "complexion" is just the Freudian icing on this turdcake.
posted by Rat Spatula at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Eponyhoohoo, Rat.
posted by rokusan at 2:52 PM on July 9, 2009


CNN's take.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:57 PM on July 9, 2009


Again, I don't see how overcrowding is an issue.

I have little doubt that the kids heard what they said they heard & the real issue is plain & simple racism. I know these people, racism is not far under the surface in them. I'm just giving some context for what they're saying the issue is.
posted by scalefree at 3:11 PM on July 9, 2009


It's not like the campers were unexpected.
"In early June, Alethea Wright, founder and director of 13-year-old Creative Steps, registered her 65 campers - online - to use the pool on Monday afternoons from 3:30 to 5. The special arrangement, a first for the club, was approved by its board and was to run from June 29th through Aug. 10th.

The Valley Club charged her $1,950 for the weekly privileges, which Wright paid in full, in advance, from parents' fees. And, on June 29, she arrived at Valley Club with 65 campers for their first swim of the season. She says that the children were excited to use the low-key pool; the leafy, 10-acre grounds on Tomlinson Road provide a lovely setting for aquatic fun.

Trouble began immediately, says Wright, when she heard several white members make disparaging racial remarks about the campers, who are black and Hispanic. Wright says that Valley Club president John Duesler, who was on the premises, seemed surprised and embarrassed by the behavior but assured her that all would work out.

Two days later, she says, he called to say that members had overruled the board's decision to allow her large group to use the pool. He seemed sincerely sorry, she says, and said that campers' fees would be returned."
Online no one knows you're African American, Hispanic, Latino or Asian!
posted by ericb at 3:17 PM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


From CNN:
Jim Flynn, who said he was one of the club members who made a complaint against the children, said it was not racially motivated.

"There were a lot of children in the pool and not enough lifeguards," he said. "As general members, we were not told that they were coming. If we knew, we could decide to not come when the pool was crowded or come anyway. We could have had an option."

He said two other day-care centers, neither of which included minority children, had previously been similarly disinvited.
It would help their story a great deal if they could get out some facts about these "two other day-care centers." Although you'd have to wonder what the board was doing accepting applications like this one if they'd led to this sort of trouble in the past.
posted by yoink at 3:23 PM on July 9, 2009


From the Valley Club announcement:

Unfortunately, we quickly learned that we underestimated the capacity of our facilities

I think that they meant "overestimated". Isn't it funny that when people lie or are trying to hide their true intentions they make weird errors? I'm just saying...
posted by ob at 3:33 PM on July 9, 2009


When I first saw this story on a Philly news station's Web page yesterday, the comments had been swarmed by explicitly racist comments -- six pages of them, and they were coming in at a rate of about one new one per second. I wrote an email to the station saying, hey, this is breaking nationally, you might want to close up your comments, because a group of racists is running wild on it, and do you really want your Web site to be host to that, and is that really how you want to represent Philly to the nation?

Now I think I am going to write an email to the mayor regarding the domelights page, saying I will never, ever visit the city of Philadelphia until I feel certain that there is a police force there whose job is to protect and serve me, and not merely the people whose race or gender or class or politics or sexual preference they happen to share. It would be one thing if those comments were people representing themselves as mere citizens, but they are representing themselves as members of the police force -- as civil servants -- and that is beyond disgusting.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:39 PM on July 9, 2009 [26 favorites]


My tax dollars are paying for:

Keeping city swimming pools open, mainly in the inner city.

Sending inner city children to a privately owned swim club outside the city.

Transportation of inner city children to swim club.

Transportation of adults to "supervise" inner city children.

If any food and drink supplied, we paid for it.

John


I love this, from domelight.

What their taxes paid for: Your job.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:44 PM on July 9, 2009 [26 favorites]


No chance that the kids were ill-behaved and the club was absolutely justified in not wanting them, and then the president of the club made an epic mistake in his choice of words?

I feel that this was a case of a few people in positions of power being sloppy and careless with their language and living in a place where that sort of thing is easier to get away with when the media is not breathing down their necks. So a few poorly thought words and a poorly thought decision turned something that could have been an "oh heck we're sorry you got a hard time by our jerkish members, let's figure out how to make it work" into a big problematic cluserfuck that, yeah, is a PR disaster.

And I say this as a lifeguard, having 60 kids show up, even the most well-behaved kids in the world, totally changes the way the pool works. You need more lifeguards. You have less free space. The place is noisy. Lap swimmers get all washed out. The locker room becomes an inland sea because it's not being cleaned enough. The showers are full of staring children. This sort of thing happens where I (occasionally) work at the pool and we get enough sideways comments about "those people" in those cases. However since it's Vermont "those people" are generally the same race, but they're poor. And sometimes, and I'm not saying this is happening in the case here in the FPP, sometimes that means they don't quite now how to work within a pool club atmosphere.

It's really the job of the adults -- parents and lifeguards and yes other members of the pool club -- to help the kids fit in and it shows a failure of everyone that this went as badly as it did. Just one or two people standing up and setting the tone could have had this going a whole other way, with members being informed in advance (this happens at my pool too, you show up expecting to swim and there are 30x as many people as usual in the pool), lifeguards being deputized to call in other lifeguards if that was the problem, and the pool management finding a way to get paid and not turn this into the huge morass that it's become.

Shame on the people for making pointed racial remarks at a bunch of children who were coming to go swimming. I don't care how inconvenienced you are, that's just never okay.
posted by jessamyn at 3:46 PM on July 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Now I think I am going to write an email to the mayor regarding the domelights page, saying I will never, ever visit the city of Philadelphia until I feel certain that there is a police force there whose job is to protect and serve me, and not merely the people whose race or gender or class or politics or sexual preference they happen to share.

Put it on MetaFilter Projects, I'm sure a LOT of us would sign it.
posted by jessamyn at 3:47 PM on July 9, 2009 [20 favorites]


i really wish somewhere, anywhere, that the entire statement from the president of the club would be posted. the original page that reported it has the ellipses and then every other page just pulled the quote from there. it sure looks terrible, but taking the beginning, middle, and end of a statement out so it's more shocking is bad reporting no matter what the topic.
posted by nadawi at 3:49 PM on July 9, 2009


People who are saying this is a matter of class not race are right.

It's a demonstration of an appalling lack of it in some of the club's members.

Online no one knows you're African American, Hispanic, Latino or Asian!

Reminds me of a family friend calling to reserve a roller rink for a party in Fort Lauderdale. Tthis was about 25 years ago, and our friend, like me, didn't "sound black."

So she calls them and asks about reservations. According to her the guy was super-friendly and helpful, and took all her information about party size, time, etc. Then, trying to be even more helpful to what he thought was the nice white lady on the other side of the phone, he told her "Don't hold your party on Friday, ma'am. That's when the spooks come."

"Excuse me, the what?" she said.

"The spooks -- you know, the blacks."

"Well, you're talking to a spook right now. Goodbye."

I've always admired how well she handled that. Just like the day campers and their parents in this story. They're a lot better than me. I'm normally a pretty nice guy, but I've pretty much had it with these motherfucking racists on this motherfucking planet, to paraphrase one SL Jackson.
posted by lord_wolf at 3:58 PM on July 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


I've pretty much had it with these motherfucking racists on this motherfucking planet

QFT.
posted by yeloson at 4:04 PM on July 9, 2009


I've been wanting to vote for Angela Davis for President for decades.

Me too, but this cop kept stopping me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:09 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


People who are saying this is a matter of class not race are right.

Is it? According to "Jan's" interview the pool club is located in a working-class neighborhood. Reports indicate that the parents of the children in Creative Steps Day Camp pay a fee for their participation. I'd assume, then, that class distinction is not necessarily at play here. It's not like there is a class distinction being: "poor ghetto kids" vs. "wealthy upper-middle class families."

See The Straightener's comment regarding the demographics of Northeast Philly.
posted by ericb at 4:14 PM on July 9, 2009


"The Valley Club charged her $1,950 for the weekly privileges, which Wright paid in full, in advance, from parents' fees."
posted by ericb at 4:23 PM on July 9, 2009


I'm sorry lord_wolf but you just reminded me of this....

Navin: "Select class. Very, very good."

Boss: "We'll keep the eggplants out!"

Navin: "Ah good! We don't want any vegetables."

Con Man: "Na, na. The jungle bunnies!"

Navin: "Oh of course! They'll eat the vegetables!"

Con Man: "Boss, could I talk to him? We're going to keep out the niggers!"

Navin: "The what?"

Boss: "The niggers! We'll keep 'em out."

Navin: "Sir, you are talking to a nigger!"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:24 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"you might want to close up your comments, because a group of racists is running wild on it"

Yes, let's scrub it clean so that no one can point to it and call us racists. POOF! No racism here!
posted by 2sheets at 4:25 PM on July 9, 2009


(ericb, imagine there's a colon between the 1st two sentences in my post rather than a period. ;-) )
posted by lord_wolf at 4:26 PM on July 9, 2009


(ericb, imagine there's a colon between the 1st two sentences in my post rather than a period. ;-) )

Colon? Thanks much for bringing my sexuality into the conversation. ;-)
posted by ericb at 4:29 PM on July 9, 2009


Yes, let's scrub it clean so that no one can point to it and call us racists. POOF! No racism here!

Yes. And If a small group a racists starts aggressively making extensive use of Metafilter, we should likewise leave it up, because otherwise we are just whitewashing the presence of racism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:35 PM on July 9, 2009


I worked for 7 summers at a residential camp about an hour outside Philadelphia, during the late 80s/early 90s. Varying week by week, about 30-60% of the campers were white, city and suburban kids, and the other 70%-40% were black, mixed-race, Hispanic, and various other ethnicities, coming from Philadelphia or from cities in Southern NJ.

The area around the camp was largely white. We used to take the kids to the town movies-on-the-green, and to the fireworks. Every single time we went I was conscious of the reactions of people around us. Every now and then there'd be a small run-in with locals where slurs started to make an appearance. I've never felt so protective of any group as I did of our camp kids when we took them into the surrounding communities.

We also rented a local private pool to give lessons. We rented it completely, though, and there were no other users. Yes, 60 kids is a lot, but we routinely guarded pools full of kids numbering up to 80 or 90. We would need three to four lifeguards for this, we'd sector out the pool, constantly count heads, do a 'buddy' drill every 10 minutes, and break up any areas of 'horseplay.'

It does require attention and guarding to make sure things stay calm, but if that staffing is present, kids can have fun in the water without being at all inappropriate. And in my own experience growing up in a part of NJ where there were many private pools, public fee-based pools, and beach clubs with pools, 60 kids was not an unusual amount of kids at all. The public pool in Long Branch where we swam a lot was always packed with kids, and could certainly accommodate 100 kids. I don't think there's anything about the nature of a sizeable enough pool that can't accommodate large swimmer groups. As pool operators, this swim club would be required to have documentation on pool capacity, number of guards required per number of swimmers, etc. The guards would have routine methods for controlling pool activity, given that on any weekend day they might easily just have 60 kids show up ad hoc because it's hot, and that many such pools are the site of birthday parties, even rentals, etc. And given that legal responsibility, there's no way they didn't have a plan for handling 60 kids. They just changed their tune when the membership objected to the makeup of the group.

I taught swim lessons at my camp. We started at age 7, so we taught a lot of people to swim. Very generally speaking, it is the inner-city kids who definitely have less opportunity to practice swimming in their lives. Kids from more affluent families, from the suburbs, etc, not only had lessons with us but sometimes at the Y, occasionally at school, and often had access to pools like the one in this story. They sometimes vacationed at the beach or a lake or hotels with pools. They just got more opportunities to swim. In addition, it was probably more likely that their parents could swim and placed a lot of importance on those kids learning to swim, with the expectation that they'd be around water more often. I think the 'black people can't swim' meme does arise from the lazy generalization that inner-city people have access to much less swim education and chances to swim. It's a dumb generalization, though. My paternal grandparents couldn't swim. A lot of people of their generation were poor swimmers, black and white.

A disgusting story. IT deserves to blow up as it has. Still, it can't be ignored that there are many many more clubs just like this - swim clubs, country clubs, tennis clubs - in that area, in NJ and NY and beyond - that are just as exclusive, if perhaps a bit slicker about being so. IMO that might be legal but it should be shameful. We're on the way.
posted by Miko at 4:47 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Please don't miss the thread on Domelights, Philly's cop forum.

From a poster who calls himself Grammar Police:

"There is a reason why these clubs have to be private. We don't want the "rift raft" in there. Sorry, go to the FREE city pools and cause problems like you always do!!!!"


Perhaps its just me but there's something faintly tragic about a cop who identifies himself using a handle that signifies his interest in and expertise with language, and then fails over a commonly used expression like riff raff.

It's also sad because it reinforces the image of cops as being morons who are still more comfortable with a billy club than they are with a book.

Cue the usual string of cop-defenders, who'll try and tell us that I'm being prescriptive and that rift-raft is a commonly expression for the hoi-polloi among Philidelphia's finest.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:54 PM on July 9, 2009


Ugh. Commonly used expression. Obv.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:55 PM on July 9, 2009


Years ago I worked for a country club in Raleigh. I suspect this swim club has this in common with it: management pretty has to kiss the rears of the membership. And if your membership is racist it doesn't matter if your management and staff isn't.

Some days I am flat embarrassed to be white and this is one of them.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


POOL'S CLOSED

A comment that perfectly encapsulates the reported incident, the swimming club's response, and every contentious comment in this thread.

What do we call that?

Echanysterical?

An h4iku?
posted by jack_mo at 5:00 PM on July 9, 2009


I guess the other thing, as I think about this more, is the absolute lack of "handling it" that this pool club has done. Like okay, the main issue sucks, cancelling the paid-for swim time at the club. But the larger (to me) issue, the weird racial angle and the lack of total "That sort of shit is never okay and we're stunned and embarassed that anyone at our club would ever say anything like that to anyone ever and we've rescinded their membership I am so sorry please have the rest of your swim time for free this is so embarassing" apologies from the club speaks volumes.

I can get how you can't police all your members at all times to make sure they don't talk shit for whatever stupid reason. But you can make it crystal clear, to your members and to the entire world after the fact, that that sort of behavior is so wildly inappropriate that you'd rather lose their business than harbor the likes of them. And this is the real problem, instead of some sincere embarassment and "let us make it up to you" behavior, there seems to be a closing of ranks and a "you see, this is what happens...." tut-tutting and we're all set back twenty or fifty years by our own pseudopoliteness and not wanting to call out our friends and neighbors as being inappropriate and embarassing to us.
posted by jessamyn at 5:02 PM on July 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


We don't want the "rift raft" in there.

That writer is already on the rift raft.
posted by shetterly at 5:04 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


"We don't want the "rift raft" in there.

And here I was hoping that was a super-elegant pun describing the chasm between black and white in an aquatic setting.

But I suppose not. Like Professor Petty says, I guess even the losers get lucky sometimes.
posted by rokusan at 5:07 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The next time some jackass tells me that racism in America is over, I'm gonna push him in the deep end.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:12 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher or heathkit, do you have any links to anyone seriously saying racism is over? I've begun to wonder if the white person who thinks racism is over is the vanishing hitchhiker of the 21st century. I realize it's a useful and funny meme--there are plenty of people who underestimate the effect of race in class dynamics--but has anyone ever actually claimed it's true?
posted by shetterly at 5:14 PM on July 9, 2009


Out of the more than two dozen white families swimming at the pool that day, Wright said, just three parents allowed their children to swim with her campers.

At our public pool, one lifeguard plus one supervisor, is enough to manage 2 dozen parents with 1-2 toddlers each in the kiddie pool, a dozen teenagers milling about, and 15-20 adults in the lap pool. For party rentals up to 90 people, they add one more lifeguard. Either way, any unruly or unsafe behavior gets called out immediately. They run a tight ship.

So I'm finding it hard to imagine how "two adult counselors...in the pool" plus "two lifeguards on either side" plus a "supervisor" might make 3-12 families plus 65 well-behaved children more than the staff could handle. Not, especially, when they've had several weeks to notify members and prepare adequate staffing ("In early June, Alethea Wright...registered her 65 campers...The special arrangement...was approved by its board and was to run from June 29th...).

Sadly, it sounds like the board wanted to do the right thing, but caved to pressure from their members. Shame on them for knowingly standing on the side of racists. The only thing more odious than overt bigotry is being complicit in its effects. The board's cowardice has served to embolden odious behavior and endorse shitty attitudes. What a failure of leadership.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:21 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


that domelights thread is as nauseating as the story itself -
and indicates that if this is the reaction of the police force - one of the standard bearers of society - then no matter how the pool tries to spin this afterwards,
that's some nasty racism going down in Philly

this assessment is enforced by one domelights posters stating:

"We're getting mighty close to a Rule 112 infraction. Watch yourselves people."

which seems to be a warning of not releasing information an official incident (please correct me if this reading or citation is incorrect).
posted by sloe at 5:24 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope I can sign it even though I live in Philadelphia. And, unfortunately, this attitude seems to be the rule rather than the exception among police departments.
posted by Mister_A at 5:42 PM on July 9, 2009


After reading The Straightener's horrifying Domelights link, I just wonder how many of those posters are actual police officers and how many of them are jock-sniffing cop wannabes with no actual connection to law enforcement. You know... the kind of people that got so outraged by Obama's "they are bitter and cling to guns" comment that they turned bitter and clung to their guns.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:45 PM on July 9, 2009


Ach, go probe yourself Arlen you old blow-hard. Go investigate the Phillies starting pitching you sack of shit.

Sadly, this makes me nostalgic for the time I lived in the Philadelphia area. Fortunately, it passes.
posted by jonp72 at 5:50 PM on July 9, 2009


The thing with Specter is he is just such a craven opportunist. He always has to be on the winning team. He dreams up money-wasting sops to the electorate like investigating the friggin' New England Patriots. I know politicians all kind of do this, but it seems like he does it more than most.
posted by Mister_A at 5:58 PM on July 9, 2009


"We don't want the "rift raft" in there.

Yep. I reckon we don't want no Huck and no nigger Jim "drifting down the big, still river" on a raft together. After all that Jim was "stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches." Yes-en, it not right that there be whites and blacks agoing together. No way. After all "Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."
posted by ericb at 6:02 PM on July 9, 2009


You guys can rag on Arlen Specter all you want, but when my step-dad was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in late 2007, it was Senator Specter's example that gave me the confidence he'd come through it okay. I'll always appreciate Arlen Specter for that.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:15 PM on July 9, 2009


It seems to me that a "members only" swim club would tend to attract more racist folks than the free city pools. Those racists like being exclusive, you know?

By the way, this place is outside of Philly's city limits, so you can't blame us Philly people for this one!

Yes, I know there are racists here, but we keep doing our best to push'em out into the suburbs!

posted by orme at 6:16 PM on July 9, 2009


Is racism over? Ask Conservative pundit Bill Bennett.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:23 PM on July 9, 2009


sloe, I'm betting it's a different set of rules:

Domelights Rule #112: It is racist to make any kind of distinction between races that does not show blacks in a positive light.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 6:32 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remind me not to visit Philadelphia.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 6:32 PM on July 9, 2009


Hey, finally found something on pool occupancy guidelines. It's from Clayton County, which is on earth somewhere. Anyway, looks like the max occupancy is basically 1 person/15 sq ft, with some adjustments in either direction depending on deck space available. Assuming a 25m x 10m pool, capacity should be at least 150 people. So, if that's the size of the pool (stands to reason; probably lanes in there for fitness swimmers, etc.) 60 or 70 kids on a Monday during daycamp hours should not bring you anywhere near maximum occupancy.

Here's the pdf I found on the subject.
posted by Mister_A at 6:38 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ahh, bad link, sorry. Here's a webpage with the info.
posted by Mister_A at 6:42 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


When reading the domelight did anyone expect to see:

HercBear2323: hey has anyone seen my cameraaa????????? prolly sum corner boy running around with it again but i nreally need it back, if anyone picks someone up with my camera let me know !!! :p
posted by geoff. at 6:43 PM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


As disgusting as Domelights is, this is pretty standard for police forces in all cities, as far as I know. The NYPD Rant forum is just as vile.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:46 PM on July 9, 2009


"The club includes more than 10 acres of land and a 110,000-gallon pool."

Depending on the gradiant (3 ft. to 8 ft.?) how big a pool do they have which can hold 110,000-gallons? What's the recommended "pool occupancy" for such?

Next up -- how many beans could we stuff in a 110,000-gallon pool?
posted by ericb at 6:47 PM on July 9, 2009


yikes, thanks haltingproblemsolved
posted by sloe at 6:50 PM on July 9, 2009


Ron Thanagar, I can't exactly thank you for making me watch Bill Bennett, but I should've known he would never fail to get his foot in his mouth somehow.

Oddly, he mentioned the Bradley effect, which he should've known had been debunked. I would've expected him to have at least seen the LA Times article or the post at 538.

But then, Bennett's ability to be wrong should never be underestimated.
posted by shetterly at 6:51 PM on July 9, 2009


Remind me not to visit Philadelphia.

To be fair -- don't diss the entire city and area.

There are numerous and frequent racial incidents every year in U.S. cities -- Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., etc.

Let not the actions/words of the few affect your potential visit to these metropolises.
posted by ericb at 6:52 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


110,000 U.S. gallons is about 416 cubic metres. A pool that is 25 metres long by 8 metres wide with an average depth of 2 metres would be 400 cubic metres.
posted by Rumple at 7:07 PM on July 9, 2009


Another great Racism is Over moment that you may have already seen: Brian Kilmeade explains how in America we intermarry species, including Irish and Italians, and thus don't remain "pure."
posted by small_ruminant at 7:19 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


But then, Bennett's ability to be wrong should never be underestimated.
posted by shetterly


I apologize profusely for subjecting you to Bill Bennett, whom I am at a loss to explain as to why anyone would listen to, unless you need a spokesman for the poor picked-upon well-off white majority.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:16 PM on July 9, 2009


Ron, I can't hold it against you; you provided me with exactly the example I asked for. Bennett should be remembered forever for saying this: "Hypocrisy is better than no standards at all."

small_ruminant, much as I expect Kilmeade to issue some sort of apology, he sounds too far out there to be an "racism is over" guy. He seems like a "racism is realism" guy.
posted by shetterly at 8:39 PM on July 9, 2009


What enrages me the most is that (at least in my imagination) the adults that caused massive hurt among a group of schoolkids will probably never give it much of a second thought.
posted by Monsters at 8:53 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of...
An old woman died and left a bunch of land to the very wealthy city of Atherton (SF Bay area) for a park about 15 years ago. They decided to build a pool, for which they would charge many thousands a year to join if you wanted to swim. Not racist, but very definitely class-ist, since the very wealthy residents of Atherton would have no problem paying. I was disgusted.

But, it turned out that the old woman had once witnessed a small child drowning in a pool. It was discovered that as a result, in her bequest to the city she specifically disallowed any pool to be built on the property. When this got out the city claimed that they were sure that there was some way around this clause. It was so plainly and clearly worded, though, that they had to abandon the rich folks only public pool.

I never found out what they did with the property--probably a park surrounded by a 15' high electrified fence and $500 entrance fee.
posted by eye of newt at 9:02 PM on July 9, 2009


Gotta love when police are openly racist while representing the city they work in on a forum that's "the voice of the good guys".

With good guys like that, who needs bad guys?
posted by autobahn at 9:07 PM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know of any police forum where overt racism isn't the norm? I'm genuinely curious here.
posted by Talanvor at 10:14 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


NAACP Responds to Racial Exclusion of Children at a Philadelphia Swimming Pool.
posted by ericb at 11:01 PM on July 9, 2009


"The club was founded in 1954, at a time when Philadelphia was being pressured to desegregate its public pools."
posted by ericb at 11:03 PM on July 9, 2009


I see the story has come out that the club banned several daycares at the same time, because the other members didn't want a lot of kids there all the time. The one, mostly black, daycare just decided to play the race card because they knew the media and others would jump all over it, and they did. We are a world of whiners and self-made victims.
posted by acetonic at 11:49 PM on July 9, 2009


I see the story has come out that the club banned several daycares at the same time...

From the Board: ""In early June, Alethea Wright, founder and director of 13-year-old Creative Steps, registered her 65 campers - online - to use the pool on Monday afternoons from 3:30 to 5. The special arrangement, a first for the club, was approved by its board and was to run from June 29th through Aug. 10th."

From a "Club Member": "[Jim Flynn] said two other day-care centers, neither of which included minority children, had previously been similarly disinvited."

Who to believe. The Board? Or, a "member?"
posted by ericb at 12:05 AM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Some children have asked...whether they are 'too dark' to swim in the pool."
posted by ericb at 12:12 AM on July 10, 2009


Swim Club Now in Disarray after Discrimination
“....All Creative Steps founder Alethea Wright was trying to do was find a place for her kids to swim on Mondays.

With their neighborhood Frankford pool closed because of city budget cuts, the Oxford Circle campers did find a new home at the Klein Branch of the Jewish Community Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And after the signing the contract and paying the $1,900 fee, Wright thought they had a home at the Valley Club, too, on Mondays.

But once the 65 black and brown kindergartners-through-seventh-graders showed up, it was a different story.

One by one, the campers said, the 20 or so white children who were in the pool began to exit.

‘They didn't like the color of my skin. It makes me feel mad. And sad,’ says camper Jabriel Brown, 12.

‘I didn't understand because we're all the same. We're just a different color,’ 9-year-old camper Kevina Day Morris says.

‘The [Valley Club] parents were standing there with their arms crossed,’ Wright recalled yesterday. ‘I was hearing comments like, 'They won't be back here.' [Club president John] Duesler told me not to worry, that he would handle it.’

Apparently, the way Duesler handled it was to refund Wright's check and tell her that the club membership overthrew his decision ‘by voting to disinvite us,’ Wright said.

Well, that's news to Valley Club member Jim Flynn. Standing in front of the club - which was padlocked yesterday - Flynn seethed over the way he said Duesler has handled things.

‘To my knowledge, the members were not involved in any of the decision-making,’ says Flynn, 41, a Fox Chase resident who pays a $700 membership for a family of four. ‘As far as I know, all we recommended was to change the time that [the campers] came, from the afternoons to a nonpeak time. We never recommended to disinvite them.’

As for Duesler's ‘complexion’ comment, he said, ‘I couldn't believe he said that. It was insensitive and inflammatory. Look, I'm not naive enough to think that racism doesn't exist here, but I don't want the good people's names at this club to be smeared.’

It would be nice to get Duesler's take on the whole mess. But the club president's still not answering his phone. Neither is the director. And when I called the club secretary, someone answered the phone and hung up on me.

But you can't hang up on the world. In just three days, this story has gone viral. CNN, NBC, and ABC News were on the scene yesterday. And outraged citizens protested outside.

Yet no matter how much outside pressure is applied, the truth is, change must come from the inside out.

Because this isn't about complexion or atmospheric change, but about kids having a good summer.

‘I know everybody isn't like that. I've got a lot of white friends and they're not like that,’ Dymir Baylor said.

‘It doesn't matter where we swim. We just want to have fun.’”
posted by ericb at 12:31 AM on July 10, 2009


Agency investigating alleged discrimination at pool.
posted by ericb at 1:11 AM on July 10, 2009


Swim Club Now in Disarray after Discrimination

See they were right, those kids did change the atmosphere of the club!

Serves those fuckers right too.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:33 AM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know what? I don't think we're over racism yet.
posted by kalessin at 4:59 AM on July 10, 2009


acetonic: I see the story has come out that the club banned several daycares at the same time, because the other members didn't want a lot of kids there all the time. The one, mostly black, daycare just decided to play the race card because they knew the media and others would jump all over it, and they did. We are a world of whiners and self-made victims.

Please provide a citation to support your first claim. Also, I believe "whiners and self-made victims" is a square on my Racist Bingo card. "Race card" is another square...
posted by muddgirl at 5:33 AM on July 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


I see the story has come out that the club banned several daycares at the same time, because the other members didn't want a lot of kids there all the time. The one, mostly black, daycare just decided to play the race card because they knew the media and others would jump all over it, and they did. We are a world of whiners and self-made victims.
posted by acetonic


Any response to ericb's comment, or are you too much of a coward to come back?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:17 AM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


We are a world of whiners and self-made victims.

You need to self-make yourself a little smarter, chump.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:45 AM on July 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


We are a world of whiners and self-made victims.

They kicked out Rush Libaugh, too?!
posted by dirigibleman at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it's interesting that this is a story which may well have fallen under the radar, even 3 years ago. But the ever-widening power of "going viral" on the internet has made it pretty much impossible for a situation like this to get the chance to die down quietly.

This is likely both a blessing and a curse.
posted by hippybear at 8:21 AM on July 10, 2009


I live in a rapidly gentrifying, inner city neighbourhood with a city-run pool. Last year, the mostly white upper middle class mothers forced the pool to open in the morning just for them, because the "other kids" were too rowdy. Because you just know how those black kids are.

Being as there is a separate kiddy pool and all, which gets a lot of use during open swim hours by the poor blacks and whites in the neighbourhood, I'm not sure rowdiness was their real objection. I've never seen unsupervised kids in the kiddy pool or rowdiness.

So, it doesn't have to be a private swim club to be racist.
posted by QIbHom at 8:46 AM on July 10, 2009


"The one, mostly black, daycare just decided to play the race card because they knew the media and others would jump all over it, and they did."

Yes and all of those racist citizens and cops spewing all of that venom now are really liberal agitators trying to stir up trouble.
Like I said earlier, regardless of what happened in the initial incident, the scab is off and the festering sore is there for all to see, and acetonic's little contribution is all too predictable.
posted by 2sheets at 9:01 AM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of my friends is a community youth & education activist in Philadelphia. He posted this essay on FaceBook and I'm reprinting it here with his permission. I thought it was excellent food for thought and gets to some much larger points. I urged him to send it as an op-ed to some of the city papers.
Over the last few days I have gotten dozens of emails encouraging people to protest against this private swim club that kicked out a group of young people of color. All of this attention on on this issue has been concerning me, and I am trying to figure out why. I will do my best to explain my perspective here. Feel free to challenge me on this. Its not that I think the behavior of the swim club is acceptable. Its not, but I think these kinds of acts of overt discrimination draw all of the attention of anti-racist organizers while we miss the more insidious ways that modern racism operates.

Thousands of young people of color (and some white working class folks too) are being denied access to pools everyday in Philadelphia because of a recent round of closures to public pools (this is likely what caused that day camp to look to the private club for a place to swim). These pool closures effect far more people than this one swim club incident. Yet there is no national outcry about these closures. The closures are also part of an agenda to cut basic services to mostly of color poor communities in Philadelphia. Taxes and services are being cut in order to draw a gentrifying middle class back to the city.

Racism today is not just a matter of explicitly denying people access to services because of skin color. The structural and institutional forms of racism that keep communities of color poor are far more prevalent. While these more subtle forms of racism are harder to pinpoint, they do at least as much, if not more, damage to communities of color.

My concern is that all of our attention can easily be drawn to condemning this swim club. Meanwhile we missing the larger structural forms of racism that actually helped create this very situation. The swim club is an easy target because it is so overt, but attacking racism today means not just going for the easy targets. Instead we must develop a critical analysis of the true roots of racism in modern society and attack there.

If, as activists, we fail to develop this kind of analysis, even if we are successful in our organizing, we run the risk of creating a society where no one is denied access to private swim clubs because of race while the majority of young people of color still have nowhere to swim. I don’t think that’s what we want. The folks in power would like us define racism as simple discrimination because then we are busy condemning private swim club owners and the like while the powerful are free to continue their agenda of destroying communities of color.

So I write this because I would like to caution us not to fall into this trap. To really uproot racism we must understand the way that race and economics are intertwined. We must build movements that constantly analyze these conditions and attack this system at its roots.

I think it is great that people want to help move racial justice forward in Philadelphia. If you want to protest the private swim club, that’s fine, but if you have energy to spend on Philly I would urge you to join with the Coalition to Save the Libraries that has been building a multi-racial coalition against budget cuts http://coalitiontosavethelibraries.blogspot.com/. There will be a rally on Tuesday at noon at City Hall.

I guess I get concerned when incidents like this one at the swim club draw all of this attention, while the more systemic forms of oppression are ignored. I know its easier to organize around an incident than it is to organize around prevailing conditions, but I think that if we are serious about ending racism and other oppressions we must take on the hard work of building movements that address these larger issues.
posted by Miko at 9:06 AM on July 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


The closures are also part of an agenda to cut basic services to mostly of color poor communities in Philadelphia. Taxes and services are being cut in order to draw a gentrifying middle class back to the city.

This is not correct. Pools and libraries were cut because of massive budget gaps that were a result of the collapsing economy, not as a tax saving measure to draw middle class gentrifiers to the city. I'm not saying it was the right way to narrow the gap -- which remains a yawning chasm, even with these and other huge cuts combined -- cutting libraries was especially devious as Mayor Nutter stated explicitly in his campaign that he would never, under any circumstances cut library funding, but to his credit this was a crisis decision, not a casual choice aimed at enticing the middle class.

The better argument would be to underline that nationwide real estate developers, lenders and mortgage brokers all made off with tons of cash before letting the system collapse and the damage done is now being exacted from the hides of the neediest people in places like Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods through devastating cuts to federal, state and municipal budgets supporting public services.
posted by The Straightener at 9:56 AM on July 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't doubt that this was racism –the complexion quote from the president of the club seals the deal ...

Perhaps the slip was intentional. From ericb's quote, it's hard to pin the crime of racism on John Duesler.

It seems that Duesler's only crime was assuming that his pool's members weren't opposed to 60+ inner-city kids at the pool for 90 minutes a week.

The more I think about it, the more I think he used "complexion" intentionally b/c he was pissed at the members who outvoted him.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:03 AM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


When this story first broke on Wednesday, I posted it to my facebook page. A high school friend who lives in Philly wrote this response (emphasis mine).
OMG. That is the pool we go to. I remembered seeing a posting that no summer camps were going to be permitted to come to the pool a week or so ago, but obviously didn't say anything about race. *shakes head*
A couple people responded to the story, and he commented once more (again, emphasis mine):
We are not really happy right now. I am hoping there is a reasonable explanation. At the very least, even if there wasn't any racism involved, this has been handled poorly thus far. I have read a couple different stories - what I think is true is that this is the first time they contracted with day camps and were unprepared to handle them. I don't think they kept them from coming in, it looks like the kids were playing at the pool, something happened, and they were told to leave. A few days later, the camp was told they wouldn't be coming back and (the club) would refund their money. I don't know. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this.
And indeed we have.

Unfortunately, I don't know the relationship in time between his seeing that posting and the Creative Steps daycare being uninvited. Could the posting have been meant to apply to camps that had not made pre-arrangements and paid a fee? Possibly. But I have no reason to doubt that he saw this posting.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:20 AM on July 10, 2009


The closures are also part of an agenda to cut basic services to mostly of color poor communities in Philadelphia. Taxes and services are being cut in order to draw a gentrifying middle class back to the city.

This is not correct. Pools and libraries were cut because of massive budget gaps that were a result of the collapsing economy, not as a tax saving measure to draw middle class gentrifiers to the city. I'm not saying it was the right way to narrow the gap -- which remains a yawning chasm, even with these and other huge cuts combined -- cutting libraries was especially devious as Mayor Nutter stated explicitly in his campaign that he would never, under any circumstances cut library funding, but to his credit this was a crisis decision, not a casual choice aimed at enticing the middle class.


I agree that Miko's friend simplifies and draws an erroneous claim here. Especially since some of those libraries threatened with cuts are not in the poorest neighborhoods. But is the economy the real issue with our city's massive budget problem, or was that just the straw that broke the camels back under the weight of payouts, perks, and the wink-wink lack of accountability for budgets managed by the political pals of the previous several administrations?
posted by desuetude at 11:57 AM on July 10, 2009


Just for the record, I am not well informed about Philadelphia politics - I can't evaluate the claims about budget constraints and they may well be oversimplified or incorrect. For that I'm sorry. I thought it worth posting, though, for the broad point about the way inflammatory incidents can sometimes obscure ongoing systemic issues.
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on July 10, 2009


I thought it worth posting, though, for the broad point about the way inflammatory incidents can sometimes obscure ongoing systemic issues.

Miko, I liked this aspect of the note quite a lot. Thanks for posting it.
posted by desuetude at 1:49 PM on July 10, 2009


Spent all afternoon up there to get red meat for the Daily Beast. Pool club's a dump, fence around it is rusting and falling down, weeds growing up through cracks in the parking lot asphalt. Vacant office building across the street with a weedy, overgrown lawn and graffiti on the walls. Neighborhood is what I thought, totally Orthodox, looks more like Crown Heights than the burbs, lots of two story brick row houses. Took a phone pic, here. That's directly over the fence from the pool, so any talk of this being a wealthy suburban thing needs to be squashed. There were dudes in black suits, yarmulkes and big beards everywhere. One of them talked to me, had some interesting stuff to say. The Daily Beast wanted me to give them Archie Bunker, and he wasn't hard to find, literally the first two dudes I approached in a nearby stripmall went off about Mexicans and Section 8 queens, totally gave names and on the record. The whole thing seriously took twenty minutes, I was worried I would have to go back tomorrow morning but you seriously throw a rock up there and you'll hit a bigot.
posted by The Straightener at 6:22 PM on July 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


People should throw more rocks, then.
posted by klangklangston at 8:59 PM on July 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


As a somewhat bitter old punk myself, I can only echo BitterOldPunk.
posted by Duke999R at 2:26 AM on July 11, 2009


If Philadelphia is anything like Baltimore, Miko's friend is correct. I've heard city council members say, publicly, that taxes must be lowered to attract gentrifiers, because they pay taxes. And that closing rec centres, pools, reducing library services, etc. is simply the price that must be paid.
posted by QIbHom at 5:41 AM on July 11, 2009


any talk of this being a wealthy suburban thing needs to be squashed

Well, yes and no. Having lived in Philly, I remember well the general area, which as you say is basically second or third generation immigrants in the lower-middle class. However, that doesn't mean this isn't about white flight; those neighborhoods can have a fair amount of ignorant xenophobia going on.

Meanwhile, pool clubs, golf clubs, and other facilities like that around the country were definitely created to give people of more affluence the ability to discriminate because they were private rather than public entities. Some of them have remained wealthy, some are middle class or lower-middle class, but the general talk about why so many private recreational facilities exist does have a lot to do with legal integration. The WPA pools and public park pools had to accommodate everyone. The only solution for those who wanted to continue to bar access to whatever group they defined as unsavory was to privatize facilities.
posted by Miko at 5:52 PM on July 11, 2009


And about that pic...look at the cars. That ain't poverty.
posted by Miko at 5:53 PM on July 11, 2009


Where did I say it was poor?

Btw, here's another phone pic. That's fence that surrounds the place and its parking lot. It ain't affluent.
posted by The Straightener at 10:48 PM on July 11, 2009


I'm just happy to see the both of you using the word "ain't", which is an excellent but rather underused term here at MetaFilter.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:59 AM on July 12, 2009


It ain't affluent.

It's not well manicured. But I've seen lots of other neighborhoods where despite its looking run down, incomes and property values were pretty high. North Jersey comes to mind.

I'm just making two points: 1. just because it doesn't fit one's image of suburban affluence doesn't mean it can't be exclusive, racist, and moneyed, and 2. it remains true that private recreational facilities are historically largely a response to integration of public accommodations.
posted by Miko at 5:16 AM on July 12, 2009


19006 is an affluent (median household income: $73,385) suburban zip code in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. The population is primarily white, older, and mostly married couples. At $218,400 the average home value here is a bit higher than average for the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metro area, so this probably isn't the place to look for housing bargains.

Huntingdon Valley is a decidedly white-collar town, with fully 89.89% of the workforce employed in white-collar jobs, well above the national average. Overall, Huntingdon Valley is a town of professionals, sales and office workers, and managers. There are especially a lot of people living in Huntingdon Valley who work in sales jobs (16.09%), office and administrative support jobs (14.60%), and management occupations (11.56%).

Also of interest is that Huntingdon Valley has more people living here who work in computers and math than 95% of the places in the US.

In addition, Huntingdon Valley is home to many people who could be described as "urban sophisticates." Urban sophisticates are people who are both educated and wealthy, and thus tend to be older, richer, and more established than young professionals. "Urban sophisticates" is not just about being educated and well-off financially: it is a point of view and state of mind, one that you might call 'urbaneness.' But such people can and do regularly live in small towns, suburbs and rural areas, as well as in big cities. They read, support the arts and high-end shops, and love travel.

The education level of Huntingdon Valley citizens is very high relative to the national average among all cities (14.96%): 44.92% of adults in Huntingdon Valley have a bachelor's degree or even advanced degree.

The per capita income in Huntingdon Valley in 2000 was $38,748, which is wealthy relative to Pennsylvania and the nation. This equates to an annual income of $154,992 for a family of four.

The people who call Huntingdon Valley home come from a variety of different races and ancestries. The most prevalent race in Huntingdon Valley is White, followed by Asian. Important ancestries of people in Huntingdon Valley include German, Irish, Russian, Italian, English, and Polish.

The most common language spoken in Huntingdon Valley is English. Other important languages spoken here include Russian and Korean.
BrainyZip:

Huntingdon Valley U.S. average
Median family income (dollars) 91,021 50,046
Per capita income (dollars) 38,748 21,587
Families below poverty level 94 1.6 9.2%
Individuals below poverty level 641 3.2 12.4

These are all things to take into account when evaluating the neighborhood, and they doin't point to a characterization of the area as poverty-stricken or incapable of affording some white flight.
posted by Miko at 5:38 AM on July 12, 2009


Miko, you are posting about a place you don't know from 1000 miles away. The swim club is literally on the Philadelphia border, less than a mile away and you are in the Greater Northeast part of the city. Huntingdon Valley stretches further up into Montgomery County, which is a very wealthy County, but this particular part is actually an Orthodox enclave that is very working-to-middle class and culturally is indistinguishable from the rest of the "Greater Northeast," as the area is called by locals. I would respectfully ask you to consider the possibility that in this particular instance you don't know what you are talking about.

I mean, "urban sophisticates?" Are you kidding me? The Orthodox Jewish guy I talked to characterized them as the white trash people who scream Jew at his family when they walk on the street and whose children paint Swastikas on his church door.

And stop implying that I said this area was poverty stricken. Where did I say that? For Chrissake's, Miko, I know what poverty looks like and what it doesn't look like and you know that.
posted by The Straightener at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2009


Synagogue, whatever.
posted by The Straightener at 7:59 AM on July 12, 2009


Swim club accused of racism to ask kids back.
posted by ericb at 7:28 PM on July 12, 2009


Well, now that Girard stepped to the plate and provided the campers with a non-racist alternative, this is a pretty blatant PR move with zero chance of actually leading to the campers returning. There's no way in hell the club thinks this overture might actually lead to an acceptance, so it's costless. And cowardly.

This is like a drunk driver offering to buy a drink for the person he just ran over and killed. Real nice gesture.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:40 PM on July 12, 2009


Hey The Straightener, Inga Saffron falls all over herself calling the club posh. Given your cameraphone photo, she didn't bother to visit and check it out.
posted by desuetude at 9:52 PM on July 12, 2009


Saffron's photo is supposed to be of the pool. If so, the place doesn't look like a Klansman's Holiday to me.
posted by shetterly at 11:41 PM on July 12, 2009


shetterly, that looks like a publicity photo to me (note token minority children.) It confirms that yes, there is a pool that appears to be reasonably clean, but it's impossible to tell how nice the facility is with the photo cropped to all heck.

Hey, having access to a pool is better than not having access to a pool, but painting the place as some sort of luxury spa is silly if it's just an average facility in a working-class neighborhood.

If we're going to talk about how class and race play out in this story, let's get the classes right. It's not rich people in posh neighborhoods sneering at poor black children bussed in from the ghetto. It's working class whites sneering at working class blacks (pool fee of 30-some bucks per head was paid by the kids' parents.) This is less-surprising, but sadder, to me.
posted by desuetude at 7:14 AM on July 13, 2009


It would be odd for a racist organization to have a publicity photo that emphasizes a multiracial membership.

Mind you, I'm not saying the photo is representative of the membership. But a publicity photo should be representative of a group's intentions.

How well off they are, I still don't know. A crappy bit of fence out back could mean anything. And assuming the choices are only posh or working class is a bit simple--it could be middle-class working versus lower-class working, etc. (Yeah, describing class in the US is tricky. Just trying to say that gradations exist.) One gradation the photo may suggest: the pool membership may be as inclusive as its members claim, but they're middle-class, so their fear of working class kids may not be a racial issue.

There's a dynamic in the US that capitalist anti-racists constantly ignore: African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.

I don't mean racial issues should ever be ignored, but sometimes a class issue is only a class issue. Whether that's true here, I dunno--the evidence that I've seen is circumstantial, so I'm reserving judgment.

Racism or classism, I am glad the kids have been invited back. Kids should have pools.
posted by shetterly at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2009


Does anyone read the posts down here? Domelights is on the local news tonight. I'll give a report after I hear the news story.
posted by Mister_A at 7:12 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, this stems from the Huntingdon Valley Club. NAACP is filing suit against the police sgt. that runs the site. Lawsuit claims he's using work computers on hours to administer the site. I hope they close it down and shit-can this asswipe.
posted by Mister_A at 7:16 PM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would respectfully ask you to consider the possibility that in this particular instance you don't know what you are talking about.

Well, I used to teach in Conshohocken and live in Philadelphia, so I'm not totally ignorant. But my main point is that your perceptions don't align with the demographic data.
posted by Miko at 9:47 PM on July 16, 2009


I know what poverty looks like and what it doesn't look like and you know that.

No, I have no idea what you know. I just noted that you said "It ain't affluent" and I questioned that; and the data says it's above average in income.
posted by Miko at 9:49 PM on July 16, 2009


Neighborhood is what I thought, totally Orthodox, looks more like Crown Heights than the burbs, lots of two story brick row houses. Took a phone pic, here.

Having been to Philly, I can tell you looks can be very deceiving when it comes to the housing stock. It just seems like everything there is dilapidated as part of some city building code.

look at the cars. That ain't poverty.

Really? All three of those cars are at least eight years old (the Tribute/Explorer in the back there probably looks to be the newest, roughly 2000-2002). All three of them together are worth less than a new Nissan Versa.

I don't know how it is around your neck of the woods, but I see plenty of poor people driving old Volvos. They're cheap (this is a Swedish town still) and they're dependable. Hoopty they ain't, yes, but keep in mind the only people driving anything hoopty are the kids out to restore their grandparents' mid-70s Cadillacs and Buicks.

I'm with des on this being "working class." This isn't affluence. It looks more like quiet desperation.

Meanwhile, pool clubs, golf clubs, and other facilities like that around the country were definitely created to give people of more affluence the ability to discriminate because they were private rather than public entities.

Some were, but not all. I can tell you the proliferation of private pools across south Tulsa weren't about discrimination but about the city not building any pools in the south. You could argue that well, it's about them building pools to keep 'em away from the darkies, but given how segregated Tulsa clear into the 1990s, and given you could count the number of pools in black north Tulsa on one hand during my childhood, I'm one to think it's more a case of people just wanting pools.

Golf clubs it's different. Most are private because they grew out of private clubs for wealthy whites. Municipal courses sprung up because the middle class couldn't afford a country club membership.

There was a wave of establishing post-desegregation white-biased things, I will agree with that. There's still a whole set of "Christian" schools in Mississippi that are essentially the white middle-to-upper class bailing out of a desegregated public school system (which, interesting, are now starting to pick up a lot of middle-class blacks). Ascribing anything private establishing since 1964 as this, though, is disingenuous. I mean, redlining could have established the environment for the pool.
posted by dw at 8:20 AM on July 17, 2009


Also, on the Valley Swim Club being in 19006 -- it's literally sitting on the eastern border of the zip code.

The zip code just on the other side of that border is 19116. According to BrainyZIP:

Somerton US
Median household income (dollars) 44,776 41,994
Median family income (dollars) 53,371 50,046
Per capita income (dollars) 20,285 21,587
Families below poverty level 8.1% 9.2%
Individuals below poverty level 10.0% 12.4%

That ain't affluent. That's working class.

19006 is actually a pretty large zip code, streching across the entire valley, and it's mostly forested. The edges, though, border against several more "urban" enclaves.

Using zip codes for determining demographics is very problematic, since they're about encompassing a certain number of homes/business, much like congressional districts.
posted by dw at 8:35 AM on July 17, 2009


I can tell you the proliferation of private pools across south Tulsa weren't about discrimination but about the city not building any pools in the south.

Richt, and why did Southern citizens not push their municipalities to build public pools?

Using zip codes for determining demographics is very problematic, since they're about encompassing a certain number of homes/business, much like congressional districts.


Sure, I get it. But we're talking about a membership organization, as well. Not every member of this swim club comes from the neighborhood directly around the swim club. It'd be more telling to look at the area from which the membership is drawn.

MeFi's definitions of 'affluent' and 'middle class' are darned interesting. Those cars, that neighborhood, those median incomes are relatively affluent in the broader American context. They are a group of people who have and can make economic choices, and some of those choices may involve racial self-segregation. That is my basic point: these aren't people who are somehow incapable of creating a racially segregated enclave based on their financial resources. This community does have the resources to create such facilities for itself and may, perhaps, have the motivation to do so. That's my only point: the argument that 'they look poor to me, so they can't be suburban racists' just doesn't make any sense to me. They aren't poor - if you think they look downmarket, consider what reference points you are comparing them to, and how much more above the mean those reference points are. As far as the Philadelphia area, take a Sunday drive through Frankford or the Northeast, Kensington or Southwest Philly, to see what this kind of neighborhood represents flight from.

You don't have to be rich to be racist. And you don't have to have a 300,000-foot square foot home or a late-model car to be in an economic class far above the American average. A neighborhood with this high a rate of home ownership and car ownership, education and employment, is just not a deprived area.
posted by Miko at 8:56 AM on July 17, 2009


By the way, Google maps street view allows any of us to go on a little tour of the area (and to have a look at the swimming pool--which looks like it had plenty of room to accommodate those kids). It's definitely not an affluent area. Comparing it to the "American average" as Miko wants to do is simply disingenuous--average salaries, home values etc. are obviously higher in an urban setting than on the "average." Not that this would in any way excuse the racist comments the children report hearing.

Still, if you're picturing this as some snooty suburban country club setting, you're way off. The photo of the rusty fence captures the feel of the neighborhood well.
posted by yoink at 9:51 AM on July 17, 2009


if you're picturing this as some snooty suburban country club setting,

I guess the difference in perspective here might be related to what MeFites consider 'snooty.' I'm looking at Google Maps (street view is not an option) satellite and I see a pool in a large grassy setting bordering on a cul-de-sac development of two-family townhouses. Houses nearby are regularly listed for, and selling for over $200,000. Is the swim club the nicest one around? Probably not; I notice there are others to choose from. Is this swim club still the choice of many people who can afford to live here (rather than in the neighborhoods the kids came from) and can afford the membership fees? Doubtless, yes.

Comparing it to the "American average" as Miko wants to do is simply disingenuous-

I don't think so, because I'm also comparing it to its own Pennsylvania setting. This area might look grotty to some MeFi members who have lived in even nicer circumstances, but people living in this area have things a hell of a lot better than people living just a few miles away.

What is it that people here think 'suburban' is? The suburbs with half-million-dollar houses, Saks stores and Panera restaurants are not the nrom for 'suburb' in this region, or in the nation. I'm suggesting probably the same thing The STraightener is - that if you're picturing a very expensive, manicured, Darien or Main Line-style setting, you're off base. And yet, people in the demographic described well here by income, education, profession, real estate value, satellite image and more are still 'suburban,' still relatively affluent members of the Greater Philadelphia area, and still capable of discrimination and exclusivity. It really does interest me that while some are saying this community is snooty and suburban, others are saying it's working-class and downmarket. I think a lot of this rests in the eye of the descriptor.

This place looks like, and is, a really, really nice place to live to a lot of people who live in and around Philadelphia.
posted by Miko at 11:33 AM on July 17, 2009


street view is not an option

Are you outside the US or something? I had no problem with street view all around the area (unless you're trying street view of the actual pool, then no, that's not possible. You can use street view on all the street frontages of the club, however).

As to the house you pick, it's a 2000 square foot dwelling that sold in 2003 for $168,500. Yes, if you're poor you probably think that's a palace. But no, nobody who says "affluent suburbia" pictures these kinds of houses. They picture single family homes with some kind of garden.
posted by yoink at 11:42 AM on July 17, 2009


No, for whatever reason, I don't have a Street View option.

Yes, if you're poor you probably think that's a palace. But no, nobody who says "affluent suburbia" pictures these kinds of houses. They picture single family homes with some kind of garden.

I'm suggesting that picture is an inaccurate understanding of economic realities in the U.S. "If you're poor" you think that's a palace? I think it's the definition of "poor" that needs to be recalibrated. Our idea of "single family home with some kind of garden" as the only kind of home a middle class person would live in is not accurate. It's just an image. Again, what's wrong with these places? Not nice enough for you? That's okay. But they aren't slums. And clearly, the people who live in them are doing all right.
As to the house you pick...


A bad example, but there's another link ('nearby'). You can search the housing values more if you want to. I found a lot more than I felt like linking.
posted by Miko at 11:49 AM on July 17, 2009


Our idea of "single family home with some kind of garden" as the only kind of home a middle class person would live in is not accurate.

Miko, you keep misreading what people are actually writing. I didn't say "these aren't middle class homes." I wrote that these are not what people think of when they say "affluent suburbia." If you are middle class you think of a home like these as "decent homes." You don't think of them as the homes that only the "affluent" would live in. If you are poor, then you might think of these as a palace. If you're "middle class" you certainly wouldn't.
posted by yoink at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2009


Oh, and as for your other link, it certainly shows homes of affluent suburbanites (some, even, of what I would call the "rich")--they just don't happen to be homes in the neighborhood of that club.
posted by yoink at 11:56 AM on July 17, 2009


OK, I found photos now. Good Lord. This is a perfectly fine near-suburb neighborhood. It looks like any number of neighborhoods within and outside the Philadelphia lines. It may not suit your aesthetics, but for heaven's sake - it's not a bad neighborhood.

I think we all agree that whoever lives here and whoever from an even larger radius who is a member of the swim club might or might not still be racist. At this point I think the conversation has devolved into one about the aesthetics of affluence. I do strongly think that people who think this neighborhood looks poor might benefit from a thorough look around the nearest large city. If what we "picture" as suburbia doesn't look like this, then our picture is unrealistic.
posted by Miko at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2009


-they just don't happen to be homes in the neighborhood of that club.

There are many if you search. And once again, the pool's membership likely draws from a larger area than the immediate neighborhood.
posted by Miko at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2009


Here's a good site for home list prices, with pictures. Click on "Street" and hunt around in the area below Philmont and Tomlinson.
posted by Miko at 12:08 PM on July 17, 2009


Richt, and why did Southern citizens not push their municipalities to build public pools?

Polio, they had their own pools, and suburban additions often weren't inside city limits. And racism, of course, but there are a lot of factors here.

MeFi's definitions of 'affluent' and 'middle class' are darned interesting. Those cars, that neighborhood, those median incomes are relatively affluent in the broader American context.

I hate this "relatively affluent" game, because it's fraught with "relative" comparisons that don't play themselves out. Somerton, Philadelphia is a decidely working class part of Philly. Yes, their household income is higher than Philly's $35K, but not by much. The pool sits on the other side of the border from Philly, but look west... there's not much of anything.

And, yes, lots of cul-de-sacs and expensive houses southwest of the pool, but check the build date on Zillow... 2006. Infill. And look west of the pool, west of the mainline... a lot of nothing.

They aren't poor

Look, we all agree on that. But the point I'm making is that there is a far larger nearby population of $40K average income households than the $90K average income houses you were pointing to. This is a lower-middle to middle class neighborhood this pool draws from. Maybe some kids come down the mainline, and maybe those cul-de-sac kids walk over to the pool, too, but that pool is drawing mostly from those middle class houses to the east, not from the upper class houses far west.
posted by dw at 12:18 PM on July 17, 2009


Compare the 2006 McMansion to this rowhouse about a block further from the pool. $260K for a 4/2.5? We dream of that on the West Coast.
posted by dw at 12:23 PM on July 17, 2009


I do strongly think that people who think this neighborhood looks poor

And who are those people, Miko? Can you find a single person in this thread who has said that this is a "poor" neighborhood or one that "looks poor"? I can't. Could you please stop playing with straw men?

I'm that it is not "affluent suburbia." I said it looked "middle class." I said that it would look palatial if you were genuinely poor. Where, in those statements, do you see a claim that it "looks poor"?
posted by yoink at 1:28 PM on July 17, 2009


The pool sits on the other side of the border from Philly, but look west... there's not much of anything.

That's wrong; that's near the area where I used to teach. What's west are developments created out of former farmland, many of those developments made up of larger houses that sit on larger, one- to two-acre tracts of land - an environment that surely would meet the image of a wealthier suburb. They're mixed in with slightly denser development and older housing stock aligned along the boundaries of the old, pre-suburbanized town centers, such as Jenkintown. What's more, these communities are not distinctly isolated from one another. They are all a part of the vast commuter ring surrounding Philadelphia. Some are more affluent areas, some less, but all these communities are minutes from one another, and connected on high-speed roads.

'The "relative wealth" issue is obviously a fraught one. I suppose the reason I'm arguing it is that I'm interested in the overarching question: is there a meaningful difference between the racism found in the communities that more closely match a stereotypical image of white suburban affluence, and that found in communities in which income is lower, but the same social forces are still at play: a desire to own a (semi-)detached home, have better schools, avoid city taxes and budget issues and...be with your own kind?

My point is that I don't think so. I don't see a meaningful difference in the question of whether racism might be at play when we discuss the relative degrees of suburban affluence in these communities, or in any such communities. These are all people who can make choices about where they live and have disposable income to spend. The people who live in this neighborhood most likely share the motivations for choosing housing that we'd assume when we imagine a ritzier suburb. The fact that their income levels mean they can't afford as much house, or as large a lot, or as nice a surrounding area, doesn't mean they are not able to take part in white flight or some version of the American dream. The distinction made when we say "but it's not [what I think of as] an affluent suburb!" become rather meaningless when it's noted that even though incomes in this neighborhood may not be as high as incomes in nearby neighborhoods, the residents are still able to make choices that result in segregation, whether that was the intended or unintended consequence of those choices. Both the very wealthy, and the less wealthy but still homeowning, car-owning, pool-membership-having, are equally able to create institutions that exclude.
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on July 17, 2009


the residents are still able to make choices that result in segregation, whether that was the intended or unintended consequence of those choices. Both the very wealthy, and the less wealthy but still homeowning, car-owning, pool-membership-having, are equally able to create institutions that exclude.

That's a perfectly reasonable point. Claiming that people said "this is a poor neighborhood" when they didn't, is not.
posted by yoink at 2:03 PM on July 17, 2009


I thought about making this into a FPP but it felt a little thin, so here's another data point on the pervasiveness of racism in American society. Questions raised about councilman's conduct after discovery of racist e-mails.
posted by scalefree at 3:29 PM on July 17, 2009


scalefree -- I went ahead and made an FPP. I think it's important to highlight the current trend in increasing racist rhetoric (see the MI of the FPP) we are seeing today.

empath's early comment in that thread: 'This is such a non story" is one with which I disagree. In today's world the local becomes national, if not global. Racism needs to be called out and trends highlighted.
posted by ericb at 4:50 PM on July 17, 2009


Just as a follow-up to that Domelights link:

Black Philadelphia police sue over message board, say it's racist
posted by MegoSteve at 6:08 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Claiming that people said "this is a poor neighborhood" when they didn't, is not.

I didn't set out to claim that. In my mind, though, saying "they're not rich" is about the same thing from a functional standpoint. If the question is whether people have the resources to independently create segregated institutions, then the answer will divide groups into binary pools. One does have the resources, one does not have the resources. Once you've crossed the line into having the resources, you've exited the group that doesn't - naming them 'rich' and 'poor' is a shortcut to describing that difference. It doesn't much matter for this question whether the folks in the neighborhoods that might discriminate are 'a little bit rich' or 'a lot rich' when compared the region's population - their positions as institution-creators make them functionally the same as the rich, and functionally not the same as the poor.

But I didn't mean to say that anyone called them poor. I just meant to establish that in having this access to powers, they are not poor.
posted by Miko at 8:44 AM on July 18, 2009


If the question is whether people have the resources to independently create segregated institutions, then the answer will divide groups into binary pools. One does have the resources, one does not have the resources. Once you've crossed the line into having the resources, you've exited the group that doesn't - naming them 'rich' and 'poor' is a shortcut to describing that difference. It doesn't much matter for this question whether the folks in the neighborhoods that might discriminate are 'a little bit rich' or 'a lot rich' when compared the region's population - their positions as institution-creators make them functionally the same as the rich, and functionally not the same as the poor.

Money is not required to divide groups into binary pools -- people do that just fine without "resources" coming into it. But you sound like you're asserting that gradations in socioeconomic status are moot? This is bizarre to me.

This is getting really astray from the original story, though. Some of the news articles and commentary painted this as "posh neighborhood swim club ousts black (insert implied poor) kids." A number of us pointed out that this is not a leafy country club with a golf course next door, it's a pretty ordinary community club in the Northeast. The kids weren't street urchins plucked from the worst street corners in North Philly, they came from diverse neighborhoods and their parents paid extra fees to send them to the pool. This wasn't haves vs have nots.
posted by desuetude at 11:22 AM on July 18, 2009


and here's the silver lining - Tyler Perry is taking the kids to Disneyworld for two days.
posted by killy willy at 6:08 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


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