Friday, May 14, 2010

Pool's Closed

A little less than a year ago, a racial incident in Pennsylvania captured the attention of a nice chunk of the American public.

The incident, which involved black and brown children from a day camp having their swimming privileges revoked at an all-white club, had all the elements that Americans love in their racial incidents these days.

Easily identifiable good guys and bad guys, a sniff of classism, and no serious injuries. Media groups had a field day with the story in the way that they rarely do with stories of Latinos being beaten to death by all-white gangs.

The incident, which ended with the swim club going bankrupt and being sold at auction, was seen by some as a throwback to a less-refined time in America's past. Other folks saw it as another example of black and brown folks butting in where they really aren't wanted.

While I was upset at the time, I've come to realize that I don't have much anger now.

It's not because I don't feel for those children, some of whom got introduced to racism, and others who got a reminder that the idea of a post-racial world is a pipe dream. I've had similar experiences as a child when I was treated harshly and differently because of my skin color and that always, ALWAYS hurts. But, beyond my sympathy for the children, I don't feel much else.

Like most discussions of racism these days, there was no depth to the competing opinions and newscasts, so ultimately the story had no real legs. Within a few weeks it was forgotten and nothing had been changed.

It's discouraging to see how often this plays out in our country. All of us get hot and bothered about outrageous incidents of racism, and fail to see how they fit into the bigger picture. We don't discuss the policies that led to this clash of cultures, we don't discuss the mindsets bred into the children on both sides. We just point our fingers and yammer away.

The wheel keeps spinning, and we keep finding new ways to distract ourselves.

For example, there was a big fuss about the fact that this private swim club didn't want poor black kids, but nobody ever questioned why these kids had to travel outside of the city to swim in the first place. That was just taken as normal.

I wondered why there were no public swimming options in Philly? Do city officials not realize that black kids like to stay cool in the summer and that studies have shown that giving children viable recreational opportunities can reduce violence?

Or how about the issue of "private clubs" in general. How many other private clubs are all white or damn near all-white? How many of them are all-black and all-brown?

Why is it that a nation so obsessed with "diversity" is so filled with people whose private lives tell a far different story? And, I'm not judging folks because I have to count as part of the problem since my private life is very monochromatic.

We all claim that we love everybody regardless of their race, and then as soon as we can we surround ourselves with folks who look like us. That cognitive dissonance explains private swim clubs, white flight and the hardcore segregation found in America on Sunday morning.

These issues are at the heart of racial issues in this country, yet they are rarely discussed. Most of us don't have any interest in discussing them, to be honest. That would require too much introspection, too much thinking and possibly, too much guilt. It's far easier to express shock that anyone could be so mean to little children in these modern times.

Why dive into the depths when floating on the surface takes much less effort?



Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Two reasons. One is that humans are innately drawn to an hierarchy. Even a small tribe has a leader. Class issues are a natural outgrowth of this.

For example, the children of the chief often get more respect, not because it's earned, but because of who their parents are. This also goes for their favored friends. Thus is the birth of cronyism.

Once a "tribe" hits a certain size, class issues come into play, this hierarchy gets more things for free (especially in the way of good deals), or by coercion or force, such as war.

These class issues are magnified in larger populations particularly since the onset of the Industrial and Technological ages. In countries where everyone is the same race, we still see it. I think it's harder to see class issues play out in the black communities because the history of slavery followed by ongoing discrimination generally makes us lower in status in the minds of white people, but it is there. Other than a few unlucky relatives, wealthy blacks generally do not hang out with the poorest blacks and most avoid sending their kids to school with them - and that is a class issue.

Big Man said...

Thanks for commenting KIT. I was wondering if anybody even saw this post.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a good post, but didn't have anything to add to it...but after a talk with the wife last night about Rand Paul's latest comments on the Civil Rights Act and what he thinks it is meant to do, maybe I do now.

Mrs. Blue and I were talking about his views and while neither one of us thinks they're very positive views, we both agreed that the man probably isn't an aggressive racist, though he clearly has some distasteful leanings.

But then we got to talking about his points more deeply, and how perhaps private clubs (even perhaps golf clubs and such) perhaps shouldn't be required to let in everyone. Sure, if you're serving the public (eatery, gas station, grocery store, etc.) blocking certain races from entering is discriminatory in a way that can adversely affect that person's life, and that could invite violence and other problems.

But if you're a private organization with members who pay dues, perhaps the best thing is to let the "market" deal with it. That is, in many (though certainly not all) areas, there will be public pressure, and the organization will get a black eye or be given the cold shoulder, and either ease up or go the way of the dinosaur.

It was my wife who brought up the example of this pool situation you're talking about, and how the market essentially dealt with this.

Not that I have any clear answers, but there may be some truth in that...that in some places in life, people simply need to be allowed to be racist (as long as it harms no one) and either they will happily roll along, limp along, or be eased out of the picture by the weight of public opinion and less narrow-minded views of people's worth.

Just some random thoughts...

- Deacon Blue

Big Man said...


Private clubs can't be forced to allow anyone in.

Augusta National still doesn't allow women to play, not matter how many times they protest.

The question was private businesses that depend on public roadways and other mechanisms for their existence then turning around and denying members of that same public access. That's why Paul's position is off base.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I know that, Big Man, but I probably phrased things badly. What I meant in part is that I hear people say and have heard people say over the years (more so in the past than now I think) how private clubs should be forced to let folks in, and I tend to think that's a place where the line should be drawn. And perhaps a very good place to draw it, even though it may mean some hurt feelings.

I think in terms of private businesses, with Rand Paul's line of thought, it's dangerous and totally off the rocker. Draw the line there, and you sow all sorts of unpleasantness.

- Deacon Blue

Raving Black Lunatic