I try to maintain a sunny outlook. I reject original sin. I believe human beings are born innocent, and that they are perfectible. I see things, in the main, trending towards the good. I am not a Pollyanna; I know the world is a mass of suffering; yet I believe, with Martin Luther King, with our president, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
And then something happens that laughs at me. Mocks me as a fool, lost in illusion. Whispers in an ugly way that some things will never change. That the world will always be awash in ignorance, hatred, fear.
This week, this one really hurt my heart.
More than 60 campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club and left to wonder if their race was the reason.
“I heard this lady, she was like, ‘Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?’ She’s like, ‘I’m scared they might do something to my child,’” said camper Dymire Baylor.
The Creative Steps Day Camp paid more than $1900 to The Valley Swim Club. The Valley Swim Club is a private club that advertises open membership. But the campers’ first visit to the pool suggested otherwise.
“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.”
“They just kicked us out,” said camper Simer Burwell.
“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.
We already went through this. It was the 1950 injunction by United States District Court Judge Rubey M. Hulen of the Eastern District of Missouri requiring the city of St Louis to open its Fairground Park swimming pool to people of color that sparked the United States Supreme Court’s decision four years later, in Brown v. Board of Education, that mandated racial integration and supposedly wrote the notion of “separate but equal” out of this nation’s laws
Judge Hulen died in July of 1956, about a month before I was born. It’s as if all those years never passed. We’re still back in Judge Hulen’s time. “All the years combine; they melt into a dream.”
Our president may today occupy a duskier shade of the color bar, but in their hearts, too many of our people still believe, with Strom Thurmond, that it is wrong to “admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.” They just don’t have guts enough to say it. Until children come for their water.