July 9, 2009

Philadelphia's Valley Club Brings Racism Back to America's Swimming Pools

Did you know that 58% of Black children can't swim? Did you know that Black children drown three times more often than white children?

These statistics would lead me to conclude that it is important for young Black children to learn how to swim. My two youngest take swimming lessons. They are both in summer programs that include weekly visits to community pool. They just returned from a trip to Jamaica where they enjoyed snorkling, swimming and just playing in the water.

Perhaps I wouldn't have these opportunities if we lived in Philadelphia.

60 young campers (mostly Black) from the Creative Steps Day Camp were kicked out of a private pool club because members didn’t want their children swimming with Black children. The Valley Club revoked the day camper’s membership after finding out they were minorities and offered a refund.
"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."

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video.

America has never been comfortable with desegregated swimming pools. Why is that? Personally, I think that the fear of white women bathing with Black men is the root cause of this dysfunctional behavior by places like The Valley Club.

"Swimming pools were really the most intensely contested public space," said Jeff Wiltse, a University of Montana historian who studied municipal pools, where deep-seated emotions often created tortured logic to justify continued segregation.

Wiltse found that Blacks and whites routinely swam together in the late 1800s and early 1900s. That changed when the migration of large numbers of rural Southern Blacks to Northern states triggered a squeamishness among whites over sharing a pool with them.

The professed concern appeared to involve hygiene, and a notion that poor Blacks coming from a farming background would have lower standards of cleanliness. Even in public schools, swimming remained segregated long after all other scholastic activities were integrated.

Whatever ... it ain't right and we need to ensure that the folks at the Valley Club in Philadelphia pay a price for unleashing this racist behavior in 2009.

I encourage all villagers to contact The Valley Club. Ask to speak with club president John Duesler. Express your outrage!

Valley Swim Club
Physical Address
22 Tomlinson Road, Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006

Club Phone Number:
(215) 947-0700

Club E-mail:

I've shared my thoughts on this issue. What say u?


Esquire said...

An email and a call are coming right up....

macon d said...

Thank you for the historical background. My email to that place went out yesterday. I hope they're um, drowning, under an avalanche of complaints and bad publicity.

Villager said...

Esquire & Macon D - Asante sana to both of you for turning your blog experience into social activism. This action by the Valley Swim Club cannot be allowed to stand...

Hard Core Michigander said...

God damn those honkies and their pool..

Black people have to stop begging people who do not want them to use their property..

This is a primary example on why cities should take care of their recreation departments.

Urban survival includes swimming..

Anonymous said...

The behavior exhibited by the Valley Club is inexcusable and unacceptable!

@Esquire and macon d:
The Valley Club's website and phone mail has been shut down due to the public response.

@Hard Core Michigander:
We all have our prejudices, but how we deal with them is what counts. I'm not black, but I think the vast majority of my peers would be appalled by this case.

I'm disgusted by the actions and response of the Valley Club.

Villager said...

Hard Core - 'Urban survival includes swimming... is a great line! I agree about the need to work on city budgets to ensure that community pools are open every summer for our kids...

Cynical Synapse - Thanx for sharing your village voice with us. I hope you find reasons to come back. I'm heading over to read your blog post on the Valley Swim Club...

Monica Roberts said...

Thanks for the info...nastygram is on the way

OrganicSchool said...

Hi. I found this blog post after Googling different search phrases pertaining to pools and racism. I live in a small southern county where EVERY pool is private and strictly whites-only. The Afridan Americans in our community have to drive far away to a state-owned pool if they want to swim, and everybody here just accepts this as if it is perfectly normal. Not me. I'm FURIOUS about it!!!

Why is this NJ pool getting so much media attention (it is the only one I've found even mentioned) yet nobody even mentions the blatant and communally accepted racism down here, where EVERY private pool is "whites only"? Where is the outrage over that? My family refuses to patronize these places, but I'm hopping mad to think that nobody is blogging about them, or scanning and uploading the copies of their ridiculous "white members only" rule sheets. I want to see MORE media coverage of this very important societal issue in the South--not just the one, lone pool up north that does it.

Will the media please send their firestorms down south, where the real discrimination occurs daily?

What gives?

Villager said...

OrganicSchool - I'm glad that this blog post was helpful in your Google research. I guess that you've heard that this incident of racial discrimination in Philadelphia resulted in the bankruptcy of the racist swim club. Even the land was recently sold as I understand it. I imagine that the pool will be closed for good now.

I don't know much about other pool-related discrimination cases. This blog will keep its eyes and ears open...