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July 17, 2009

Maybe Not Segregated Drinking Fountains, But Didn't They Stop the Whole Thing When We Were Kids

Drinking fountain When I saw the story about the Philadelphia country club that threw out a group of African-American kids, I was devastated.  Thanks to EJ Graff, I found a link to local news video of the event - and children whose faces could have been on kids in Selma or Little Rock  forty years ago.  There were tears, and anger, and shame.  As I watched the video, I kept thinking "No.  Not now.  Not still."

Think about it.  These kids were in a summer program to keep them busy and productive.  The camp had paid the club in advance for once-a-week swim privileges.  Yet not only were they asked to leave, they were told not to return.  Their money was refunded.  According to one report, the club's president said "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club." (AP quoting local TV)

One of the counselors with the kids told the same reporter  "Some of the members began pulling their children out of the pool and were standing around with their arms folded. . . .Only three members left their children in the pool with us."  In a lot of ways, none of this is new.  

If you're the age of the 50-something bloggers writing here, you remember the stories of black families driving all night through the south because there wasn't even anywhere to stop to go to the bathroom.  Of frightened children braving screaming mobs to go to school.  Of beaten demonstrators in Selma and Montgomery and Jackson.  But that was in the 60s.  In the South.  And we have an African American president now.  Yet we see this, just days after the despicable .  It's hard to believe. 

On my own blog this week I wrote about a play called Avenue Q which contains a song called 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist."  It's a joke.  It's funny because we don't want it to be true, and because sometimes it is.  But it also reflects a modern-day desire to make each day less so than the one before.  A return to, or re-emphasis on, our desire to change the world.  To reduce hatred and bigotry and live up to what we know we can be.  That was what many of us in the generation writing here were all about and what we continue to be about.  And so, to see two such hateful acts take place in one week - well it's almost too much to bear.  We can only hope it's part of a death-throes, that the next generation will have outgrown much of this because they live in such a multicultural America compared to the one we grew up in.  And that most Americans today hope the same thing.   

By the way, my friend Nordette Adams writes that the club has voted to "re-invite" the kids and apologized for any "misunderstandings."  Not too much enthusiasm in return, as you might imagine.  At least the pressure of pubic opinion is still worth something.

Cynthia Samuels, who is Managing Editor of Care2 Blogs, also write at her personal blog Don't Gel Too Soon.

This is an original 50-something Moms blog post.

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