Racism in the Water at Philly Suburb Swim Club

| Wed Sep. 23, 2009 1:10 PM EDT

You know you're racist when you kick a group of 56 black and Hispanic children out of a suburban swim club for no apparent reason. At least that's what the Pennsylvania Human Relations Committee confirmed today.

In what MoJo editor Clara Jeffery said was potentially the racist outrage of the year, the Swim Valley Club, located in one of Philadelphia's mostly white, affluent suburbs, booted a summer camp group although each child had paid more than $1,900 for the privileges to swim in the pool. In an oblivious statement, club president John Duesler said "there was a concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion...and the atmosphere of the club."

Duesler later admitted that this was a "terrible choice of words" and the club now claims that the group was removed because there were simply too many children in the pool to be monitored by the lifeguards on duty and that many of the children could not swim.

Hmm. Let's look at the details. There's the clearly racially tinged initial response from the club, the fact that one camper overheard a club member say "what are all these black kids doing here?" and "I'm scared they might do something to my child," and ONLY the minority children were booted from the club. Another parent wrote in an email that "when the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool."

Fortunately, the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission saw through the lifeguard excuse and ordered the club to pay a $50,000 penalty for discrimination against the child whose parents filed the complaint. The summer camp's attorney Brian Mildenberg said that the fine could become millions if other families decide to sue. "If the award stuck on appeal," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "that would shut them down."

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.