Racism in the Water at Philly Suburb Swim Club


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.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.