Philadelphia Private Swim Club Forces Out Black Children



Philadelphia Private Swim Club Forces Out Black Children

Update: The public email and phone number for The Valley Swim Club is 215-947-0700 and The President of the club is John Duesler.

In 2009 and the age of Obama we still have blatant discrimination as Black kids in Philadelphia were told they would pollute the water if they swam at a private club

In 2009 and the age of Obama we still have blatant discrimination as Black kids in Philadelphia were told they would pollute the water if they swam at a private club

NBC reports that more than 60 African-American campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club because — according to John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club — “there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.”

It may surprise some Americans to learn that not only do certain private clubs still refuse to admit African-Americans, women, and gay people, but that this kind of enrollment discrimination is considered perfectly legal.

While the total number of private clubs is unknown, there are around at least 4,000 private golf clubs, according to Golf Digest. Of course, since these clubs are private, their exact enrollment standards aren’t part of the public record, so there is no way to know for sure if they discriminate against ethnic minorities, women, or homosexuals. Furthermore, even if they do adopt official “white males only” policies, these practices are considered “legal” in some jurisdictions, though many clubs have been sued for discrimination.

Because of the shroud of secrecy surrounding enrollment at private clubs, these discriminatory practices usually only come to light when the media catches a prominent politician on the fairway. Katon Dawson, South Carolina GOP chairman and former candidate for the RNC chair, was forced to resign from the Forest Lake Club after members made public the fact that the club has a whites-only restriction and no black members. Then there was Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who hosted a golf fundraiser at a whites-only club back in 2000 along with then-lawmakers Bob Ney and Tom DeLay.

Back in 1992, Bill Clinton was accused of attending an all-white private golf club, though Mark Grobmeyer, the Little Rock lawyer who played at the club with Clinton, denied there was a “no blacks” policy. Why were there no black players then? Mr. Grobmeyer replied, “None have applied.”

President Kennedy was once challenged by future Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, over his membership at the Links Country Club because the club excluded Jews from membership. President Kennedy reportedly chuckled and replied, “Hell, Arthur, they don’t even allow Catholics.”

This recent case of discrimination at the Philadelphia club is merely a continuation of discriminatory admission standards. Such official bans on non-Anglo Saxon men may seem superfluous considering outrageous membership fees are usually enough deterrence to keep non-white people off the golf courses and out of the pools, but when The Creative Steps Day Camp managed to pay the $1900 for their young campers to enter The Valley Swim Club, the staff resorted to drastic measures.

“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.”

Remarks like that make it difficult to remember that it’s 2009. According to attorney Benjamin Leedy, another shameful episode occurred a little over a decade ago when Hall Thompson, founder of the all-white Shoal Creek club in Birmingham, AL (site of the 1990 PGA Championship,) declared that his club would not be pressured into accepting African-American members. “This is our home, and we pick and choose who we want,” he said.

Leedy cites another recent example in 2003 at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, where Martha Burke, head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, demanded that the club allow women to become members. Hootie Johnson chairman of Augusta National, responded “There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet.”

In 2001, Birgit Koebke and Kendall French, a lesbian couple registered as domestic partners under the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003, sued Bernardo Heights Country Club alleging that the club discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation. The club’s membership privileges were only available to members’ spouses and children, but not to members’ domestic partners. In 2005, the California Supreme Court concluded “that since, under California law, registered domestic partners have rights equivalent to legal spouses, the question of whether the club’s practice of granting playing privileges to members’ spouses but not to members’ registered domestic partners constituted unlawful discrimination under California’s anti-discrimination law must be left to a jury decide.”

This most recent case of discrimination in Philadelphia is particularly sinister because it involves banishing children. “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.

What a terrible lesson to teach two children — one white and one black. The white child learns to fear those who are different from them. The black child learns there is something “wrong” and “dirty” about their very existence. Hopefully, another more enlightened swim club will welcome the campers from The Creative Steps Day Camp, who are now looking for a place to keep cool during the summer.

Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny’s blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Verlinda Jackson says:

    You know, I understand why this is upsetting. But what’s more upsetting is that this organization paid 1,900.00 for these kids to swim there and did not check out the dynamics of the club before hand. This clearly puts the afro american children in the position to be traumatized by this kind of behavior. Why do we labor so hard for acceptance into white’s only clubs like this? Why in the hell does anyone want to be around people who don’t want to be around them? Clearly ignorant people? Why don’t we build private clubs of our own and quit begging the white race for acceptance? If there are those who want to live this way, my theory is “let them and be done with it”. It’s hard enough to explain society’s igorance and hate to our children to prepare them for what they might encounter. The one thing we can control is what we subject them to and in my opinion, the organization that sponsored these kids to be there should take some responsibility for this also.

  2. I totally agree with Verlinda. This issue stirs up memories of the divide between Martin Luther King & Malcolm X . I love Martin & appreciate everything that he did for black people such as myself, but I agree with Malcolm’s position that we shouldn’t want to “integrate” with a bunch of white racists. They can take their pool & shove it. The club should be put on blast, though.

  3. stormone says:

    I totally agree with Verlinda!
    why do we continue to harbor an almost pathological desire to be accepted by those that hate us?
    we really need to check ourselves!

  4. Charles U. Odiase says:

    I disagree with you guys. The children are American citizens and are protected by the bill of rights. As an Attorney, off the top of my head I can think of four causes of action that can be brought against this club. Yes, even though we should have our own clubs, this is a country of laws. Children should be allowed to go anywhere they please. The club should be sued. The children and their parents will win and the club will be closed.

  5. Rob Smith says:

    I agree with Charles. This company should be sued and closed. If your a member The right thing to do is quit. Other wise your no better than the management

  6. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Got to contact W.U.R.D. 900 a.m. radio station in Philly and find out what’s going on. Being from Philadelphia I should have heard about this, but I’ll do my research and will get back before I comment.

  7. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Well the “code word” that white people use in this scenario “was” PRIVATE swim club. Based on what I got from W.U.R.D. 900 A.M. radio in Phiadelphia, this is just your typical 101 Basic Introduction to Institutional Discrimination and Racism in America for these African American children. They are learning first hand how “some” white people in America feel about them. This is unacceptable, but it only forces Black people to better understand that we must have pride, dignity, and self-respect “not” to beg anyone for what we can do for ourselves. Philadelphia has always been a racist town, I grew up there. This is not un-common when you go to the outskirt townships of Philly. Black people need to put all this Pres. Barack Obama smoke screen stuff behind them and unite and come out fighting. How many white and hispanic teleivsion stations can you turn to tonight? How many Black? We are long over due for a good fight. Time to “Return To Glory”, people. “Money ain’t everything”, you… Have you ever seen white people put a Black person in charge to make it sem as though they are fair and aren’t prejudice. And then they can’t wait to use the “race card’ that they started with the “Bible”? Just asking.

  8. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    PS. Lawyer Odiase, take the case. You sound like you have knowledge of winning a discrimination case. I heard the NAACP Jealous guy. Isn’t that their specialty? I’d heard lawyers in Philly talk like they could win a case easily, as in the open and shut case of Donte Dawson, but when they go up against them bigots in Philly they choke everytime. Yo turn, Lawyer Odiase. Talk is cheap in Philly.

  9. Mike Vizzo says:

    I agree with the lawyer.

    And imagine…if it weren’t for these laws vs. discrimination, there would still be grounds to disallow any visible minorities from ANYWHERE…Major League Baseball, Hockey, Golf, and even basketball… could you picture in 2009, the Negro league still in existence?

    Change is good.

  10. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Mike, I honestly wish the Nego Baseball League was still in existence. We’d have more Black kids playing baseball these days. Jews, like Marge Shot, killed it for the Black man in baseball. Why do you think you see so many hispanics and about only two Blacks per team. And they better be able to run really fast or hit homers if they are allowed to play. The lawyer is right – “Sue”, but don’t talk about baseball and get me started on how “they” put the ceiling on my people with that crap. Baseball has to be the most racist sports these days. Chech ratios and stats.

  11. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Marge Shott actually wasn’t Jewish, but MLB took her sentiments. Check ratios and stats. Baseball has to be the most subjective (or choice whatever good ole’ boy or cheap dude you want) sport there is. I guess that’s why its still know as Americans favorite pasttime. No one I know watches it.

  12. me and my best friend are members of the local town golf club, i am really excited to play golf ::;