Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Philly Swim Club Invites Disinvited Kids Back Following International Outrage

The Valley Swim club — the "private, exclusive" swim club that turned away 65 inner-city day care children — is reaching out to the Creative Steps Day Care Center and inviting them back to use their facilities.

According to a story on CNN.com, the "private, exclusive" Valley Club came to the decision during a "hastily called Sunday afternoon meeting." The club voted "overwhelmingly" to make the peace offering.

The club originally said they canceled the contract with the day care center, thus dashing the hopes of 65 children who just wanted to swim, because they couldn't handle all the extra kids, despite accepting their check for $1,950. And the checks of two other day care centers.

Needless to say, Creative Steps is a little leery about the invitation, since they maintain that some of the members of the "private, exclusive" club made racist comments to the black and Hispanic children.

"As long as we can work out safety issues, we'd like to have them back," Bernice Duesler, wife of club director John Duesler, told CNN.

Duesler told CNN the club had been subpoenaed by Pennsylvania's Human Rights Commission as part of a fact-finding investigation (translation: "we're climbing SOOOOO far up your backside"), so they were given legal advice to "try to get together with these camps."

Alethea Wright, Creative Steps' director, told CNN, "They should have done that before."

No, they should never have backed out in the first place. Now they're claiming they're "very diverse" with some sort of "but some of my best friends are black" apology? If you want to see if they're sincere, see if you get a warm and friendly or chilly reception.

"These children are scarred. How can I take those children back there?" said Wright.

Good question. Whether it was the club's official response, or they made up some crap about safety because their snooty members didn't want their precious snowflakes swimming with people who looked different, the damage was done.

Said snooty members of the "private, exclusive" club made some pretty horrible statements, asking why "black children were there" and worrying "they might steal from us."

While John Duesler has told several media outlets that he had underestimated the number of children (translation: "planning and forethought are not my strong suits"), Wright has called bullshit on the director of the "private, exclusive" club. CNN even cited some emails from the club saying they accepted a 10-to-1 ratio of children to adults, and was actually considering adding three lifeguards to assist with safety.

Now, having said all this and making fun of the Valley Club, I think Wright and Creative Steps need to take Valley Club up on their offer. Be the bigger person. Show the children that while there are still bigots and racist A-holes in the world, they can be better than them. Show that they don't need to run away whenever someone says something bad about them.

As the father of two black children, I have taught my children to be proud of who they are, and to not take crap from anyone. I have also had a few strong words with people who thought they could use certain other words around me. Racism is something I won't put up with, and I don't expect my kids to run from it as they grow up.

And better yet, Ms. Wright, use this as a learning opportunity. Not just for your kids, but for the people of the Valley Club. Show them they're wrong about their stereotypes and beliefs that the kids are going to cause trouble.

And Valley Club, take them up on that opportunity. Don't just let the kids swim on certain days. Go above and beyond that. Feed the kids lunch, let them come some extra days, do some extra things for them to show that you're truly sorry.

If you want to truly repair the situation and show your diversity, then put your money where your mouth is. Prove it. Don't just ask them back on the advice of your attorney and public relations adviser, try to truly make an effort to get to know someone outside your "private" walls.



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