In Our "Post-Racial" America

ITEM: I got this e-mail from one of my sisters about an incident at a Philadelphia-area swimming pool. Narrative courtesy of

[Three] weeks ago outside Philadelphia, 65 children from a summer camp tried to go swimming at a club that their camp had a contract to use. Apparently, the people at the club didn’t know that the group of kids was predominantly Black.

When the campers entered the pool, White parents allegedly took their kids out of the water, and the swimming club’s staff asked the campers to leave. The next day, the club told the summer camp that their membership would be canceled and that their payment would be refunded. When asked why, the club’s manager said that a lot of kids “would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.”

A “Whites only” pool in 2009 should not be tolerated. The club’s actions appear to be a violation of section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act. Whether or not any laws were violated, a “Whites only” pool should be something every American condemns.

I get behind in my news reading, but I receive bulletins the local paper plus the New York Times. Yet I missed it. Was this merely a chain letter with the facts askew? Apparently not:
“60 Black Kids Booted from Philly Pool For Being Black — Speak Out,” Jill Tubman at Jack and Jill Politics, 07-08-09

VIDEO: “Please Don’t Change the Complexion of our Pool,” This Week in Blackness, 07-08-09

“Swim Club Accused of Discrimination,” FOX 29 Philadelphia, 07-08-09

“Valley Swim Club: Day Two,” Adam B at Daily Kos, 07-08-09

I did subsequently see a mention in SamauraiFrog’s blog, but I believe this story was underreported.

ITEM: A review of the new Michael Bay movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. From Clay Cane of

The hip-hop talking robots were borderline offensive. Is this the movie’s way of appealing to the African-American audience? I never knew that robots could shuck n’ jive.

This was not the only critic who made this point. The defense of the movie – and this box office hits has plenty of defenders despite critical panning (or perhaps because of critical panning: “Roger Ebert is a moron!”) – were 1) the robots weren’t specifically African-American and 2) it’s only a movie; lighten up.

Now, I didn’t see the movie. Heck, didn’t see its predecessor and wasn’t planning to. On point 1, a character can be offensive without being specifically black; some character named Jar Jar comes immediately to mind. As for point 2, that’s just rubbish. (I could expand about how movies reflect society and blah, blah, blah, but “rubbish” will do.)

ITEM: Sonia Sotomayor being grilled over, among other things, Ricci vs. DeStefano, the New Haven firefighters case, and her appellate court’s position holding in favor of the city. I believe her defense is in the Supreme Court dissent – uncharacteristically READ ALOUD from the bench – by Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Here’s just a section:

The Court’s recitation of the facts leaves out important parts of the story. Firefighting is a profession in which the legacy of racial discrimination casts an especially long shadow. In extending Title VII to state and local government employers in 1972, Congress took note of a U. S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) report finding racial discrimination in municipal employment even “more pervasive than in the private sector.”…According to the report, overt racism was partly to blame, but so too was a failure on the part of municipal employers to apply merit-based employment principles. In making hiring and promotion decisions, public employers often “rel[ied] on criteria unrelated to job performance,” including nepotism or political patronage…Such flawed selection methods served to entrench preexisting racial hierarchies. The USCCR report singled out police and fire departments for having “[b]arriers to equal employment . . . greater . . .than in any other area of State or local government,” with African-Americans “hold[ing] almost no positions in the officer ranks.” Ibid. See also National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control, America Burning 5 (1973) (“Racial minorities are under-represented in the fire departments in nearly every community in which they
The city of New Haven (City) was no exception.

And in each of these disparate items, one thing is in common; Barack Obama is evoked in the commentary. “How could the swimming pool situation take place now that we have a black President?” “We should be past worrying about silly stereotypes anymore; Barack’s President.” “The Obama Presidency proves that issues of racial inequality are a thing of the past.” Meh.

Arthur and Jason noted an article by Eugene Robinson re: identity politics and Sotomayor. Arthur read this paragraph on their 2political podcast: Republicans’ outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor’s musings about how her identity as a “wise Latina” might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any “identity” — black, brown, female, gay, whatever — has to be judged against this supposedly “objective” standard. Well stated.

Keep the champagne on ice. The post-racial America celebration will just have to wait a little bit longer.


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