Star Jones

Star Jones
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Racism 2009...Through the Eyes of a Child

"Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome."

-Rosa Parks

When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States and he moved his African-American family to Washington DC, I remember thinking, "finally, there will be some black Barbie Dolls in the halls of the White House!" I thought of all the little black kids who would go to bed at night thinking, "someone who looks like me is the President., wow, I can do ANYTHING I want"...well, not so fast...

You can grow up to be President of the United States, but apparently you can't swim in the pool of a club in Pennsylvania. Here's the background:

Two weeks ago in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, a suburb outside Philadelphia, Creative Steps Day Camp paid The Valley Swim Club more than $1900 for one day of swimming a week for their 65 campers, but after the first day, the money was quickly refunded and the campers were told not to return. Apparently, when the campers entered the pool, White parents took their kids out of the water, and the swimming club's staff asked the campers to leave. Several campers said they heard pool members making racist remarks during their time inside the club. I saw a little boy on CNN relating the story of his first encounter with racism and my heart just ached for him.

The Valley Swim Club is a private club that advertises open membership...but evidently, the club didn't know the kids were largely Black. The next day, the club told the summer camp that their membership would be canceled and that they would refund their money. When asked why, the club's leader said it was because the minority children might "change the complexion...the atmosphere of the club." Yes, that was the actual statement by the the club's president, John Duesler.

I don't need to tell you that a "Whites only" pool in 2009 should not be tolerated. The club's actions appear to be a violation of the Civil Rights Act. Whether or not any laws were violated, a "Whites only" pool should be something every American condemns.

I've just joined and others in doing exactly that -- will you join me, and email your friends and family asking them to do the same?

We're also calling on the President, The Vice-President, The Attorney General and U.S. Department of Justice as well as the Governor of Pennsylvania, both Senators and members of the Pennsylvania delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives to evaluate suing the facility under federal law.

Barack Obama is President but that doesn't mean that suddenly all is fine when it comes to race in America. This is a vivid reminder of what we know still lies beneath the surface...notwithstanding the Honorable Justice Clarence Thomas' recent lone dissent against the Voting Rights Act. His statement that ''The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass (the provision of the Voting Rights Act) and this court to uphold it no longer remains.'' He further stated that "The extensive pattern of discrimination that led the Court to previously uphold (the provision) . . . no longer exists...And the days of 'grandfather clauses, property qualifications, 'good character' tests, and the requirement that (voting) registrants 'understand' or 'interpret' certain matter,' are gone."

Is it really? Has anyone told the members of The Valley Swim Club?

We all know stories like this one -- similar incidents play out quietly every day in different communities across the country. The difference in this case is that folks got caught and there was a contract in place that makes for a potentially illegal act.

Standing up now isn't just about making things right for these kids in Philadelphia or bringing consequences to the Valley Swim Club. It's about creating a climate of accountability everywhere. If we can publicly shame the Valley Swim Club and hold them accountable for this incident, it will make others think twice before engaging in this kind of discrimination.

Human Rights investigations have begun into this incident; as well they should. However, no one who loves this country and believes that we are all "equal under the law," should be quiet about this.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

So please join me in condemning the Valley Swim Club's blatant discrimination and calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether they violated civil rights laws. And please ask your friends and family to do the same.

Please feel free to copy, cut and paste any or all of my letter...or simply use it as a guide for your own thoughts about this issue...but WRITE TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVES so that our collective voices are being heard. Here is all the info you need:

To write President Barack Obama, click HERE for the link.
To write Vice-President Joe Biden, click HERE for the link.
To write U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, click HERE for the link
To write Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, click HERE for the link
To identify and write the Pennsylvania U.S. Representatives in Congress, click HERE for the link.
To write the U.S. Senators from Pennsylvania, click HERE for the link.

Here is the letter I sent, feel free to cut and paste it or use it as a template to write your own:

Dear Public Servant who is dedicated to Justice for All:

I was shocked and outraged to learn that the Valley Swim Club in Huntington Valley Pennsylvania seems to be enforcing a "whites-only" policy at their pool.

Two weeks ago, the Creative Steps Day Camp paid the Valley Swim Club more than $1900 for one day of swimming a week for their 65 campers, but after the first day, the money was quickly refunded and the campers were told not to return. Apparently, when the campers entered the pool, White parents took their kids out of the water, and the swimming club's staff asked the campers to leave after making what can only be described as racially insensitive and discriminatory comments directed at the children. The President of the club compounded the situation and left nothing to interpretation by stating that the children were not welcome at the club as they might "change the complexion...the atmosphere of the club."

I'm sure you agree that is shameful that in 2009, anywhere in America, children have been turned away from a swimming pool because of their race.

I stand together with thousands of Americans across the country in condemning the Valley Club's discrimination. We are calling on the Department of Justice to investigate whether the Valley Club violated federal civil rights laws. Together, we are sending a strong message that this kind of discrimination has no place in our society.


Star Jones

New York


  1. There is still a large group of influecial white Americans who are not ready to treat us as know the ones that moved to the suburbs to get away from us . Taking thier money and buisnesses with them , leaving many of us jobless. We need to establish our own like many other cultures that live in America. In too many black communities we're not the owners of the buisness. Would they cry fowl if we started our own and stopped supporting thiers. They would call us unAmerican. What would happen to Oprah if her show was all black
    They still own the infastucture that we want a peice of.
    We need to start teaching our kids to start your own buisness and not just get a job!


  2. I love your letter. I also have posted a link to the artical on my Twitter. I can't believe this is acceptable. I will do my best to have my voice heard on this topic.

  3. Hi,
    I must comment as I live next door to the Valley Swim Club, The neighbor is mostly Russian's and I am white. I am feeling as an outsider in my own home. They do not speak English here and they are rude. I would not want my child going there, they might pick up their bad habits. This is not a white only swim club but a Russian only swim club. Discrimination comes in all colors and races. In order to change the rules you need to change the neighborhood but maybe we need to close our borders but that is another story. Best of luck with this issue just leaving my opinion

  4. Great letter, I am writing a letter myself as well as any other forum that will bring attention to this matter. We know discrimination exists yet we do not expect it to rear its ugly head especially with children. Cindy McCain and many others couldn't and wouldn't ever understand why Michelle Obama said "For the first time in my adult lifetime,I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change." Hopefully, those people are hungry for change not just from government/politics but the other oppressive behaviors.

  5. So often I find that I am ashamed to be white. This is another one of those times. I've never belonged to a Country Club or sorority because of the exclusive membership. What is there to learn from being with "your own kind"? We can only grow and expand as human beings by coming together and sharing differing opinions, talents, styles and dreams. Once again I pray for both sides. I pray the children can forgive, and I pray the whites in this situation open their eyes and hearts and learn from this experience that it will never be OK to judge or discriminate against another person based solely on race.

  6. Did the club have any black members before this incident?

  7. It is time to stop protesting and open our own Swim Club and invest in our black community. There are enough rich black folks to make this happen in every inner city across this country if we can unnecessarily purchasing $5,000 handbags and $1,500 sunglasses. Next.

    Sidebar: Skee Wee to my Soror and Sister in the law.

    www.charactercorner dot blogspot dot com
    "The Blog Where Hip Hop Meets Scripture!!"

  8. As a child my sister and I endured a similiar situation when attending a neighborhood concert with some friends who were not black like we are. Although the racist comments were from one individual, I must say it has stayed with me throughout the years. I must have been 10 or 11 at the time and I am now 37. I remember feeling very angry. Now that I am older I feel sorry for that woman for what an ignorant person she must be to live in a world that can not except change.


Your comments are welcome as long as they are in keeping with the spirit of this blog. They must be positive about your life, your community, our nation or our world. They must elevate...not denigrate...and if you criticize me or my position...state your name and email address so I know who you are and can address you directly. My rules. Star