Swimming in Privilege

June 8, 2016

 

I was thinking about Gordon Park's "Segregation Story" and, specifically, segregated swimming pools  while I was swimming laps. Among about 50 people at the YMCA pool I was the only black person in the pool area. I am often the only black person in the pool area and almost always the only one swimming laps. Being the "only" is not an unusual experience for me but it has always felt more salient when I am swimming. My parents were approached about becoming members of the University City Swim Club in Philadelphia soon after moving to the surrounding neighborhood in the late 60s. To quote the UCSC website, "Imagine the audacity of these people! In the early 1960s, in the heart of an urban area, they proposed to create an integrated swim club." And, it wasn't perfect but IT WAS racially integrated. I grew up among other black people swimming on the summer swim team. I also grew up knowing I was privileged and that many blacks did not have access to pools. In part highlighted by the black kids who lived in the apartment buildings that overlooked the pool who wanted access to the club. I grew up knowing that my parents sacrificed so I had this opportunity. They scraped and saved every year so we could afford to be members. They continue to be members today! But I also grew up knowing that things could be different. We could lead racially integrated lives and the world would not come to an end. In fact, it was a good thing and the world would get better. So, when I am swimming while black, I am reminded of how racial inequality and oppression is made and how it can be unmade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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University of Maryland, College Park

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