Hello Jim Crow!


Apparently, not only is Jim Crow alive and well, he isn’t even pretending to be hidden any more. What makes me say that? Well let’s start with a curious incident in Philadelphia. Seem a day camp paid for their kids to be able to swim one day a week at a private club. First time the kids show up to swim? They get booted out for changing the complexion of the club. The money is to be refunded, but I don’t think that’s going to make up for being told that the club doesn’t allow minorities. And then, when a new location offers their pool? The responses to the news article announcing it make it clear that this wasn’t a one off incident. A whole lot of folks in “post-racial” America are still spouting the same old bigotry. And you know, after a good five minutes of yelling (because for some reason I had deluded myself that things were much better than they used to be), I got myself under control and fired off an angry email and had a few unpleasant thoughts about Philly and moved on. I even told myself that as bad as the situation was, at least things weren’t *that* bad.

Until this morning, when someone sent me a link to an article about Eric Frimpong. Now, I’ve made no secret that feminism and I are not on the best of terms and in a lot of ways I’m more of a womanist than anything else. But, as I read the article and notice the victim rights groups led marches and blasted his supporters for not believing the victim I find myself thinking of a great uncle that I never got to meet. Because he was killed long before I was born. In fact if it weren’t for stumbling into an adult conversation I’m not sure that I would have known anything about him. Why? Because he was lynched for looking at a white woman. And it was totally by accident that after he was killed, her father took the land that he was sitting on when Miss Ann was supposedly assaulted by his reckless eyeballing. At least that was the story around those parts in those days. And I guess have improved if these days a falsely accused MOC gets to live (albeit in jail) instead of wind up as strange fruit. Of course I wouldn’t call that much of an improvement when you consider how much he’s lost as a result of being charged and convicted. And you know, I always hear about the American justice system and how much better it is now. But when someone can be convicted despite DNA evidence that points to someone else entirely? I’m not so sure that Jim Crow isn’t sitting comfortably in the courtrooms too.

As some of you know I’m a mother of two boys. And we live in Chicago (a town with an ugly racial history all its own), and now that my oldest son is a pre-teen we have all kinds of conversations about sex and relationships and other things that make him turn red and me grit my teeth and tell myself that I must let my baby grow up. But, I don’t know how to prepare him for a world where even with DNA evidence pointing to someone else he can be convicted. I don’t know how to prepare him for the possibility that he’ll be turned away from an activity he paid for because of the color of his skin. Then again, I guess my grandmother probably struggled with how to prepare me to navigate life in a city where on top of the gangs and drugs incidents like the the Burge torture cases preceded Ryan Harris case and Lenard Clark cases. Now the last two cases happened after I was already grown and gone, but make no mistake she worried all the time about what could happen to me (I’m the one with a big mouth that had a white cop call me a pushy nigger bitch when I was 12) and to my cousins. Because I have a great uncle that I never met and she had a brother that only lived in her memories. And the last thing any of us want is for Jim Crow to grow fat and strong and sassy again.

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16 Responses to Hello Jim Crow!

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    I’m the one with a big mouth that had a white cop call me a pushy nigger bitch when I was 12

    Take it as a compliment.

  2. 2
    Cecily says:

    Technically, that did not happen within the city of Philadelphia but a far northern suburb called Huntingdon Valley.

    Sorry, I love my city and have to defend. The asshole in HV though, you can have.

  3. 3
    Jake Squid says:

    Good for Girard College (which I knew as Girard School 20 odd years ago). They were in our athletic conference when I was in HS and, being the largest of the schools in the conference, our toughest competition. I’m happy to find that they’re still going strong while doing the same good work.

  4. 4
    PG says:

    To follow up, while the word “complexion” was unfortunate to use, it doesn’t sound like the president of the club wanted to kick the kids out — the board made the decision to take the kids’ money and let them swim at the pool, but the club members, after they saw the kids, overruled the board. In fairness to Duesler, he doesn’t seem to have been expressing his own feelings, but having to give in to to some unpleasant members of the club. People who support racism usually aren’t embarrassed by racist behavior, nor are they apologetic about it.

  5. 5
    Emily says:

    I don’t think the word “complexion” was unfortunate to use. I think it was accurate. Especially if Mr. Duesler is sympathetic to the kids and embarrassed by the members, perhaps he was accurately describing their reasons for not wanting the kids there. That’s not unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that it’s so easy in this day and age to hide one’s racism behind saying the “right” thing and have plausible deniability and never get called on it.

  6. PG

    People who support racism usually aren’t embarrassed by racist behavior, nor are they apologetic about it.

    They are in public if they have any awareness of the real world. I mean, this is clearly getting the club negative publicity, the flack’s job is to be aware that under the circumstances he should pretend to be contrite.

  7. 7
    Lilian Nattel says:

    I didn’t know that kind of restricted club existed anymore. That is disgusting.

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    I’m not sure, but I may have encountered some racism just the other day.

    My Scout Troop runs a pancake breakfast every 4th of July morning. 7:30 to 11:30 AM, all the pancakes and sausage you can eat with free OJ and coffee. Eggs 50 cents each any way you like them (my speciality), raffles, etc. Most of the adult leaders are outside cooking under a tarp while everyone eats inside. $5. Great deal. Even in the rain we fed 350 people.

    So: an adult leader is assigned to be inside and walk around to keep the Scouts running and thank people for coming. I had no egg orders up and decided to walk inside and take a look. Over at one end I notice two women and 4 kids of Scouting age, all obviously Hispanic. I walked over to the leader – new this year to the Troop, BTW – and asked him if he’d made a point of talking to the Scout age kids and their parents “over there”. Keeping an eye out for recruiting Scout age kids is part of the deal at an event like this. “Where?” he asked. “Over there”, I answered, pointing out the Hispanic group.

    I did not like the change of expression on his face.

    He said “No” and made no move to go over there. So I did, immediately. Unfortunately, while I was thanking them for coming out, asking if the food was O.K., etc., etc., there was a language barrier such that I’m not sure if they understood me. I did tell them where and when we meet and asked about the boys’ ages. A couple of them seemed old enough, but I’m not sure we got through.

    Then an egg order came up and I had to run. But I think I need to talk to this guy at the next Troop meeting he shows up at.

  9. 9
    Adrian says:

    Ick. I wonder how old the white kids were, that got out of the pool as soon as the black kids got in? I expect they go to schools that are de facto segregated (where they are taught that racist name-calling is mean, and slavery is wrong, and affirmative action is unfair because everybody is equal.) I wonder what they would say, if we could ask them why they got out of the pool? If they even know why, themselves?

  10. 10
    PG says:


    From the statements of Ms. Wright (one of the people running the camp, who took the kids to the pool), it was the adult members who were telling their kids to get out of the pool, not the kids who were spontaneously deciding that they wanted to stop having fun.

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    it was the adult members who were telling their kids to get out of the pool, not the kids who were spontaneously deciding that they wanted to stop having fun.

    I find that pretty easy to believe.

  12. 12
    Manju says:

    complexion! spectacular Freudian slip.

  13. 13
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Something else that’s an indictment of the parents is that they didn’t, according to any of the accounts, go to the LIFEGUARD and ask if it was safe, they went to the president and complained. The lifeguard is responsible for the safety of the pool and should have been able to decide how many children at a time could safely be monitored.

    It could well be that the president and staff of the club aren’t racist asshats, but it isn’t looking so good for the parents.

  14. 14
    Manju says:

    It could well be that the president and staff of the club aren’t racist asshats, but it isn’t looking so good for the parents

    the prez and his wife were present during the incident. she said (while being interviewed next to her husband) that she didn’t hear any racism (while he stayed silent.) but one of camp officials aid the prez was embarressed over the behavior of the parents…this was a cnn interview but i noticed PG’s link says something similar:

    “Trouble began immediately, says Wright, when she heard several white members make disparaging racial remarks about the campers, who are black and Hispanic. Wright says that Valley Club president John Duesler, who was on the premises, seemed surprised and embarrassed by the behavior but assured her that all would work out.”

    so someone’s lying. prob the prez (complexion guy) since you have so many witnesses on the other side.

  15. 15
    FurryCatHerder says:


    I think “so many witnesses” is part of the problem since it goes directly to the point that the club keeps making — there were too many children for the pool to handle safely.

    From the press conference, supposedly Ms. Wright was told about potential problems with counselor-to-child ratios. Publishing those e-mails might go a long way to answering questions.

    Something else that came out was that Ms. Wright, her son, and his 6th grade graduating class had been at the poll the previous week. Knowing if that’s true would answer questions about racial tolerance. If that’s the case, I’m more inclined to believe it was racist asshatery on the part of the parents, rather than the president and/or his wife since they would had to have approved that visit.

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