Heard anything lately about the day care ejected from the swim club in Pennsylvania? I went hunting for information and found that the day care, invited back, declined & decided to sue instead
. Good for them.
That CNN article got me thinking about what does it look like to actually, genuinely resist racism, to check our own privilege, to work for social justice?
The Valley Swim Club "asked the Creative Steps day care to return." The director of the day care says that nobody from the swim club contacted the day care with that request: "The only thing that I've heard has been third party via the media."
Right. Put on a nice face for the (white) media, and forget to speak at all to the injured parties. Sheesh. They're not sorry they hurt anybody. They're just sorry they look bad. And they've got the privilege of access to the media -- note who gets the majority of the quotes in this and other mainstream articles on the subject.
The article closes with several paragraphs of half-hearted breast-beating by the racists in question:
"I hope we can teach our children a lesson -- that you should admit errors. We should have done things differently. And if there are differences, we can overcome them."
She again denied the claims of racism and expressed hope of reaching a resolution.
"I wish we had come up with better solutions. I wish we had it to do all over again," she said.
How about, instead of wishing you could have a do-over in which to behave better, START BEHAVING BETTER NOW?
What would they do, if they did it all over again? Why can't they start doing that now?
What would an ideal response be, when an institution is faced with its own racism? Wait, let me ask a different question, because we're so far away from the ideal that I don't think we can visualize it. What would a better response be?
Instead of denying racism, how about owning up to it? We pretend to have a zero-tolerance policy for racism in our culture, but it's an illusion. Instead of actually refusing to tolerate racism, what we do is castigate the obvious offenders and then deny that any of the rest of it exists.
Because if we admitted it was there, we'd have to do something about it.
What would doing something about it look like? If the swim club actually wants to admit errors, do things differently, overcome differences, come up with a better solution -- what should they do? In the thousands of similar-but-less-blatant examples we've all seen and participated in, what should we do?
We must start by actually admitting our error and apologising: What we did was wrong, and it was racist. What we did was inexcusable. We apologise.
We must start to overcome differences by stopping the differential treatment. We should promise: We will never again privilege the prejudice of a member of our organization over the dignity of another human being. And then we should actually live up to that.
We must not accept racism in our lives, our organizations, our homes. We must label racism unacceptable and then LIVE THAT. We must work to recognize racism in our lives (because if we're not the victims of it, it doesn't come looking for us; it's only obvious to its victims, and even then, only sometimes). Our friends must be put on notice: if your words or actions are racist, I will not be your friend. As members of organizations we must know that if we speak or act like a racist, we will be ejected. As people who run those organizations, we must have the will and commitment to refuse to tolerate racism, even if that means ejecting members of our organization or kicking paying customers out of our spaces.
The better solution to recognizing racism within our own organizations is to ROOT IT OUT. The people in that club who made those racists comments, are they still members of that club? WHY??? Why should anybody who's willing to humiliate children over the color of their skin have the privilege of using your goddamn pool? Why does swim club director John Duesler still have a job?
And finally, they should be having these conversations with each other and with the people they hurt -- not with the media. Because if you're so damn concerned with saving face after you've humiliated someone else, you're never going to actually fix anything; all you're doing is defending your own damn privilege.