SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2011       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Michael Gamble

Drain the Pool!

One recent weekend I had my seven year old daughter with me as well as my eight and eleven year old cousins. The temperature had been well into the 100’s and we were all anxious to get into the cold and refreshing swimming pool. The eight year old is a girl who really enjoys spending time with my daughter, and her brother, the eleven year old, and I are close as well so I thought it would be nice for us to spend some quality time together. I invited them to stay the weekend over at my place. On the agenda were movies, swimming, ice cream and all the fun stuff adults’ love doing with children.

Around late morning on this gorgeous Sunday, the kids wanted to go swimming. The weather was beautiful, sunny sky and perfect breeze, so I told them to go and get their swimming trunks and bathing suits on and get everything together. It was the peak of the summer season, so we were almost guaranteed to encounter others at the pool, usually a lot of people. Once we were all ready we grabbed our pool toys, beach towels and a last- minute orange flavored Otter Pop and headed toward one of my apartment complex’s pools. As we arrived at the freshly painted gate we were greeted with the sights and sounds of many people. I took notice of a young couple of maybe fifteen years old on one end of the pool. On the other end was a large group of White people. Most of the adults were on the pool deck and the kids were in and getting into the pool. The sound of water splashing and kids playing, yelling and chasing each other almost added to the level of excitement for my kids. My kids and I found an available lounge chair in the middle area and began to get ready to get in.

One day my girlfriend and I were hanging out at the apartment complex’s swimming pool where there was a large group of white people. It looked like around 15 or 20, with the majority being kids. They had been in the pool for only a few minutes when a black family entered with three pre-teen children. Almost immediately the white man told his group that it was time to pack up. It appeared as though they were making way for the rest of the people.

At that same moment we heard one of the men yell to a boy, who was getting in the pool, to “get out of the pool now!” I assumed they had been there for a while and that the boy must have been asked more than once and that is why the man yelled at him. Before the boy climbed out of the pool though, he said to the man “but we just got here!” The man sternly responded again with no explanation, “Get out of there now!” At the same time all the rest of their party also began packing up, which left only the teen couple and us.

The white families began gathering their belongings and getting their kids together to leave the pool area. Their children were protesting, because as all children, they wanted to keep playing. As one of the white men left the pool he passed by the black man whose gaze caught his as he walked by. This seemed to annoy the white man who continued out the pool gate. After the man left the rest of his group finished gathering their belongings and also began to exit. The whole time the black man appeared very disgruntled from the encounter with the white man.

First I tried to ignore what became painfully obvious, but the awkward feeling wouldn’t lie. To me something just felt odd and uncomfortable about the situation. As everyone was packing up I heard pleas from the rest of the children asking why they had to leave and if they were coming back. This is what really confirmed what I didn’t want to believe in the first place, that these white people didn’t want to be in the pool with Black folks! The man who yelled at the children was the first to leave. Upon his exit he looked to me and instinctively I looked to acknowledge him politely. To my dismay he scowled at me then turned his head and scoffed as he continued out the gate. After this all of the excitement of the bubbles in the Jacuzzi, splashing sounds and fun was drained from me. I had a feeling of shock and hurt and all I could think about was how minorities were treated 50 years ago. Should I go to the Colored Only bathrooms too? Or maybe order food at Colored Only establishments! As blatant as his actions were he might as well had said the “N” word! After my initial shock the children came to mind. How would I explain this?? I sat there staring blankly into space wondering if I should even be mad, but the fact remained I was truly hurt. I had yet again encountered the persistent borderlands of race.

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