Swimming in racist waters

Driving while black is an “offence” that is common in many jurisdictions in the North America.

Of course, it is not written down in the law books as an offence but nevertheless, it gets the attention of the police in many cities in United States and Canada, including Toronto, as many black motorists who have been victims of carding  or racial profiling would attest.

But there is now  growing concern about another race-related issue: using  the swimming  pool while black.

Last Thursday in Surrey, British Columbia, a Black woman complained that a member of her townhouse complex ‘s staff requested her family to show their ID when they were using the pool.

As reported in this issue  of  the Caribbean Camera, the woman, Guerda Henry. who moved to Canada from the Bahamas,  said she was devastated when a resident who had asked staff to check her ID, returned and questioned a  12-year old family friend – after the staff member had  already confirmed their residency.

Henry said she believe that the incident was an episode of racial profiling and it was not the first time she had experienced it at  the complex.

She went on  to say that she felt compelled to  take” a public stand ” because her family were there to witness it on this occasion.

We believe that Guerda Henry  should be commended for speaking out on this issue.

All too often incidents of racism go unreported.

However,  thanks to social media and cell phones  that take pictures and people like  Guerda Henry, the ugly truth of such incidents is coming to light.

We are noticing that in so many cases police have been called to investigate  complaints about Black people – complaints which were made for no good reason.

Earlier this month, a Black man in Indiana complained that he was racially profiled while sitting at a  swimming pool at his apartment complex.He said he was asked to leave the pool  by a police officer and the  property  manager although he showed them his key fob for the pool.

During the period of segregation in the United States, Black people were denied access to public swimming pools and with desegregation many public pools were closed and some were filled in with cement.

We have heard ridiculous – but true –  stories of swimming pools at hotels in the United States being “drained” after Black celebrities went into these pools.

Now with the rise of Trumpism in the United States, the closet racists have been emboldened

and we are hearing  of more racist behaviour at swimming pools and elsewhere.

And, of course, racial intolerance is by no means confined to the United States.

Guerda Henry noted that when she moved to Surrey from the Bahamas five years ago, she knew  full well the “waters (she’d) be swimming in” as a visible minority in British Columbia.

She said she wasn’t surprised by the actions of the staff member at her townhouse complex  but was still “incredibly disappointed” by last week’s occurrence at the swimming pool.

Henry would like a formal, written apology from the Strata association, which operates the housing complex where she lives.

We certainly believe  that she deserves such an apology.

We also believe that this particular situation  should serve as a reminder to all citizens  – not just Black people – that we have a responsibility to stamp out racism wherever it rears it head.

Sometimes  it can be quite outrageous. Last April we reported the case of a Haitian woman who was ticketed by the police for laughing out loud while she and her  white boyfriend were walking along a  street in Montreal. The ticket was for $444. Not a laughing matter.

More recently, we received a report of police being called to a golf club in the United States because a group of Black women were said to be playing too slowly. In this case police left without taking any action against the slow players.

We  note with concern that the new Conservative government of  Ontario, like the former administration of  Mike Harris, does not have  a minister specifically responsible for anti-racism.

Premier Doug Ford should not have to be reminded that there was such a minister in the government of  Kathleen Wynne . This omission from his cabinet should  be corrected.

Guerda Henry says she wants to help educate the  public about  racism.

By speaking out about the swimming  pool issue, she is certainly helping to make more people aware of  a problem of deep concern.

Like driving while black,  using the pool while black should not be a cause for calling in the police.