April 5, 2010

I No Longer Want My Own Swimming Pool

Researching my last post, I came across this really interesting article on npr.com about the history of public swimming pools.  It included this passage:
When black Americans gained equal access to municipal pools, white swimmers generally abandoned them for private pools. Desegregation was a primary cause of the proliferation of private swimming pools that occurred after the mid-1950s. By the 1970s and 1980s, tens of millions of mostly white middle-class Americans swam in their backyards or at suburban club pools, while mostly African and Latino Americans swam at inner-city municipal pools. America's history of socially segregated swimming pools thus became its legacy.
I'd never, ever thought of that. I do recall, as a kid growing up in Florida, that I was told by young friends that "Black people smell funny in the swimming pool," and as an adult realizing that what they were talking about was coconut oil reacting with the chlorine in the swimming pool. Someone who didn't use coconut oil wouldn't have that smell in chlorinated water; and as I learned to my moderate discomfort a while back, coconut oil is still a hair-care product marketed to African-Americans.

I also recall that some of my parents' friends had homes with private swimming pools in back and it was quite the big deal to be invited to a pool party. Now, I don't know if it was as big a deal for my parents and it was just me being all excited to go to a pool party because I was, after all, a kid and going to somewhere that there was a swimming pool was an inherently exciting thing for a kid. I can't recall the racial makeup of those pool parties today, though. There must have been some Black people there, right? My parents were always progressive on matters of race and they would never have tolerated the idea that they were going to an implicitly "Whites-Only" party.

But I'd never really given much thought to the fact that swimming pools were a particularly sore spot in America's troubled history of race relations. Certainly I'd never thought that getting your own private swimming pool would have been a retreat from a world being forced into racial integration. I'd always kind of figured that it was a convenience, a luxury, and a status symbol. But if racism is a real part of why people started getting their own private pools in their own back yards, that really makes me want a pool of my own less.

Hot tubs*, on the other hand, seem to lack any such association or secret history.


* (Mouse over for NSFW old joke):
How many Californians does it take to screw in a light bulb?  None, silly, because there isn't enough room in a light bulb. But put 'em in a hot tub, now you're talking!

13 comments:

zzi said...

I found living out here has less to do with owning a pool, to show your fear of black people, than to were you move to and how far you are willing to drive to work to live amongst your own.

trumwill said...

Here's the initial problem I have with this theory... I was raised in a neighborhood with a public pool largely bereft of minorities and... people still had pools in their back yard.

That's not to say that race and racism aren't issues and didn't help things along. I think I sometimes get annoyed when people reduce all of the advantages of a lifestyle choice they are not enamored with and reduce it all to "They're afraid of black people."

This goes not just for swimming pools, but for suburbia in general. It can't be about the increased space, good public schools, available parking, lower crime rates, lack of traffic (except when going to and from work if you actually work in the city which many suburbanites don't). Nope. It's about race. Purely and entirely.

Better Lawyer Than You said...

Mr. Trumwill,

Based on his argumentation style below, Mr. Transplanted Lawyer's retort is probably going to be that the good public schools, available parking, lower crime rates, and other advantages are "because of" the relative lack of racial minorities in the suburban areas, and that therefore it is still about race.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

No, I'm going to tell BLTY to read the original post again.

North Dallas Thirty said...

We read the post. It consisted of you stating that any white person who had a private pool after the mid-1950s was a racist who didn't want to swim with black people.

The only useful thing about people like yourself who blame everything on racism, Transplanted Lawyer, is that you've pretty much opened Americans' eyes to the fact that, regardless of what they do, they'll be branded as "racist".

And now they're coming to the realization that the people like yourself who scream "racist" at someone just for having a private pool are the REAL racists.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

I said nothing that remotely resembles what was in your comment, NDT. But I'm not going to re-write my post in simple enough language here so that you can understand it, because there's no profit in it.

Here's a lesson for you: Trumwill disagreed with the article and my thoughts about it. Somehow, he found a way to express his disagreement without simultaneously lobbing an insult. He addressed the idea under discusion. Here's hoping you one day also acquire that skill.

North Dallas Thirty said...

I said nothing that remotely resembles what was in your comment, NDT.

Yes, you did.

When black Americans gained equal access to municipal pools, white swimmers generally abandoned them for private pools. Desegregation was a primary cause of the proliferation of private swimming pools that occurred after the mid-1950s.

Seems pretty cut and dried; the only reason you have a pool in your backyard or belong to a private club is because you are a racist who didn't want to swim with black people.

What's funny to me is how liberals get so upset when you point out that they're calling everyone else racists for the most ludicrous of reasons. I think it's because they expect us to recoil, put our tail between our legs, and obediently listen to them, our betters, when they call us racists. After all, Transplanted Lawyer, just to use an example, is so obsessed with being politically correct and avoiding racism that he won't put a pool in his back yard for fear that people will think he hates black people.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

Now I see the problem. That passage is in a block quote. It's from the article. Those aren't my words.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

NDT, I hope you will take the time to re-read my post again, bearing in mind what a block quote is because I think you'll see I was reflecting on someone else's ideas rather than adopting them as my own.

Having misunderstood that I was quoting from the article rather than making an affirmative statement of my own, you still don't have to agree with me about anything. But it does mean that you incorrectly attributed to me a belief and statement that I did not make. If I were in your shoes having made that mistake, I'd be apologizing for those earlier remarks; at minimum, I'd acknowledge my mistake.

What you do is up to you.

zzi said...

Does Blogger let you place the block quotes in italics?

North Dallas Thirty said...

Having misunderstood that I was quoting from the article rather than making an affirmative statement of my own, you still don't have to agree with me about anything.

If you do not agree, why then did you state this?

But if racism is a real part of why people started getting their own private pools in their own back yards, that really makes me want a pool of my own less.

Hence, you positively affirmed the statement in the blockquote as being correct, which is why I held you accountable to it.

henry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Transplanted Lawyer said...

henry's comment deleted as spam.