Who Gets to Swim?

Brad M. Griffin | Jul 13, 2009

Photo by Etienne Girardet

Not black kids; not in this pool in Philadelphia. Even if they’ve paid up.

You may have seen this in the news last week, but in case you missed it, a summer camp contracted with a private swim club to take their kids ( mostly black) once a week for a swim during camp. When they arrived for their first dip, however, there was apparently outrage and mass exodus from the water from the other members (apparently mostly white), followed by racist comments (from parents) and the dismissal of the camp kids from the pool altogether. The next day their contract was canceled.

Apparently there was some misunderstanding in the deal about what kind of camp was asking for paid access to the pool—the kind of camp that caters to a different skin color than was expected. Apparently we still live in an America that boasts segregated proms AND pools. And probably a lot of other things.

Hopefully this grieves us all, on a lot of levels. But hopefully it also stirs us to change things. We have incredible influence over students in our ministries who are forming their worldviews right in front of us. How are we helping them see each other—and those who look different from them—through the lenses of the God who created skin in all its varieties and placed his image in each one? How are we teaching them to speak out in advocacy and act in justice toward the oppressed?

And when they have the opportunity to make choices about who gets to swim, will their experiences in our ministries make a difference in how they choose?

PS: Here’s one place to advocate: http://www.colorofchange.org/swim/?id=1790-346080

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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