I Learned About White Privilege at the Public Swimming Pool

Did that attempt to change things make a difference?

Collage from iStock and 123RF images by Ellen Shapiro

So what did I do? I called a meeting of the lifeguards and attendants.

One of the lifeguards, a bearded guy who went to Long Beach State, was just as concerned about the inequity as I, and we spread the word. After work, all of us lifeguards and attendants met in his apartment. I spoke as eloquently as my 19-year-old self could about what was then a new topic, a new buzzword: Institutionalized Racism. “We can’t let this go on,” I told my co-workers. “We have to do something.”

  • It’s true that Los Angeles residents don’t pay Inglewood taxes (the stated reason for charging them more), but what if we could get Inglewood to work out a deal with L.A. and get some income from them?
  • Let’s let everyone know about this. We’ve got to write a letter to the editor of the Inglewood Daily News. (I remember being super-surprised that my parents, who considered themselves liberals, vetoed that idea so vehemently.)
  • We could take up a collection and give dimes to the kids who don’t have resident cards.

“The citizens of Inglewood do not want their children to swim in a pool with Negroes.”

All of us lost our jobs. The next year, with a summer job at a crummy agency doing paste-ups, I drove to the park to see what was going on. They’d hired the youngest, whitest, straightest looking recent graduates they could find.

Time sped forward, via blockbusting.

Inglewood, according to the statistics its own website, is now 50.6% Hispanic or Latino, 43.9% Black, and 23.3% White, with a smattering of other ethnicities. (I don’t understand why the numbers add up to way more than 100%. But you get the idea.) The current mayor, James T. Butts, Jr., is African-American.

Is we really entering a different season?

About halfway through his eulogy for George Floyd, Rev. Al Sharpton said this, quoting Ecclesiastes:

“There is a time and a season, and when I looked this time, I saw marches where in some cases young whites outnumbered the Blacks marching. I know that it’s a different time and a different season.”

Whoa! And he went on to praise a young white girl who stopped him in the airport to say, “No justice, no peace!”

My career is designing and writing about design. Here, I can write about lots of things. My short fiction attempts to capture and evoke past moments in time.

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