Suing People To Solve Your Problems

The story: A private swim club kicks out a day care group possibly because of overcrowding, possibly because of racism. Media fire storm brews. Said private swim club reinvites day care group. Day care group refuses saying “children are scarred” and “The children’s best interests are not being served.” Day care intends to sue within a couple of days.

Look, I know racism still exists in this country and that if the charges of racism are true, something should be done about it. However, saying the children are scarred and refusing the olive branch regardless of whether you think it was coerced or offered honestly only serves to teach children that when conflict arise it is best to batten down the hatches and start fighting instead of trying to resolve things like, well, like humans. That action is what will actually scar the children by showing them how their role-models go about dealing with a difficult situation.

In this case, the charges of racism don’t ring particularly true. At least two other day cares had their invitations renounced. If the club was worried about minorities, don’t you think they would have investigated a little before extending an invitation to a largely minority day care? This sounds to me like a swim club that invited too many people to use its facilities and then got some blowback from the members who pay to have a nice private club. It does not sound like a racially motivated situation.

The lawyer for the day care had this to say about suing the club and demanding the resignation of all board members: “Our goal is to ensure that this type of behavior never happens again,” she said. Be careful what you ask for there. You’re liable to get it but just not in a way you expected. If clubs are worried about how their actions might get played in our 24 hour news cycle, they just won’t invite you. At all. That certainly doesn’t serve the kids well either.

There is much work to be done in regards to race relations in this country but refusing to solve things amicably in a case that easily could be identified as confusion will never help. We are teaching our children that when someone spites you, go out of your way to make their life miserable. Not a particularly instructive way to do things.

18 thoughts on “Suing People To Solve Your Problems

  1. Look, I know racism still exists in this country and that if the charges of racism are true, something should be done about it.

    I’m curious as to what that something should be. Racism is an ugly thing, but last time I checked, private property and thought legislation don’t exactly fit into the same ideological space.

  2. That’s very true. I shouldn’t write posts at work while trying to do 4 other things in my head. A private club should be able to determine who can and cannot join and participate.

    Though in this case, if the day care had a contract, there may be contractual issues with canceling the contract without notice depending on the related law. I have zero experience in such things but that’s the only way I can see where “something should be done” contrary to what I wrote in the original post.

  3. But doesn’t a private club have the option to refuse anyone they want – I belong to a German Society and if you are not of German heritage you can’t get in – does that mean a person can sue because they are not German and can’t join????

  4. Yes, they can refuse them. However, if they say they can join, have them sign a contract, cash their check and then say they can’t on the sole basis of race, I have the feeling they may be on slightly less solid ground.

    This club was under some sort of contractual agreement with the day care. I don’t know the details of that and am only assuming that that detail may be what the case turns on.

    Also, we may be fast approaching a time when someone can do exactly that (sue to be a member of your club even though they fail to have the specified characteristics). I don’t think that’s right but I think it may happen.

  5. This lawsuit will go nowhere.. There is no evidence of racism. And the swim club has re-invited the day care.. If they refuse, that is up to them.. What you have here is a black woman trying to make noise, probably encouraged by a lawyer. The case will be dismissed.. But hopefully that won’t be the end of it.. This woman, Alathea Wright, should lose her job. She is the one that has “scarred” these children. If it wasn’t for her, none of these children would remember this in a week. But now they will remember it for the rest of their life. If I was a parent, there is NO WAY I would let my children be around a woman like this, who is using them to get attention.

  6. Whereas it may be true that there were two other day care centers whose contracts were rescinded, this is the one whose contract was rescinded AFTER some patrons/members commented on why all the “black kids” were there and espoused fear for their safety and of whether or not their valuables would be stolen as a result (of that apparently unsettling presence). Those kids were there to swim and have some fun, but were subjected to unwarranted, derogatory comments simply because of the fact that they were black. They no doubt were stared at and treated like the “criminals in training” that some on-line racists have deemed them. People keep trying to say that the days of discrimination and racism are over, as if they ended with the abolition of slavery. Yet, we are still dealing with episodes such as this. Since the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, prejudice has abated somewhat and outward discrimination is not nearly so prevalent as it was. Even so, racism is still very much with us. Just ask those kids who heard those racist comments or who were made to feel bad about themselves simply because of the color of their skin. THAT is a lasting memory for them. Hopefully, they can put it behind them and not let it negatively impact their futures.

  7. Marie – that is hearsay. There is no way to prove that these comments were or were not made. I used to be a lifeguard at several different pools and overcrowding is a serious concern. I also saw mentioned in a different article on this story that this day care promised a 10:1 child to adult ratio but that the daycare did not stick to this agreement. When there are too many children and not enough adults to supervise, and that contributes to overcrowding, I think a private pool has every right to cancel a contract.

  8. Tom wrote “there is no evidence of racism here.” Not sure if you and I read the same story Tom. The one I read and watched on the news states clearly that a white female club member expressed fear these young children would “harm her child.” What she based this upon is unclear since there has been no report the black kids were doing anything other than swimming, which is kinda the point of going to a pool. The news reports state white club members questioned why the “black kids” were there, not why non-members or strangers were there; but specifically why black kids would be in their exclusive club. Racism in 2009 generally does not reveal itself through pointy white sheets or legalized discrimination. This story is the Y2K version of racism: hidden, insidious, subversive, but still hurtful and ignorant. Tell yourself what you want to believe, Tom. This is racism, plain and simple.

  9. I’m beginning to think my post is linked from somewhere since 6 comments are several standard deviations outside the mean for this humble blog. Glad you’re all hanging out.

    Marie, I think the charge of racism is both less clear than you make it out to be and more importantly, not illegal. As Tom mentions, the likelihood of this case standing up is low because private clubs can basically do whatever they want.

    I don’t think anyone on this blog and very few intelligent commentators in the wild, wild Internet would ever say the days of discrimination and racism are over. However, I happen to agree with Tom on this. Had the day care just let the situation drop, these kids wouldn’t have remembered a damn thing about it in a week. They are mostly very young. The fact that it’s been parlayed into some sort of national media event is what the kids will remember.

    Your certainty that the kids were treated in a racially unjust way is not supported by the facts, at least not in the CNN story.

  10. I m black and I know that the swim center owner was not racist when he said that he also turned away white daycare. Blacks should accept some things for just what it is and stop crying racism at every little thing. Seriously this cry is getting pretty old!

  11. It sounds like overcrowding was really the issue, not racism. The burden of proof should be on the day care. If the court finds that not enough supports their accusations, then they should be forced to pick up the court costs.

  12. Scotch, I say to you that Ms. Wright did not create this problem. This problem was created by the patrons/club members who made the racist comments. It was the children who brought the matter to her attention. Whether she acted on the matter or not is immaterial to the fact that those children are now scarred. You think every one should just let bygones be bygones and get over it; that the day care center should take its clients back to that club where they have already been hurt once. Neither Ms. Wright nor the day care center, however, have the right to subject those children to that. The club owners may be very tolerant and open to diversity, but obviously that sentiment is not shared by all members of the club. It was their attempt to cater to the wishes of those intolerant patrons/club members that created this maelstrom. A few intolerant members sitting around a pool making negative, racist comments is one thing. An establishment subsequently acting in a discriminatory manner is another matter entirely. An investigation is certainly warranted here. You want this to be a simple matter of miscommunication and confusion, while ignoring the weightier matters of prejudice and abject racism. What the children SHOULD learn from this is that while it may be perfectly legal to voice racist comments, it is NOT legal to act on racial prejudices and discriminate on the basis of someone’s race, color, religion, gender, or any other arbitrary circumstance. The children of the 21st century should not have to tolerate racism in any way, shape, or form, no matter in what benign guise it is colored or couched!

  13. MW, it may be hearsay, but that is what those children HEARD! Naturally, those fine, upstanding white patrons who made the comments will deny ever even THINKING, let alone VOICING such inflammatory, clearly racist statements, but were it not for the statements, those children would have gone on, blithely unaware of the “real” concerns their presence was causing for some of the club members/patrons. Their comments were about the large number of “black kids” and about their safety and the security of their valuables. It was not about being able to adequately accommodate the large numbers in terms of water safety. That was the explanation given by the club management after this story broke. They didn’t even bother to give the day care center an explanation for rescinding the contract and asking that they not return. Surely, a violation of a promised 10:1 child to adult ratio would have been a reasonable explanation. But that was not the case. The REAL reason that contract was rescinded was that some of those intolerant members demanded that they do so. If there is an investigation, the same economic factors that caused the club owners to rescind the contract with the day care center will probably also prevent them from naming names. But names should be named. Racists do not all hide beneath white sheets while wearing pointy white hats with masks. As Tee said, they are “hidden, insidious,{and} subversive, but still hurtful and ignorant. They not only hurt blacks or whoever the targets of their prejudice may be. They also hurt innocents like those club owners, or whites who do not share their racist beliefs, but say and do nothing when they hear the racist jokes and/or rants. And they hurt our society as a whole because we still have to deal with all the hidden, insidious, subversive aspects of racism. The worst thing we can do is to ignore this spectre when it raises its ugly head. It is not going away. You can’t do too much about it when it remains hidden, but if it reveals itself, KILL IT! (And this is not about it being a private club. That club entered into a contract with that day care center. The center’s clients had a contracted right to avail themselves of the club’s amenities. The fact that those clients were made up of a large number of black and Latina children is not justification for breaching that contract.)

  14. Scotch, as I said, it is NOT illegal to voice racist sentiments. It IS, however, illegal to act on those prejudices and discriminate against anyone on the basis of some arbitrary circumstance such as race, color, religion, or gender. Those patrons who made the comments may have legally done so, but had those comments incited violence, they could also have been held legally accountable for doing so. Even private clubs cannot legally violate a contract. Thus, this case has a strong likelihood of standing up.

  15. Scotch, I am glad you couched your comment “….very few intelligent commentators in the wild, wild Internet would ever say the days of discrimination and racism are over” as there are many not very intelligent commentators who allege just that…. Apparently, neither you nor Tom have ever been subjected to any prejudiced or racist comments or behavior. It is not something you are likely to soon forget. Even if the daycare had let the situation drop, those kids would have remembered every aspect of the hurt and pain they felt. They may not have known what name to put on it, but they DID know that something was very wrong with the situation and it was all because of the fact that they were black. My certainty that those kids were treated in a racially unjust way is indeed supported by the facts. You need to go back and reread the CNN story. Now a jury or even a benevolent judge may be willing to let the club off the hook by accepting that latent explanation that the contract was rescinded and the day care center told not to return because of concerns about overcrowding, but we all know that this whole case arose as a result of the racist comments which led to the contract being breached and thus, perhaps, to a federal lawsuit.

  16. @Marie: First of all, putting words in my mouth isn’t the best way to make your case. I did not say Ms. Wright created this problem and I did not say every one should let bygones be bygones and get over it.

    What I did say was that A) people should learn to handle their disputes like adults instead of suing at the drop of a hat and B) this case doesn’t look very much like racism to me which make it even sillier to sue. On top of that, it’s my understanding that a private club can allow whomever they want based on whatever they want as criteria.

    Your certainty that this is racism is not at all supported by the CNN article. It’s a he said, she said situation and there’s nothing in that article to say otherwise. You keep saying it’s what the children heard but since when do we start lawsuits based on what a 7th grader heard? It’s a ridiculous response to a situation that could have been handled gracefully which has been my argument all along, assuming there was anything at all racially motivated here. At the very worst, a contract was broken. The club then offered to let them back in so I just don’t see any of this holding up in court.

    And on top of all that, even assuming the worst and this really was a horrible case of racial discrimination, there is nothing inherently illegal if a private club chooses to exclude people. As long as they aren’t acting on the State’s behalf, it’s unlikely to ever be prosecuted.

    “…we all know that this whole case arose as a result of the racist comments which led to the contract being breached and thus, perhaps, to a federal lawsuit.”

    No, we don’t all know that. You seem to think that but there is no certainty here, no matter how many times you proclaim it. Advocating for a federal lawsuit for the case of a broken contract at a second rate swim club in Pennsylvania sounds, well, rather hysterical to me.

    PS. You should get a blog. I think you’d be prolific.

  17. I guess you have never had anyone cross the street at the sight of you because of the color of your skin. I guess you never had someone lock their car door at the sight of your skin. If you have never experienced racism, then you have no idea. It was the use of poor choice of words and poor management you should always know the capacity limit You cannot tell me management did not know this especially when he emailed the child/adult ratio to Ms. Wright. Scotch, please explain to me how does “the complexion” and “atmosphere” of the club mean overcrowding of a pool. @ Sandra it was never stated if the other daycare centers were a minority that was “supposedly” turned away. That is really not even the issue, the fact they had club members using racial language makes the matter even worse.

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