At this point over 10 million people have watched the video of the McKinney, TX Police Officer Eric Casebolt violently throwing a 14 year-old girl to the ground and then pulling his gun on a group of unarmed teenagers who were attending a party at a local community pool. The McKinney Police Department condemned the officer's behavior and Casebolt has resigned, but the images of black American kids being driven from a community pool still haunt - not just because the officers actions that are outrageous, but because it is always upsetting to be reminded of our shameful history of officially sanctioned segregation.
American municipal pools have long been racial battlegrounds. Jamelle Bouie of Slate Magazine this history breaks down the integration of Americas public pools in an excellent article "Our Segregated Summers" which is worth a read if you want to understand why this video why this video has gotten so much attention.
My first racial epiphany came at a Boston Municiple pool when I was a kid in the 1970s. One summer when was a counselor at the Central Square YMCA I took group of campers, who were mostly Black and Puerto Rican 10 and 12 year-old boys, to the North End to swim in the public pool. As the kids were changing in the locker room I was surrounded by a group of men who told me: "if any of those niggers go in the pool someone is going to get seriously hurt". I was 14 at the time, and I remember being at a complete loss at how to explain to the kids why we could not go swimming in a public pool. The experience was devastating, heartbreaking and humiliating, and fundamentally transformed my view of the world and my place in it. I did not know it then, but that moment also set me on path that more that three decades later led me to the Whiteness Project.