In the very early 1950s our family was on a trip through the south. At one point, to cool off, we stopped at a municipal swimming pool in Memphis, Tennessee. I was too young to catch on right away since I had been raised in the north and had no idea what segregation was, but my parents immediately saw that the pool was segregated.
The segregation there greatly amused my parents for its silliness: there was a rope down the middle of the pool. Whites swam and played on one side, blacks swam and played on the other. My parents rightly pointed out to my sister and me how silly it was because the water circulated throughout the entire pool and we all ended up swimming in the same water. It was as if the water didn't matter but the potential for contact did.
I was reminded of this incident last weekend when I met Pat Thomas at a community pool where my son lives south of Houston. He was telling us that when he was young, he grew up in Plano, Texas, which also had segregation. Only in Plano the pools were for only white people; his dad had to drive him 18 miles each way into Dallas for him to go to a pool where he could learn to swim. That was in the early 1960s, when civil rights and desegregation were (finally) becoming such important issues in the United States.
The community pool last weekend was a model of integration: whites, asians, blacks, Mexicans, east Indians, and all sorts of combinations of the various colours and races. For all I knew there were some arabs and jews there, too.
We've come a long way in 50 years.