It gets very hot in June in McKinney, Texas, 30 miles north of Dallas. So when 19-year-old high school senior Tatyana Rhodes invited her classmates to a “school’s out” pool party on June 5 at her subdivision’s facility, the Craig Ranch North Community Pool, dozens of students, Black, Latino/a and white, showed up.
But instead of everyone having a nice time taking a cool dip in the pool, the party’s host was physically attacked by a group of white adult residents shouting racist slurs. The Black youth were told to leave the pool and “return to Section 8 housing.” (nytimes.com, June 10) The racists then called the police.
A dozen white McKinney cops responded to a “disturbance” of multiple juveniles “who do not live in the area or have permission to be there.” One of the cops was Eric Casebolt. A white teenager named Brandon Brooks video recorded what happened next.
Shoving and cursing at only the Black teenagers and ignoring the white ones, Casebolt brandished his gun at them after he wrestled an already sitting and crying 15-year-old girl, Dajeeira Becton, onto her stomach, shoving her face into the ground and kneeling on her back. The young woman was clad only in a bathing suit when she was manhandled by Casebolt.
When Adrian Martin, 18, tried to comfort Becton, he was arrested by Casebolt. Charges were later dropped.
When Brooks released his video of this racist atrocity on YouTube, hundreds marched in protest on June 8 through downtown McKinney. This righteous outrage, along with the strong Black Lives Matter movement across the United States, has forced the resignation of Casebolt as well as the job suspension of one of Rhodes’ racist attackers. Community members and leaders are calling for Casebolt’s arrest and prosecution for assault.
Swimming pool racism not new
Achieving the right of African-American youth to swim in pools and at beaches has long been a flashpoint of the struggle against racism. On July 27, 1919, a 17-year-old African-American boy named Eugene Williams was swimming with friends in Lake Michigan near Chicago. When Williams crossed the “boundary” into the “white beach” area, a group of white men threw rocks at him. One of them struck Williams in the head, causing him to drown. The cops refused to arrest any of the whites involved in this assault and murder.
Violence broke out. White mobs attacked the Black community, setting fires that left 1,000 families homeless. Thirty-eight people were killed, with more than 500 injured.
In Pittsburg in 1931, young Black men tried to enter a city pool. They were held underwater and beaten by white swimmers while the cops watched. When more than 100 Black people held a “wade in” in 1960 in Mississippi, a white mob attacked them with pool sticks, lead pipes and chains.
There have been many other such attacks against African Americans at beaches and pools over the years.
These racist attacks on the right of Black children just to be able to go swimming have a devastating impact. A recent study by “USA Swimming” indicates that 58 percent of African-American children cannot swim, almost double the rate of white children. Black children drown at nearly three times the overall rate.
There has been a stony silence of the capitalist political establishment, one that includes all the presidential candidates, about the racist McKinney pool attack. Nor have any of them spoken out against the numerous deaths of unarmed young Black men by racist police from Ferguson, Mo., to Los Angeles, from Cleveland to Staten Island, N.Y., and all across the country.
Hillary Clinton made a major policy speech in New York City on June 13. Yet Clinton said not one word about the well-publicized attack on Black children in McKinney. Nor did she voice any support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Capitalist politicians will not roll back this tide of racist killings and police attacks.
The historic Black Lives Matter movement, along with organized support by all workers and other oppressed peoples, is the force that will get killer cops jailed and achieve justice as the struggle against racism and national oppression continues to grow across the U.S.