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Guest Opinion

Chalfont pool story suggests progress on race


Just after my 14th birthday I moved with my parents from Philadelphia to a house in New Britain, less than two miles from the borough of Chalfont. Chalfont had a small amusement park called Forest Park. The main feature of the park was a large swimming pool. That is where I learned to swim at the late age of 14.

One of my earliest memories of our first year in the new house was that of a racial incident at the park. The incident was apparently caused by a Black man flirting with a white girl. We got news of it as it was still happening, and people were calling it a “race riot,” although to my knowledge there were no serious injuries.

During the summers the park would rent its facilities for a day to a Black church group from Philly. Forest Park even had a stop on the SEPTA line from Philly to Doylestown. A friend who was born and raised in Chalfont recently told me that whenever a Black church group from the city rented the park for a day, the pool would be closed for the next day or two while the owners drained, cleaned and refilled it.

This was in 1955 or ’56 and it shows how deeply reflexive and embedded racism was a relatively short time ago — even in the liberal enlightened Northeast. A “race riot” in Bucks County, or anywhere else in the U.S. is unthinkable today, and draining and sanitizing a swimming pool now seems laughable.

While serious racism still exists, we should acknowledge that we have come a very long way in outgrowing it. Racism cannot be legislated out of existence. It takes time and years of positive interactions for it to recede.

I am critical of movements like BLM and CRT — not because racism is no longer a problem, but because these movements are at best a distraction from the real problems that face our society, and at worst they are actually fueling racism by promoting resentment on one hand and a feeling of entitlement on the other.

To heal the societal divisiveness we are now experiencing, it is necessary that we speak freely to each other and try to understand other points of view, no matter how much we may disagree. Canceling, censoring and ‘otherizing’ people has no place in a free and healthy society.

Gus Linton lives in Perkasie.

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