Mixing It Up at the Y

As loyal members of the Y, we were pleased to receive notice in the mail and then see on the front page of the local section of the paper the announcement of the merger between the Philadelphia Y and the Freedom Valley Y.  While we go to our Y (in West Philly) almost all the time, it's nice to have the opportunity to go to other Y's, and in fact every once in awhile we do: the kids took gymnastics at the Main Line Y because it was the closest place that offered it, and Amy goes to the Y in North Philly fairly often because it's close to her work.  And we are always game for a road trip to check out how other Y's are.  And now with the merger, you can add five more branches that we can check out for free.

Ah, but there lies the rub for some in the burbs.  As the Inquirer delicately put it, "The Freedom Valley membership was especially hesitant, with some anonymous members asserting that Philadelphia children would be bused in to fill up suburban swimming pools during the summer."  Of course, we've heard this line before, most recently with the president of a swim club in Huntingdon Valley reneging its contract with a Philadelphia youth group to use its swimming facilities because it would "change the complexion" of the place.  (That discrimination case was settled earlier this year.)

It's not hard to wonder if some of the nervousness with Freedom Valley members is race-based.  No one will come out and say so, and if pressed, the stated reasons will likely be more about crowdedness than racial segregation.

Many suburbs are actually quite racially and ethnically diverse.  But some are not, and it is not by accident.  People make choices about where to live based on what works for them, and what works for some is to be distant from the city, its people, and its problems.  If someone has chosen a place to live because they don't want to have to deal with certain groups of people, especially in large quantities, it's a free country, and they should be allowed to do that.

I won't impose my preferences upon others.  I can't help, though, but feel a sense of sadness when people dig in on their separateness, rather than being open to a little mixing.  Given what the Y stands for, after all, it would seem to be a reasonable place to experience a little diversity.  (I mean, look at the Village People!)  I'll have to bring my little family out there sometime soon, horn in on some of the locals, and see what happens next.  I hope we all exercise the same friendliness and warmth that I get every time we go to the West Philly Y, and that we're all a little happier and better for it. 

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