McKinney, Texas: A Reminder of America’s Segregated Pools

A violent encounter between black teens and white police officers recalls American history.
(Photo: YouTube)
Jun 8, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. She is based in New York.

For much of the last day, we’ve watched a horrifying video of a group of black teenagers’ encounter with white police officers in McKinney, Texas. The officers were called to the pool Friday in response to a “disturbance” involving teens who apparently did not live in the relatively affluent, mostly white suburb about an hour north of Dallas. Many of the teenagers apparently did not have permission to be at the pool.

According to BuzzFeed, adults in the neighborhood asked the teens to leave, made racist comments, and told them to go back to “Section 8 housing,” or public housing.

Moments later, a white police officer, Eric Casebolt, tackled a black teenager and drew his gun on a group of teens who rushed to her side. Much of the episode was captured on video.

The video of the violent encounter has incited a widespread, shocked response from viewers around the country and recalls the viral videos of violent and fatal encounters between white police officers and black people from Missouri to South Carolina. Yet the pool itself as the site of segregation, race-driven conflict, and violence is entrenched in American history.

This image is from a June 18, 1964, “swim-in” organized by civil rights activists—including Martin Luther King Jr.—in St. Augustine, Florida. They were protesting a motel policy that allowed only white people to use its pool. The photo shows the motel’s manager, Jimmy Brock, pouring a bottle of muriatic acid—used to clean pools—on the black swimmers to get them to leave. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law on July 2, 1964, just weeks after the event took place. (Photo: Rolls Press/Getty Images)

In this image from 1951, activists in Pittsburgh protest the segregation of the Highland Park swimming pool. The pool, which opened in 1931, was frequented in protest by groups of black teenagers, as well as interracial groups of swimmers, for years. Mobs of white teens would attack them, and police would then arrive and arrest the black swimmers “for inciting a riot.” (Photo: Teenie Harris/Carnegie Museum of Art/Getty Images)

The response of white homeowners in Craig Ranch North is reminiscent of aggressive encounters between black and white swimmers at both public and private pools throughout American history. “They were just doing the right thing when these kids were fleeing and using profanity and threatening security guards,” a resident who declined to be identified told Dallas–Fort Worth’s Fox 4 News. Signs have since been hung at the pool thanking the McKinney Police Department “for keeping us safe.”