Landlord Fights “White Only” Pool Sign Discrimination Ruling

December 14, 2011  |  

I’m having déjà vu reading about the case of a white Cincinnati resident who is attempting to put the city right back in Jim Crow era with her discriminatory pool policy. On Sept. 29, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission found landlord Jamie Hein to be in violation of the Ohio Civil Rights Act when she posted an iron sign that read “Public Swimming Pool, White Only” at her duplex. Now Hein wants the commission to reconsider its decision.

The landlord posted the sign when a black teenage girl was visiting her parents who lived in the complex. Hein indicated the move was necessary because the girl used chemicals in her hair that would make the pool “cloudy,” according to the commission.

Parents of the teenager filed a discrimination charge with the commission and moved out of the duplex, and the commission determined that the sign “restricts the social interaction between Caucasians and African-Americans and reinforces discriminatory actions aimed at oppressing people of color.” Still, the organization is obligated to hear Hein’s request for reconsideration.

One summer when I came home from college, I invited three of my friends to go swimming in the pool complex where my mother lived. Almost immediately a white woman came over to me and asked what I was doing there and demanded to see my pool pass, which my mom neglected to tell me I needed. I was then asked a series of questions about where I lived, who my parents were, and whether they rented or owned a condominium there. After the interrogation subsided and I voiced my opinion about their obvious race policing, one woman told me, “we just had to make sure you belong; and now it’s your job to do the same when you see people you don’t think belong here.” Anger was not the word for how I felt at the time. A former black coworker of mine also told me that one of her white friends asked that her husband not swim in their pool because of the products he puts in his hair.

I’m not sure what leg Hein has to stand on in trying to prove her actions weren’t discriminatory. If the commissioners uphold their original finding, the case would be referred to the Ohio attorney general’s office, which would represent the commission’s findings before an administrative law judge. Penalties in the case could include a cease-and-desist order and even punitive damages to be determined by the administrative law judge. Parties could still reach a settlement before resorting to legal action, though, commission spokeswoman Brandi Martin said.

Have you ever had an incident like this happen at a public or residential pool?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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