Fifty miles west of New Orleans, along the twisting banks of the Mississippi River, lies the unincorporated community of Vacherie, Louisiana. It’s split into two designations: North Vacherie and South Vacherie. But that is not the only way in which Vacherie is divided. According to some residents, racial segregation has continued unchallenged in the community, and specifically in one of its private swimming clubs.
Since 1974, La Vacherie Swimming Club has operated on a share-holding membership basis, meaning that, to be a member, you must buy a share in the pool. Should a member want to sell a share, an applicant, selected from the club’s waitlist, can buy it and gain membership.
But, it is an open secret among the just over 3,000 South Vacherie residents that there is only one way off the waitlist: You must be white. According to former members of the pool, they had never heard of a single Black person who had been offered membership. “It’s just always been known that Black people can’t go there. If they try, they tell them there’s a waiting list. They’ll say it takes years to buy a share there,” longtime Vacherie resident, Jill Griffin told Refinery29. “You get off the waiting list when someone’s share becomes available and then the board has to approve you. Black people are never getting approved. They skirt around it.”
This summer, Griffin decided to act on her frustration with the segregation that existed in her hometown and its private clubs. On July 7, she laid bare the club’s discriminatory practices on Facebook and Twitter. “If you are a member of the whites only pool you are part of the problem no matter how many times you post BLM!” Griffin posted on Facebook. “And I said what I said!!!” Her post quickly amassed more than 1,000 comments.
Many responded in shock that a pool would still be segregated in 2020, while others from Vacherie and nearby towns responded that it was time that the swimming club was called out. Still more had stories of their own: Some told stories about never feeling welcome at the pool club as children; others recounted rumors of the racist reasons why Black people weren’t offered membership.
“I can’t believe y’all don’t know that,” wrote one Facebook commenter. “That pool been whites only for a long time.” Another commenter wrote, “I remember being invited to multiple parties at this pool and our Black friends would never come and I knew why. It’s completely and utterly disgusting.”
On Twitter, Griffin posted a call out to anyone who could help her tell the story of La Vacherie Swimming Club. It, too, garnered thousands of likes and retweets.
But what none of the comments could confirm was whether or not La Vacherie Swimming Club had ever had an official policy preventing the admission of Black members. When we reached out to …read more