When I arrived in Nashville three years ago, I promptly went on a search to find a pool where I could do laps. I have always loved water, and for the previous five years had swum laps for exercise two or three times a week. I was never fast, but I was consistent. It was a place where I could get into a rhythm. A place where my mind could heal as my body went through the motions and my eyes followed the lines of the pool. I solved more than one research problem that previously had me stumped while swimming laps, not to mention the problems of life. But there was no lap pool in the part of Nashville where I both worked and lived. There was an indoor pool at the community center and were two pools (one indoor and one outdoor) at the YMCA – that’s it. They were short and too warm for laps. The only pool I found truly suited for laps (rather than for the young and old to play or do aerobics) was across town. It was not cheap and I would have to fight traffic to swim laps. And so I stopped swimming laps. There was no public outdoor pool in which to cool off, so I head to state parks with rivers and lakes on hot summer weekends.
Three years ago, I wondered why there were no public pools, nothing outdoors and in the neighborhood – at least for the summer. This is Nashville where the summers are long with high humidity and higher temperatures – ideal weather for lounging by the pool. I thought it was because I did not live in the best part of town – I work in an area where disparity is the norm as gentrification is changing the face of the neighborhood (a topic for another day). But then, it did not seem as if there was a public pool anywhere in the city.
This weekend a friend told me why there are no public pools. When public spaces, pools included, became integrated, the pools were filled in with cement. The white population preferred to fill in pools rather than share the space with their black neighbors. Really? Yes. My heart breaks at the loss, the hurt, the fear.
I am thankful that a part of me is still surprised by such things. I am thankful that I do not immediately suspect such hatred and fear playing itself out. But, I am not surprised by it, and am increasingly coming to expect it. That makes me sad. No, segregation is not the law today, but we are still reaping the repercussions of that time. It is rarely talked about, but racism is still alive and ‘well’ in America. It makes me sad. It is unfortunate that there is no good place for me to do laps, but if I wanted to fight traffic and pay the fee, I could. Instead, I chose to live in my neighborhood. What makes me sad is segregation and racism. In my dreams, I am forever shocked by it, but I think the shock will eventually where off. I hope that I am at least forever deeply saddened by it. In that, I will have maintained a piece of humanity, a piece of the sanity that I have found while doing laps in a pool.
**As I am traveling, I have not done the research to support what I was told, but a quick internet search did turn up this article discussing a pool that used to be.