'Swimming while black:' A woman and her 5-year-old daughter faced harassment at an L.A. hotel pool

Elise Solé
Yahoo Lifestyle
(Photo: Carle Wheeler via Facebook)
(Photo: Carle Wheeler via Facebook)

A black woman and her daughter vacationing at an expensive hotel in Los Angeles were the apparent targets of racist harassment from a man who demanded to know if they had showered before using the pool.

Carle Wheeler, a Texas-based software developer, and her daughter were swimming in the pool of the Westin Hotel in Pasadena on Monday when a white male swimmer asked if the pair had showered beforehand. The man was concerned, explained Wheeler on Facebook, “because people carry diseases into the pools, and he doesn’t want the health department to shut the pool down.”

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In her viral post titled “Swimming While Black,” which has 24K reactions and more than 55K shares, Wheeler wrote, Minutes later he approached us again on the opposite end of the pool under the pretense that he worked for the health department. No hotel security or staff was around to stop his verbal harassment. At that point, I called BS and I confronted him on what appeared to be blatant racism. I let him know that being black is not a disease and showering would not wash the BLACK off our skin. I think it’s awful that ANY man would think it’s okay to essentially ask a woman and a little girl if we took off our clothes and scrubbed our naked bodies before getting into a hotel swimming pool.”

SWIMMING WHILE BLACKThis past Monday, June 11, 2018 at 10 am PST while on summer vacation at the Westin Hotel in…

Posted by Carle Wheeler on Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wheeler says her mother, who was also staying at the hotel, soon arrived along with a female hotel manager named Ofelia Dolliver.  In a video shot by Wheeler, the man, whose identity is not revealed, says, “So what? Relax!” when Wheeler maintains that she was specifically targeted.

Dolliver informs the man that his question was not appropriate, a sentiment with which the general manager Carl Sprayberry agrees when he arrives moments later.

“In true fashion, as soon as he arrived he took one look at us and immediately let the white man leave and told us to step to the side with him,” Wheeler wrote of Sprayberry. “After many failed attempts at pleading with Mr. Sprayberry to not let the man go but to instead find out who he was, we left. Only after speaking with the white bystanders who corroborated our story did Mr. Sprayberry instruct the other hotel managers to review the tapes to find the man he had just let go!”

In the video, Wheeler’s daughter walks away from the ugly scene as the man calls after her, “It’s only a shower, young lady, don’t worry.”  

Wheeler added that Dolliver apologized to her “and admitted that Mr. Sprayberry handled the situation incorrectly.” She also said hotel tapes were under review.

God loves us despite our faults

Posted by Carle Wheeler on Thursday, June 14, 2018

“It’s sad that I had to explain to my beautiful little five-year-old brown skinned girl why in 2018 a white man would think it’s OK to ask a little girl and her mom if we showered our presumably dirty black skin before entering a swimming pool,” Wheeler wrote on Facebook.

The mother added, “I have to teach my innocent child that no matter how much we educate ourselves with degrees, no matter what career we choose, no matter if we own a nice home in a gated community, or drive a nice car there are still people in this world who will not like us just because of the color of our skin and even worse there are people in this world in positions of power and authority like Carl Sprayberry that will not stand up for us when they know it’s wrong that we are treated that way.”

On Wednesday, Wheeler shared a new Facebook video expressing that she and her mother were “upset, hurt, and disappointed” by the incident. “…I am not trash. I am not dirty. I am black, educated and proud.”

A Westin receptionist told Yahoo Lifestyle that the situation is still under review. Sprayberry and Wheeler did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment. 

Wheeler’s story drew fury on Twitter — one person compared Wheeler to the 1950s black movie star Dorothy Dandridge, who according to the Washington Post, once dipped her toe in a Las Vegas pool, prompting the business to drain it.

There has been an increasing number of incidents that involve black people experiencing racism. In May, hundreds of people congregated at a park in Oakland, California for an event called “BBQing While Black,” after a white woman (dubbed “Becky” on the internet) called the police on a group of black people using a charcoal grill in April. 

The phrase “Moving While Black” also went viral in May when a former Obama aid named Darren Martin, was stopped by New York City police officers while moving into his own apartment building after a neighbor called 911 for a “burglary in progress.”

In April, American Airlines called the police on a woman named Amber Phillips for flying while “fat and black” after a female passenger complained that cramped quarters caused the two women to inadvertently touch. 

“This situation is why white people should stop calling the police on black people who are simply existing, especially in a country that, right now, is filled with unapologetic hatred,” Phillips told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I’m telling my story because I deserve to exist.”

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