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Swimming While Black? Mother Says Man Posed as Health Dept Worker to Harass Her and Five-Year-Old Daughter


An African-American mother recorded video of what she claimed was a racist confrontation with a white man at a Los Angeles-area hotel as their vacation drew to a close.

Carle Wheeler, a software developer and single mother, said the man approached her and her five-year-old daughter as they were swimming in the pool at the Pasadena Westin Hotel. According to Wheeler, the man asked her if she and her daughter had showered before getting into the water “because people carry diseases into the pools.”

Then he walked away, but later reengaged. Wheeler’s Facebook post on the incident explains what happened next:

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.

Wheeler said the man also voiced concerns that the pool might have have to be shut down.

In the video, the man protests a bit. He asks the on-site hotel manager, “Well, how exactly did I handle this inappropriately?” At that point Wheeler’s mother interjects, telling the man, “You had no right to do what you did.”

The man replies, “I simply asked them if they showered. Because that’s part of the rules. And I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired of getting into pools that people consider baths.” To which Wheeler’s mother notes, “But you didn’t ask anyone else.”

According to the local ABC affiliate, multiple witnesses on the scene noted that several white people were using the jacuzzi at the time. Witnesses confirmed that none of those white individuals were ever approached by the man in the striped-blue shirt–but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get involved. Instead, the white jacuzzi users came to Wheeler’s aide and called the front desk themselves because they didn’t approve of the man’s questioning.

At another point in the video, the man shouts for Wheeler and her mother to “relax” repeatedly. Then he appears to taunt Wheeler’s daughter as she’s being led away. He says, “It’s only a shower, young lady, don’t worry.”

Eventually, the hotel’s general manager, Carl Sprayberry, got involved and let the man leave amidst the tense situation. Wheeler wrote, “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.”

According to Wheeler, the on-site hotel manager later apologized for Sprayberry escorting the man away without first ascertaining his identity–as Wheeler and her mother pleaded for the hotel to do. Later, Wheeler said was told the hotel was “reviewing the tapes” in an attempt to identify the man.

Wheeler and her family checked out on Monday morning and have yet to hear back from the hotel.

The hotel later released a statement:

In light of these events that happened, we feel it is important to share that we do not condone comments or behavior directed to our pool guests. The safety and security of our guests is our top priority. We strive to maintain an environment where our guests feel welcome and are treated with equal respect and attention from our team.

[image via screengrab/Carle Wheeler]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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