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Racist letter tells Madison swim club members to stay separate 'not equal'

Racist letter tells Madison swim club members to stay separate 'not equal'

MADISON, Wis. - Madison police are investigating a racist letter sent to a family who belongs to Madison's West Side Swim Club. The letter refers to the recent election and includes racist words, singling out two families whose children attend the club on Odana Road.

A family of Indian descent, who are members of the Swim Club, received the letter in their mailbox Tuesday. The handwritten letter used profanity and said, "We won...You need to stay seperate (sic)--not equal."

The letter also referred to another family who is transracial whose kids also attend the swim club. The letter said both families were no longer welcome at the swim club.

In a letter sent to West Side Swim Club families Tuesday night, club Board President Connie Chesnik said it wasn't known who authored the letter, but that "disgusting rhetoric" like that included in the note is not allowed.

"Please know, however, that hate speech is NOT TOLERATED at West Side, under ANY circumstances," Chesnik wrote in the message to families. "If we ever do find out who wrote this, their membership will be revoked."

News of the letter has outraged parents like Mike Murray, whose two boys have been members of the club for three years.

"We need to step up to the plate to make sure that our kids feel safe in our community. It's heartbreaking to think of this happening in your own community and there is a responsibility for all of us to do something about it," Murray said.

One of the parents targeted told Madison 365 the letter follows incidents of apparent bias over the summer during the swim season involving her family. The mother shared the letter in a Facebook post, citing an increase in hate crimes since the election.

"We all have seen an increase in this since the election last week and regardless of what your political beliefs are there are people that feel empowered from the results of this election," Chesnik said. "This is not fake. I know these people. The letter is real and the fear that they feel and experience is real."

Chesnik said the club welcomes anyone to its pool, regardless their race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, and that it doesn't welcome anyone who would spread hate or ignorance.

Murray said while he is disappointed with the letter, he is using this as a learning opportunity for his children.

"Part of it is to ensure that they would never engage in that kind of behavior, but also stand in solidarity with their classmates that might come from a marginalized community and they need to speak about this too," he said.

Members of the All-City Swim and Dive League released a statement Wednesday.

"Recently, two West Side Pool families had hate mail directed at them, which made derogatory and racist references. The All-City Swim and Dive League condemns these hateful acts. There is no place in the league for hateful words or actions directed at swimmers, families or anyone else."

"The league is dedicated to promoting a swimming and diving environment where all swimmers and families feel valued, safe and able to thrive. The league welcomes anyone to our pools, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, ability or sexual orientation," the statement said.

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