After seemingly endless weeks on lockdown and with money tight due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 business closures, many people are taking the time to find inexpensive recreation by going camping, now that states are beginning to loosen restrictions.
One Illinois family, however, found that their camping excursion to nearby Missouri was more of an educational journey demonstrating the practical application of systemic racism than a particularly fun-filled weekend of swimming, playing, and making ‘smores around the campfire.
Megan Jones, of Alton, Illinois, brought her seven bi-racial children to a KOA Campground in Sullivan, Missouri about 80 miles away from their home and says that the owners of the franchised camping facility subjected her family to discrimination and mistreatment while treating her children like “garbage.”
While everyone has from time to time had to deal with business proprietors who are less than 100% friendly, Jones says that the couple who ran this particular KOA were consistently rude to her family and one of them insulted one of her older children for allowing a younger sibling to use chalk on the pavement at the campground — calling the child “dirty” and threatening to evict the family from the campground — despite the fact that chalk can easily be washed away.
When Megan Jones confronted the woman about how she had treated her family, she was told that her children should know better and that the owners “didn’t want OUR KIND in the bathrooms and shower house.”
No, they hadn’t been transported to the Deep South in the 1950s, but they may as well have been.
Jones made the wise decision to take up the offer of a full refund that the regressive campground operator had made when she expressed her displeasure at having to cater to a biracial family, but she held the owners to account for their racist behavior in a searing Facebook post.
The Facebook post garnered Jones an abject apology from the national KOA organization that granted the franchise to the intolerant owners of the Sulivan, Missouri location.
“They spoke of their love of camping and their intent to continue to camp with KOA in the future,” the organization said in a statement. “We welcome the chance to provide them with the camping experience that they and all members of the Black community deserve.”
Even the local KOA licensee felt compelled to address the incident on their own Facebook page.
“We will not make excuses, nor try to relay our intentions,” they said. “Regardless of how we viewed the situation, if we made this family feel unwelcome it’s clear we have work to do. We will be looking hard at ourselves and our staff to ensure we truly embody the KOA mission that all are welcome. While we have long believed it, actions need to speak louder than words and thoughts.”
All over a little chalk.
If only the wounds of racism were washed away as easily.
Original reporting by Travis Gettys at RawStory.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.