Only a person with a big problem would pick a fight with the Girl Scouts. Bob Welsh recently accused the Girl Scouts of being “too white”. Now Welsh is under fire for his own racial insensitivity regarding the Girl Scouts.
The South Miami City Commission recently undertook a piece of legislation that would have given them the right to do a top-to-bottom inspection of The Little House. The property, which is located at 6609 SW 60th Street, in a quiet residential neighborhood, includes two acres, nature trails, a house with meeting areas and restrooms with showers. There’s a fire pit out back. It’s the site of the Girls Scouts of Tropical Florida annual summer camp, as well as other functions throughout the years.
The Girl Scouts are a uniquely American institution. They were founded by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia in March 1912. In a world that told women that there were so many things they couldn’t do, Low wanted girls to be able to explore the possibilities that the world around them had in store for them.
Under Low, the Girl Scouts did things that some thought should have been reserved for boys. They hiked. They swam. They played sports like basketball, camped in the woods, and learned to tell time by the stars. Today, the Girl Scouts have 50 million alumni all across the world and 3.2 million active girl and adult members.
What the Girl Scouts excel at is teaching young women to be leaders. In a world that too often tells girls “No you can’t”, the Girl Scouts not only tell them “Yes, you can”, but “We’re going to show you how.”
Girls in our society face enormous pressures. Depression and body image issues afflict too many young women. While suicide is rare, a recent national study showed that about 18 percent of American high school girls have thought about it. Obesity rates are climbing for girls of all ethnic groups. Teen pregnancies have declined in recent years, but are still alarmingly high.
What Bob Welsh claimed is nonsense. The Girl Scouts are open to every girl, regardless of her race or ethnicity. When it comes to religion, they’re more progressive than the Boy Scouts of America. The Girl Scouts do not have any requirement of faith or belief and admit girls of any or no religious belief or doctrine, regardless of the presence or absence of belief in a God or comparable higher power.
Long ago, the City of South Miami gave the Girl Scouts a 99-year lease on The Little House and a recent meeting was perceived as a first step to try to rescind the deal. Maybe the City sees the potential sale as a source of cash to pay for some of the costly mistakes that Mayor Phil Stoddard and the City Commission have committed in recent years.
But the agenda item was enough to bring out a battalion of girls and young women in uniform — Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors — to the podium. To a person, they spoke strongly against any attempt to take The Little House away. The leadership training proved itself to be a rousing success.
It was during this meeting when Bob Welsh uttered his observation that the Girl Scouts were “too white”. Not only is Welsh now wrong, but he has shown that his racial views are widely out of touch with the 21st century.
South Miami still struggles with its segregationist past. The town was founded with clearly delineated areas for blacks and whites. It was both separate and unequal. The black citizens of the City, living mainly in the Williamson neighborhood, had to push for more than 40 years to have a municipal pool built in the city.
Summers in South Miami are hot. While a lot of homes in South Miami have had swimming pools dug in backyards, very few homes in the Williamson neighborhood have them.
Swimming is a necessary skill when you live at the tip of peninsula dotted with lakes, criss-crossed with canals, and surrounded by an ocean. A 2014 study showed that the chance that a black child would drown is five times higher than for a white child.
After a generation and a half, the City Commission approved the proposal for a municipal swimming pool.
To commemorate the fact that the City finally appropriated the funds for the pool, Bob Welsh put out a poster showing a donkey in swim trunks and a pool float with the caption “Forty acres and a Pool”. The poster was greeted with the same enthusiasm that flyers giving directions to a cross burning might elicit.
Some in town thought it was an insensitive play on the infamous Reconstruction-era broken promise that freed slaves would receive “40 acres and a mule.” Others weren’t circumspect and accused Welsh of racism and that the poster was a slap in the face.
Bob Welsh’s reaction? He was sorry if anyone was offended, not sorry that he came up with the stupid poster. Sorry that it got out into circulation. Sorry that people found out about it when it was posted to a local blog. It was an apology that lacked sincerity for an action that lacked basic human decency.
We’re sorry, too. We’re sorry that Bob Welsh is a South Miami City Commissioner. There’s only one way that he could make it up to the residents of not only the Williamson neighborhood, but of every neighborhood in the City.
Resign, Bob. Show how really sorry you are by putting your signature at the bottom of a letter that says you resign immediately.
Your comments sound racist and sexist, Bob.
The City of South Miami can do so much better without you.