At the conclude of the 1960s, Black individuals in The usa ended up nevertheless excluded from sites of relaxation and recreation like public swimming swimming pools because of to discriminatory segregation procedures. In his beloved his children’s software, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers resolved this huge situation in a subtle but amazingly wise and meaningful way. In episode 195 broadcast on Could 9, 1969, Rogers, a white guy, soaks his feet in a compact pool. When Officer Clemmons, a Black police officer, will come by for a stop by, Rogers invites him to be part of him poolside. “It’s so heat, I was just placing some drinking water on my ft,” Rogers tells Clemmons. “Would you like to join me?”
Officer Clemmons seems, at to start with, hesitant to choose up Rogers’ present. He responds by expressing how fulfilling the h2o appears. “But I really don’t have a towel or anything,” Clemmons claims, and Rogers reassures him that he can share his personal towel. “Okay, sure,” a beaming Clemmons replies. He then requires off his sneakers and socks and places his feet beside Rogers in the little pool. The two men wash their toes collectively for viewers all around the place to witness. This small act on community television embarked the large task of challenging racial stereotypes and sending a quite very clear message to the planet. “Around the country, they did not want Black folks to arrive and swim in their swimming pools, and Fred mentioned, ‘that is definitely preposterous,’” describes François Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons.
The scene from this episode is disarmingly uncomplicated with two adult men sharing time collectively as they amazing off on a warm day. Inspite of, or even mainly because of, the politics of the time, Rogers and Clemmons were really showing individuals throughout the nation that a Black guy and a white man could sit side by aspect and share not only the similar drinking water but also the exact same towel to dry their toes. This informal gesture of warmth and friendship properly highlights the narrow and discriminatory politics of the time that denied Black men and women accessibility to swimming swimming pools, leisure prospects, and other areas in culture.
The Civil Legal rights Act came into being in 1964, but public areas at the time of the episode have been continue to challenging for Black men and women to enter, simply because of white prejudice. Segregation was no more time lawful, nevertheless many white people today ended up continue to resistant to the new legal guidelines that had been inclusive of Black individuals in general public areas. A calendar year just before the episode aired, Martin Luther King experienced been assassinated and racial tensions in the nation were being on the increase.
Clemmons speaks about his working experience on the exhibit and Rogers’ frame of mind to race. “My getting on the plan was a statement for Fred,” he explains. “I have usually felt a policeman is likely to be the most risky man or woman in the neighborhood, so to have me playing a law enforcement officer, I was enormously hesitant. But there was a little something unwilling about Fred, to enable go. And I claimed ‘Mr. Rogers, I would be extremely content to be on your program, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my singing.’”
Clemmons, a trained opera singer, worked together with Rogers on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for 25 many years. He produced a remaining overall look on the exhibit in 1993, during which he and Rogers recreated the pool scene, and Clemmons sang “Lots of Techniques To Say I Adore You.” In this episode, Rogers produced an even more important gesture he took the towel and dried Clemmon’s toes himself.