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“Michael Jordan was excluded from pool parties”: How MJ faced rampant racism in Wilmington, North Carolina as a youngster

Amulya Shekhar
|Sun May 09 2021

Michael Jordan may have been too young to remember the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But he definitely had his brush with racism.

There’s little doubt that the USA was the racist capital of the world even in the late 1900s. It has taken a ton of legislative reform and numerous civil rights movements to combat systemic racism there.

The rise of the alt right has made it blatantly obvious that the country is still plagued by racism. Still, it’s a far cry from the discrimination that black people suffered not all that long ago.

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Jordan grew up in the era just after segregation, in one of the most rural communities in North America. In hindsight, it should be obvious that he’d have his struggles much like any other African-American of his time.

The racism that MJ cited and experienced from his childhood is indicative of the socioeconomic climate of the times. He belonged to a household with 2 working parents who worked respectable jobs in the community. That didn’t shield him from the racist vitriol he eventually faced.

Michael Jordan narrates his brush with racism in North Carolina

Tight-knit as the community of Wilmington was, it was still struggling through the throes of the segregation era. As a result, many of its inhabitants still had a medieval, Southerner’s attitude towards black people.

Michael Jordan befriended a white boy named Dave Bridges in middle school. Bridges would be his ‘pass’ of sorts into white communities, and they’d often go to pool parties for fun. However, what Michael experienced there must have incensed him to no end:

“It was situations where we used to go to other pools, and he would take me, and as soon as I get in the pool, they would get out of the pool. He and I would get up and leave. We would leave that house because he felt like if I wasn’t welcome, he wasn’t welcome.”

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