Did You Know?…(9) Part 2

 

    • One of the most prevalent race-based stereotypes is that African Americans don’t swim. According to a US Swimming (America’s government body of competitive swimming) study conducted in 2010, almost half of white children (42%) had low or no swimming ability, while Hispanic children came in at 58% reported as having low or no swimming ability. African American children had the highest rate of swimming inability coming in at just under 70%.
    • Sadly, African American children are almost three times more likely to drown than white children. As a result of these generalizations, blacks are not viewed as being swimmers or even liking to swim, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
    • Historically, blacks were denied access and were steered towards pools that were undesirable and that had limited accommodations in terms of the number of people that could occupy the location(s).
    • Pools were often forcibly segregated to avoid the potential interaction between black males and white females in intimate pool settings. Blacks unfortunately met with violent resistance if they attempted to enjoy the pool to swim as did their white counterparts and were often threatened. For this reason, pools were kept securely segregated until the mid 1950s.
    • Blacks were often subjected to legal tricks and maneuvers and/or violence when resisting segregation in ‘public’ pools.
    • City governments commonly leased pools to companies because they could make any rules they wanted, including exclusion of blacks from their facilities, while the government could not do this legally.
    • Angry black communities were led to believe they would have their own pools for years on end, but never saw those promises come to pass.
    • According to the Inertia article: Debunking The Stereotype That Blacks Don’t Swim”, in the 1960’s, a slew of pools were built in low-income segregated neighborhoods. Blacks saw these so-called pools as more or less public bathtubs no more than a few feet deep. As a result, potential black swimmers were at a loss when it came to honing their swimming skills in these less than suitable settings.
    • Blacks faced the same resistance when it came to swimming at the ‘public’ beaches.
    • Near the beginning of the 20th century, the son of Frederick Douglas, Charles and his wife Laura, were the founders of a Black Beach Resort in at Highland Beach Maryland after having been denied service because of their race.
    • According to Doctoral Graduate Student at UC Santa Barbara Alison R. Jefferson, African Americans were prevented from living on the coast early on, which negatively impacted their relationship or lack thereof with the ocean.
    • Jefferson also says that Blacks eventually moved away from beaches over time as a result of a gradual process. There was so much hostility towards Blacks going to the beach, that they simply stopped going.

 

How tragic that something as pleasurable as swimming, was at one time reserved for some self-chosen and self-serving individuals. How anxious would you be to allow your children to swim when they would do so among ‘sharks‘ of the human kind? If you were ever excluded and made to feel like you had no business participating in a particular activity, how anxious would you be to involve yourself in spite of? How happy would you be to get your children involved in this ‘exclusive’ activity? How about their children and their children’s children? Oh, the vicious cycle! What’s your take?

 

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

 

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