Breaking: Blacks and Hispanics Can’t Swim

I have a lot of questions for this world: I want to know why we are here on Earth. How many stars are in the sky? Is Blanket really Michael’s child? How do you stop the largest environmental disaster in US history? What I do not need to know is whether Black and Hispanic people can swim and why? Alas, researchers from the University of Memphis, commissioned by USA Swimming, have “discovered” that “nearly 70% of African American children and 58% of Hispanic children have low or no swim ability, compared to 40% of Caucasians, putting them at risk for drowning.” File that under Water is Wet, please.

I’m going to make a leap and guess that somebody white is responsible for requesting this study. Why? Because white people are notorious for “discovering” stuff everyone else already knows – women with shapely butts are attractive (remember when the MSM “discovered” Jennifer Lopez’ butt and declared it sexy?); African-American women get their hair done by Dominicans (a fact previously unknown until the Wall Street Journal said so); America (no example necessary).

Clearly, I’m being flip. The study had a decent purpose: to understand children’s ability to swim and which factors most impact whether they learn. This is of interest to USA Swimming as they’re trying to cultivate the next Michael Phelps AND prevent drowning deaths. It’s actually a good thing that they’ve looked at America’s swimmers, noticed a severe lack in minority participation, and set out to determine why that is.

The USA Swimming Foundation, African American Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones and Make a Splash are teaming up this summer and will utilize the information from the findings as they travel the country to educate parents and kids about the importance of learning to swim and the resources available for families in need. Make a Splash is the national water safety initiative created by the USA Swimming Foundation in an effort to provide access to swim lessons at low to no cost for children across the country.

Awesome. I just found it funny because we joke a lot about Black folks’ ability, or rather inability, to swim.

The study determined that “fear of drowning” was the number one deterrent for learning how to swim. That makes sense. I nearly drowned once in Koh Samui, Thailand. I won’t recount the story here, but if you want to hear about it you can read my post on Thailand from last year.

Before a fear of drowning, I had a fear of the water as a child – so afraid that I wouldn’t put my face in water. I realized that that was kind of wack so I taught myself NOT to be afraid of water by filling up the sink, holding my nose, and submerging my face. First I could only do it for a few seconds, but then I could go longer and even let go of my nose! With the help of two friends, I learned how to swim in the pool of a neighbor’s apartment complex. I didn’t visit the beach a lot as a child growing up in “upstate” New York, but I visited public pools every summer and took trips to local water parks (I miss Action Park!). I also had the unique fortune (or misfortune as it seemed at the time) of having a full-size pool in my middle school. As such, phys. ed. for us included a swim component.

The study notes that “personal appearance issues” is a variable that keeps Black folks out of the water. Hell yeah. In middle school, most kids had lunch after gym so they could take some time getting themselves together after swimming. Since I was in an “Honors” math class, I had to scoot up to class right after gym. I should mention that there were probably less than three Black girls in the class. I remember quite clearly being repeatedly late to class only to be questioned by the teacher why I couldn’t make it on time when everyone else could. At the time, I didn’t have the presence of mind to explain that the white kids (or even the Black boys) didn’t have to do what I did post-swim. So I was just late and my teacher thought I was a slacker. Of course you could just not swim but failing gym wasn’t an option. Other major variables uncovered in the study include lack of parental encouragement, financial constraints, and access to pools.

I love to swim. Water sports are great. I enjoy boating. I love the beach (near drowning, notwithstanding). I hope to have a pool when I buy a home and I can’t wait to teach my kids how to swim. It’s an important life skill to have and perhaps you can even save another’s life with that knowledge. That’s the rationale for the swim requirement at the University of North Carolina (my alma mater). A requirement for graduation (pre-2006) was the passing of the university’s swim test. If you couldn’t swim, well then you had to learn. Obvy I passed the test.

What say you? Is swimming a necessary skill? Are you surprised at the study’s findings?

  • santagati

    In other news, scientists from the University of Phoenix State College A & T have published their findings from a recent study showing that people of African-American descent tend to get tired after eating large meals. No word on whether they also tested for a predilection towards the use of washcloths.

    Is it just me or do these studies sound more and more like Comicview jokes? Couldn’t they get Sommore to do the press conferences?

  • santagati

    In other news, scientists from the University of Phoenix State College A & T have published their findings from a recent study showing that people of African-American descent tend to get tired after eating large meals. No word on whether they also tested for a predilection towards the use of washcloths.

    Is it just me or do these studies sound more and more like Comicview jokes? Couldn’t they get Sommore to do the press conferences?

  • Tara

    It’s just nice to know that my tuition money at the U of M is being used to fund studies like this. Hell, they could have just stopped me after class to ask me about black people and swimming.

    But to be fair, as a bourgie black girl, I was a lifeguard from ages 14-17, so not only can I swim but I can save lives (pats self on back).

    But in my family you learned how to swim one way: your older brother or cousin would throw you into the deep end of a pool and yell out “SINK OR SWIM!”

    and you did just that. Your ass sank (and they’d come get you out) or you got over the momentary panic and figured out how to move your legs and arms in a way that kept you afloat. Traumatic but effective. Everyone in my family can swim.

  • Tara

    It’s just nice to know that my tuition money at the U of M is being used to fund studies like this. Hell, they could have just stopped me after class to ask me about black people and swimming.

    But to be fair, as a bourgie black girl, I was a lifeguard from ages 14-17, so not only can I swim but I can save lives (pats self on back).

    But in my family you learned how to swim one way: your older brother or cousin would throw you into the deep end of a pool and yell out “SINK OR SWIM!”

    and you did just that. Your ass sank (and they’d come get you out) or you got over the momentary panic and figured out how to move your legs and arms in a way that kept you afloat. Traumatic but effective. Everyone in my family can swim.

  • BlkBond

    I’m actually a little surprised at the finding of the study. Alot of people my parents age learned to swim because they were from the ‘country’ and during the summers there weren’t many activities except hanging out by the river, creek, lake, etc. as a means to cool off.

    Those born in the city, same thing: hung out at the pool on those hot and humid days.

    Me and my siblings learned to swim after my father had an incident where he almost drowned as a young man. We were in classes since age 5. Not just the typical classes at the Y, but Red Cross. I’m actually one class away from being a lifeguard. He actually took the fun out of it, which directly affected why I don’t even like swimming now (laughs).

    I do think it is a vital survival skill, considering most of the earth is composed of water.

    Bond.

  • BlkBond

    I’m actually a little surprised at the finding of the study. Alot of people my parents age learned to swim because they were from the ‘country’ and during the summers there weren’t many activities except hanging out by the river, creek, lake, etc. as a means to cool off.

    Those born in the city, same thing: hung out at the pool on those hot and humid days.

    Me and my siblings learned to swim after my father had an incident where he almost drowned as a young man. We were in classes since age 5. Not just the typical classes at the Y, but Red Cross. I’m actually one class away from being a lifeguard. He actually took the fun out of it, which directly affected why I don’t even like swimming now (laughs).

    I do think it is a vital survival skill, considering most of the earth is composed of water.

    Bond.

  • Nola Darling

    I can’t swim. I would always beg my mother to take me to the pool but she never did. She couldn’t swim herself. I never got lessons either. So as an adult one of my goals is to take swimming lessons.

  • Mets31516

    if hispanics cant swim, then how do you explain cuba?