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?