Fear or Myth: The Truth About Swimming

As the weather continues on this crazy streak from hot to cold and as the leaves start changing colors again and these winter months continue to fly by, I can’t help to feel that summer is right around the corner. Summer happens to be my favorite season of all. I don’t know? It could be that I’m a huge food addict and summer means hot dogs and hamburgers off the grill! Maybe it’s the Italian ices that I can’t get enough of or the long summer nights with those cool breezes. However if I had to choose my favorite thing about the summer, I would have to say it’s my love for the water.

As far back as I can remember there never seemed to be a time when I didn’t love the water.  It’s funny because my first time in pollywog class at the YMCA, sits in my head as if it was yesterday. I remember my mom being there cheering me on, I had to be about 6 or 7 years old at the time, and I jumped right in that water and knew from that day on that I would be inseparable from it. After pollywog class there were multiple classes that followed. I started to excel very fast and by the age of 13 was asked to become a junior lifeguard. If there was one thing I noticed while going through all my classes, was that in most of them I happen to be the only one that looked like me. I mean, yeah my sister and two cousins and I were in some classes together, but that doesn’t count. Besides us, you hardly saw any other Black kids in the pool. I also started realizing that every time my friends or family and I would go to pools or beaches, we were the only ones who could swim out of most of the people we were with. Yeah everyone always say they can swim until they get in and can only do enough to get from one side of the pool to another. But what about real swimming? The kind that might actually save your life one day if ever in a really bad situation. And besides do you know how annoying it is to be in the deep end by yourself? I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been and it never fails, I somehow always end up in the deep end by myself.

I started to think maybe it’s me. Maybe I was just lucky enough to have a parent to even put me in a swim class or even lucky enough to have a parent at all. But as I did get older it started to honestly bother me a bit. You always hear Black people talk about the stereotypes: “Well Black people can’t swim, Black people are afraid of the water, Black people don’t go anywhere, Black girls don’t like to get they hair wet.” But how ignorant is that. I know plenty of Black people that do travel and aren’t afraid of the water; and plenty of black girls who don’t mind getting their hair wet. However there are millions of Blacks across the country who I don’t know. Which leads me to think, how come it seems that so many people in the Black community can’t swim? Is it that resources our limited to many in the community? Is it that if your parents don’t know how to swim then naturally their children doesn’t learn? There are many generalizations that can be made about this but facts are facts. I found that the best way to find out the truth is to research the actual rate at which kids in the Black community learn how to swim compared to other races, as well as to try to find out why those numbers are significantly different; if such.

  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics,  ”drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths for those younger than 19 and can be prevented.” It seems though, out of this concerning research, that African Americans in particular are vulnerable to this.
  • Black children drown at a rate more than three times that of white children.
  • 40% of white children have low or no swimming ability, while the same was true for 70% of African-American children based on a USA Swimming survey. Latino children also fall behind with 58 percent at low or no swimming ability.
  • According to other recent surveys and studies commissioned by the national governing body of competitive swimming USA Swimming, it is true that African American parents who don’t know how to swim are less than likely to persuade their children to swim.
  • Surveys also found that African Americans state that access to pools and expenses for swim lessons also prohibit them from learning and in a sense discourages them.
  •  Also there is a wide suggestion with African Americans that swimming is culturally a white recreation.
  • However based on recent surveys conducted by the University of Memphis and the YMCA from over 6 cities across the US the most popular reason stated by African Americans for not learning how to swim is: the fear of drowning.

Today more than ever, little to no programs geared towards minorities learning to swim are popping up across the United States. With every question comes an answer. Is fear really keeping us from swimming? Some may question is this even a relevant piece? Is there even any importance and need to know how to swim? Well I say YES! Who knows where your child may end up and what basic life skill may become a necessity in a need to survive. If we can start to get across that this is just one more life skill to acquire, that can not only save your life but broaden it; why shouldn’t there be an importance to learn it? If fear seems to be one of the biggest factors in this whole theory, in 2012, I think this is just one more thing we can truly get over. . . . .

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