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Thread: Why Don't Black Americans Swim?

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    Why Don't Black Americans Swim?

    Why don't black Americans swim?

    A month ago, six African-American teenagers drowned in a single incident in Louisiana, prompting soul-searching about why so many young black Americans can't swim.

    When 15-year-old DeKendrix Warner accidentally stepped into deeper water while wading in the Red River in Shreveport, he panicked.

    JaTavious Warner, 17, Takeitha Warner, 13, JaMarcus Warner, 14, Litrelle Stewart, 18, Latevin Stewart, 15, and LaDarius Stewart, 17, rushed to help him and each other.

    None of them could swim. All six drowned. DeKendrix was rescued by a passer-by.

    US swimming stats

    USA Swimming/University of Memphis study found ethnic differences
    68.9% of African-American children with no or low ability to swim
    57.9% of Hispanic children
    41.8% of white children
    Study quizzed 2,000 children and parents in six US cities
    CDC recorded 3,443 fatal accidental drownings in 2007
    Drowning is second greatest cause of accidental death in children under 14
    African-American children aged 5 to 14 3.1 times more likely to drown
    Maude Warner, mother of three of the victims, and the other adults present also couldn't swim.

    The US has almost 3,500 accidental drownings every year, almost 10 a day.

    But according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fatal drowning rate of African-American children aged five-14 is three times that of white children.

    A recent study sponsored by USA Swimming uncovered equally stark statistics.

    Just under 70% of African-American children surveyed said they had no or low ability to swim. Low ability merely meant they were able to splash around in the shallow end. A further 12% said they could swim but had "taught themselves".

    The study found 58% of Hispanic children had no or low swimming ability. For white children, the figure was only 42%.

    "It is an epidemic that is almost going unnoticed," says Sue Anderson, director of programmes and services at USA Swimming.

    The swimming body would like all children to be taught to swim.

    Parents' responsibility

    "We would like it to be like seatbelts and bicycle helmets," says Ms Anderson.

    But the situation in the US can vary hugely even within a single state.


    Olympic gold medallist Cullen Jones is a spokesman for swimming initiatives
    Unlike the UK, where learning to swim is enshrined in the national curriculum except in Scotland, the ultimate responsibility in the US often lies with parents.

    "I would love to make it a rule like they have in the UK," says Cullen Jones, a gold medallist in the freestyle 100m relay in Beijing, and a spokesman for USA Swimming's Make a Splash campaign.

    "It isn't a requirement, it isn't a priority in the US."

    Jones's mother took him to swimming lessons after he nearly drowned at a theme park aged five. By eight he was swimming competitively.

    The Make a Splash campaign is targeting all non-swimmers and their parents but there is a particular focus on ethnic minority families.

    Fear factor

    Many black parents are not teaching their children to swim.

    Some might assume the fundamental reasons would be lack of money for swimming lessons or living in areas where there were no pools, but the reality is more complex.

    "Fear of drowning or fear of injury was really the major variable," says Prof Carol Irwin, a sociologist from the University of Memphis, who led the study for USA Swimming.

    Typically, those children who could not swim also had parents who could not swim.

    "Parents who don't know how to swim are very likely to pass on not knowing how to swim to their children," says Ms Anderson.

    In focus groups for the study, Prof Irwin said many black parents who could not swim evinced sentiments like: "My children are never going to learn to swim because I'm scared they would drown."

    The parents' very fear of their children drowning was making that fate more likely.

    The major reason behind the problem could lie in the era of segregation says Prof Jeff Wiltse, author of Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America.

    "The history of discrimination… has contributed to the drowning and swimming rates," says Prof Wiltse.

    In his work he identified two periods of a boom in swimming rates in the US - in the 1920s and 1930s when recreational swimming became popular and the 1950s and 1960s when the idea of swimming as a sport really took off.

    The first boom was marked by the construction of about 2,000 new municipal pools across the nation.

    "Black Americans were largely and systematically denied access to those pools," he notes.

    "Swimming never became a part of African- American recreational culture."

    In the northern US that segregation in pools ended in the 1940s and early 1950s, but many white swimmers responded by abandoning the municipal pools and heading off to private clubs in the suburbs where segregation continued to be enforced.

    "Municipal pools became a low public priority," he notes.

    After the race riots of the 1960s, many cities did start building pools in predominantly black areas, says Prof Wiltse, but there was still a problem. Many of the new pools were small - often only 20 by 40ft (six by 12m) and 3.5ft (1m) deep.

    Theories for low black American swimming rates

    Propagation of incorrect scientific theories such as black people being much less buoyant
    Historic factors going as far back as slaves not being allowed to learn to swim
    Denial of access to pools in 1920s and 30s causing ripple effect to present day
    Lack of municipal pools in predominantly black neighbourhoods in 1960s onwards
    Perception of swimming as elitist or white sport
    "They didn't really accommodate swimming. They attracted young kids who would stand in them and splash about. There really wasn't an effort to teach African-American children to swim in these pools."

    Although there are many poor or working class white children who cannot swim for similar reasons, swimming has gained an image as a "white sport".

    "It is [seen as] a country club sport that only very rich kids get to participate in. The swimming pool is [seen as] a very elitist thing to have in your backyard," says Prof Irwin.

    Bishop Larry Brandon, of the Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, knew the Warner family, and is now persuading other pastors and ministers to use their pulpits to promote swimming.

    Shreveport has quickly established a new swimming programme in the victims names and there is a drive to challenge misconceptions about swimming.

    As well as the fear factor, Prof Irwin's study found that appearance was also a reason for African-Americans avoiding swimming.

    Black respondents, far more than white or Hispanic respondents, were sometimes concerned about the effect chlorinated water would have on their hair.

    "African-American women, many of them if they go the beauty shop and get their hair fixed they are not going to swim," says Bishop Brandon.

    Perhaps the most alarming thing is that the studies suggest that those who cannot swim - like the Warners and Stewarts - often spend time in pools and other swimming sites.

    "Kids are going to be by the water, they love being by the water, and that's something that we really need to make a priority," says Jones.

    "Here everybody knows how to drive a car. It should also be a rite of passage to learn how to swim."
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11172054

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    Why Don't Black Americans Swim?

    Racism. Back in the 1960s when the courts were forcing Southern towns to allow Negroes to use public pools, most communities simply closed the pools & had them filled with dirt. Most Whites refuse to swim with them, so there was no one to teach them how to swim. Oh, and then there is the "hair thing". Negroes don't like to get that nappy hair wet.

    When 15-year-old DeKendrix Warner accidentally stepped into deeper water while wading in the Red River in Shreveport, he panicked.

    JaTavious Warner, 17, Takeitha Warner, 13, JaMarcus Warner, 14, Litrelle Stewart, 18, Latevin Stewart, 15, and LaDarius Stewart, 17, rushed to help him and each other.

    Get a load of those names.

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    Blacks have higher bone density and thus less boyancy, which physically makes swimming difficult.

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    Swimming requires work.

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    Atlantic slave trade gave them a fear of water.

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    I read that when African slave traders were raiding villages of other tribes, the women and children would often go running into the lakes and watering holes, drowning themselves, to get away.
    Africans have never been able to swim. Doesn't exist in their ancestral history.

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    There are no blacks in Ballet anywhere, even in the USA. Not even the jews could do that.
    Either the Mariinsky, formerly the Kirov, and the Bolshoi Ballet Companies are racist or blacks have no talents. Its the latter.

    Reality is they are low intelligent, stone age ‘jungle people’.

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    It's the same deal in a lot of Asian countries, even in places where the sea is 25C, with pristine water and amazing underwater sea life, most locals can't swim and never feel compelled to go for a dip. And if you do see them at the beach, they mostly just splash around at knee-high water level, fully equipped with life vests, just in case.
    A nation is an organic thing, historically defined.
    A wave of passionate energy which unites past, present and future generations

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    I don't buy that it's always imposed by white people, blacks in the Caribbean often can't swim either and they are surrounded by water and as far as I know there was no apartheid situation where they were banned from going near the beach. Blacks in East and Central Africa often can't swim and it's somewhat legit because of scary predators like hippos and crocodiles but also has a spiritual dimension - they believe in water spirits that prey on swimmers. Another thing - sometimes I read black forums and articles out of curiosity and from what I gather it's a real pain in the ass for black women who relax or braid their hair, the chlorine and the act of getting it wet loosens the braids (not good, you want them as tight as possible to look polished) and causes real havoc with the chemical straighteners, sometimes causing even more damage to their already fragile hair. Black women spend a lot A LOT of money and time on their hair - think hundreds of dollars every couple weeks sometimes, and it takes hours to do these elaborate hair care routines. Black women in the US often have a designated wash day just to deal with their hair, I can't imagine it.

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    Ask any swim coach and they'll tell you that blacks are "sinkers". They cant swim and never could.
    Blacks are however natural runners. While whites are naturally stronger as well as better swimmers.
    On another none none of the other great apes like chimps, gorillas or orangoutangs can swim either.
    Water terrifies them.

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