Posted by: Ophelia | May 2, 2008

Who needs socioeconomic and location factors when you have race?

This just in, USA Swimming wants you to know that black people can’t swim!

Nearly 60 percent of African-American children can’t swim, almost twice the figure for white children, according to a first-of-its-kind survey which USA Swimming hopes will strengthen its efforts to lower minority drowning rates and draw more blacks into the sport.

As part of the initiative, USA Swimming commissioned an ambitious study recently completed by five experts at the University of Memphis’ Department of Health and Sports Sciences. They surveyed 1,772 children aged 6 to 16 in six cities — two-thirds of them black or Hispanic — to gauge what factors contributed most to the minority swimming gap.

The study found that 31 percent of the white respondents could not swim safely, compared to 58 percent of the blacks. The non-swimming rate for Hispanic children was almost as high — 56 percent — although more than twice as many Hispanics as blacks are now USA Swimming members.

This moose can swim, why can’t black people?

They then go on to blame cultural stereotypes, plus the interference of parents for these stats. At no point do they factor in proximity to large bodies of water, available local pools, or price of swimming instruction. So, what could just as easily be simply a factor of practicality and socioeconomics gets turned into, “Hey everybody, guess you can’t swim? Black people :D!” Let’s forget for a moment the racial composition of urban housing for a moment. So you’re saying people without practical need for a skill don’t have it? Amazing. What next? City dwellers Blacks, and Hispanics can’t milk cows! They don’t hangglide! They don’t participate in ice skating as much as those in neighborhoods with those facilities available. SHOCK! HORROR!

I’m not saying kids shouldn’t know how to swim. The article cites a woman who lost her son when he drowned during a trip to the lake. But it’s painfully obvious that the “study” really set out to prove itself correct, and neglects the practicality of swimming instruction for the families they asked and decided to wag their fingers at those ignorant parents who just don’t get it. Not to mention the general dismay that these people don’t have this skill that’s obviously important to everyone–right, “everyone”. Did they even ask how many times a year the kids were around swimmable bodies of water? The study seems…vague on the details. But they do know that black folk can’t swim. Well out of the 1,772 people they asked who probably don’t live near water, most of them couldn’t. And that’s important.

Not to mention they seem obsessed with debunking swimming as a “white” sport. Let’s just offer that most sports are fairly inaccessible to you if your parents can’t drive you out of the neighborhood to get instruction and practice. I mean, for example, I know my neighborhood didn’t have an ice skating rink. So any interest I had in it would have been mitigated by my parent’s ability to drive at least thirty minutes to the nearest rink and pay for lessons. Swimming is a bit more accessible if you have a YMCA nearby, but still–not like everyone has an Olympic sized pool in the backyard. Making it into a race thing ignores the relationship between race and economics, which seems a rather large oversight if you’re trying to convince people to get involved. What is their plan of action anyway–or did they even have one?

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Responses

  1. The moose can swim because it needs to in order to survive. The African Americans they interviewed are not likely to be in a situation where swimming will be used, let alone saving their lives,


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