Black people don’t do water. How many times have you heard this either as a joke or with sincerity? The reasons for this vary. It could be because of the impact that slavery had on us and being put in the boat and taken away from our land by water. Whatever the reason, not many African Americans are able to swim. They also do not emphasize learning to swim upon their children. This increases the risk of an accidental drowning among Blacks and other minorities.
In Louisiana, a month ago, 15-year-old DeKendrix Warner accidentally stepped into deeper water while wading in the Red River in Shreveport and 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. None of the parents there were able to swim so they were all unable to save any of the children.
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. Just under 70% of African American children surveyed said they had no or low ability to swim. The real question is why the drastic difference?
African Americans emphasize many things upon their children. We want them to go to college. We want them to do better than their parents. We also want them to have successful careers. Learning to swim is not a necessity. Something about large bodies of water turn us all off. However, many African Americans still allow their children to attend community centers and YMCA’s which usually have swimming pools within the facilities.
I myself am unable to swim and it was not expressed to be a priority from my parents for me to learn. All of this goes back to my original question. Why is it that African Americans do not place more importance on learning how to swim? Many African Americans joke that since slavery they never plan to get back in any large body of water. Yes it is funny and we joke about it but is there any truth to it? I am inclined to believe that on some subconscious level there is a fear among African Americans towards learning to swim that is consistently passed on through generations. Just like many other fears and habits that have been passed down the line over the generations among Black people. We pass down the fear of water. Unfortunately there are instances when we still allow our children to play in these large bodies of water without ever encouraging their ability to swim.
Up For Discussion: Are you teaching your children to swim?
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