August of 2010 in Louisiana, six African American teenagers ages 13 to 18 all died drowning trying to save each other. There were other people present during the tragic drowning including adults, and not one of them could swim either. Unfortunately, this brought up the common stereotype about Black people:

Why Don’t Black People Swim?

This stereotype like many others has been around for quite some time, with statistics to accompany it. According to USA Swimming, almost 70 percent of African American children have limited or no swimming skills compared to 40 percent of White children who don’t. Of course these are not scientific numbers and probably have room for percentage error, however, it doesn’t take away from the fact of Black children more vulnerable to drowning than other children.

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The stereotype of Black people not swimming and the culture of swimming pools go much deeper than swimming. Swimming pools and even the act of swimming has underlying racial and socio-economic issues that go back to the early decades of the 20th century. During the 1920s and 1930s, community swimming pools were becoming popular and was a common activity for children and their families; White families that is. Pools just weren’t being built in minority neighborhoods and Black children swimming with White children didn’t happen. Whites believed African Americans were easily susceptible to “different” diseases and absurd germs hence the separation of everything.


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