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. Stark statistics underlie the initiative by the national governing body for swimming. Black children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate. And less than 2 percent of USA Swimming’s nearly 252,000 members who swim competitively year-round are black.
Of course, like many of the societal ills facing the African American community, not being able to swim has its roots in America’s racist past:
The minority swimming gap has deep roots in America’s racial history. For decades during the 20th century, many pools were segregated, and relatively few were built to serve black communities.
John Cruzat, USA Swimming’s diversity specialist, said these inequalities were compounded by a widespread misperceptionâ€”fueled by flawed academic studiesâ€”that blacks’ swimming ability was compromised by an innate deficit of buoyancy.
“There are people who still give credence to these stereotypes, even in the black and Hispanic community,” said Cruzat, who wants to break the cycle that passes negative attitudes about swimming from one black generation to another.