When ResponsiBoy was 2-3 years old we took swim lessons at our local, urban YMCA. He was our first child and slightly afraid of the water. He cried when I laid him on his back and tried to get him to float. He was afraid.
An older lady who was helping her child in the pool decided to try to be helpful. She decided it would be appropriate to remind that African-American children “naturally don’t float” and usually can’t swim.
I reminded her that… 1. That was the dumbest thing I had ever heard, and 2. It could not possibly be true.
I was a new(ish) mom. I had never, in my life heard anything that came close to measuring up to this level of stupidity. I grew up in an area that is very racially inclusive. I never heard hate speech growing up, or if I did, I was savvy enough to ignore it, or stupid enough not to get it. I’m not sure which. I was white though, I’m sure people of color in my area had very different experiences.
Either way, I remember going home and Googling (yes, we had Google way back when), “Black people can’t float.”
Shockingly, this is a real stereotype. And, even more shockingly, people actually believe it.
Too bad no one told ResponsiBoy.
Because he doesn’t just float. He flies.
Swimming is something every child needs to learn to be safe around water. Sadly, it’s a sport a lot of African-American children don’t get the chance to be exposed to. It is estimated that 70% of African-American children can’t swim. And no, it’s not because they can’t float.
ResponsiBoy got the chance to swim with an Olympian this summer. There is another Olympian, the first African-American swimmer to win a gold medal, that has a foundation dedicated to making sure that every child gets a chance to fly the way my kids do. Please click on the link below to learn about water safety for ALL children.
Make a Splash Foundation.
who loves watching her kids fly.