Anyone can swim, and yet, there is a lingering myth that claims black people cannot. This stereotype exists because, historically, access to the sport has been intentionally made difficult for black people. Access was already difficult or impossible, but when pools were finally integrated, they began being built in expensive member-ship only facilities. Swimming became an elitist, whitewashed sport.
I have been involved with swimming for my entire life and find it disappointing that anyone would be made to feel that they were not allowed to be a part of the sport. It’s relatively low-cost and teaches you to work alone, as well as with a team.
Beyond the realm of competition, generations of people have been denied the chance to learn potentially lifesaving skills. And according to The USA Swimming Foundation, if parents did not have the opportunity to learn to swim, there is only a 13 percent chance that their child will learn.
This is likely the reason that—between the ages of 5 and 19—black children drown in pools five and a half times more often than white children. Their guardians did not have access to lessons; therefore, more children do not learn, and may not even know they have the option, and the cycle continues.
Black Kids Swim aims to dispel these myths and break down these stereotypes. Their goal is to increase the access that black children have to learning swim techniques. However, they take it a step further than basic knowledge. Black Kids Swim wants black children to attack the water and become serious competition.
Representation matters so their website focuses on the positive and promotes the accomplishments of many young black swimmers. They offer scholarships, hold essay contests, and offer resources to families with experienced swimmers and those who are just getting started.
When you make a gift to this organization, your donation goes towards motivational content, special events, scholarships and essay contests, educational materials, and advocacy. You have the option to direct your gift to the program you believe in most and their website answers any questions you may have about current programs and giving.
In their words, “Black Kids Swim creates content to make the sport of competitive swimming exciting and inciting for Black children. We are smashing negative stereotypes, combating a legacy of fear and exclusion, promoting African American role models, and opening doors of access to swim training. We are making swimming cool for Black children.”
As someone who thinks swimming is very cool, this is a mission to which I feel connected. As someone who lives in Minnesota, surrounded by water, I know this mission is important and can save lives. I do not have children of my own, but if I did, I would feel privileged to teach them how to swim. I hope that one day all children have that opportunity.