The Black People Don''t Swim MythOne thing that sets the Clutch woman (or man) apart from the rest is an adventurous spirit and ability to go against ‘the norm.’  If you’re anything like me your spirit moves you to do things that typically are met by friends and family with statements such as “Girl, you crazy…you know black people don’t insert activity here”  or “Please, only white people do….”  Thing is, black people do a lot of these ‘negro no-nos’ and have a great time doing so.  One of the myths I hear most often has to be that black people don’t swim.

Now statistically speaking it is true, plenty of black people, and minorities in general, don’t know how to swim *shamefully raises hand.*  However, that doesn’t mean that all black people don’t swim.  Yes we worry about sharks and maintaining our fresh Indique weaves, but we swim.  Even someone like me who can’t swim will jump in a pool and get my dog paddle on.  Don’t judge me!  Recently our favorite Cosby kid Keshia Knight Pulliam was spotted hitting the diving board in preparation for her stint on the upcoming reality show called Splash and there are even famous black swimmers, just check out Maritza Correia, who in 2002 became the first black female swimmer to break an American record and the first female black swimmer to make it onto the U.S. Olympic team.  How’s that for non swimming Black folk!

Yet even with examples like these the myth still exists that we as a people can’t, don’t or won’t swim.  I think the myth is so ingrained in us that many don’t even try to learn how because they figure that it’s something “we” don’t do.  No while I have no fear of the water and will gladly cliff dive any day of the week into a crystal clear ocean, I must say that I am tired of being one of the people who can’t swim.  So this year I plan to take action and get my butt in the water the proper way, starting with some swimming lessons, preferably in a foreign country (Hey if I’m going to learn why not do it on vacation!). Before this year is out I plan to be a Black person who does swim and I can’t wait! In the meantime, let’s help break the “Black people don”t swim myth”?

Do you believe the myth?  Can you swim and if not are you willing to learn?

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  1. Bryant Gumbel had a really good segment on Real Sports featuring Cullen Jones talking about this. One big factor (in addition to pool access) is the role that fear plays. Parents who can’t swim and fear water wont’ let their kids in the pool either. My parents couldn’t swim but made sure we were in the pool learning as toddlers. And while they never got to be good swimmers, they did take lessons as adults.

    Cullen apparently learned to swim after nearly drowning, but that is also the kind of situation that can make parents of kids scared about water, even though it is precisely why you should learn.

    Black children drown much more than children of other races b/c of this fear of the water and higher numbers of kids who can’t swim. B/c unfortunately, not being able to swim doesn’t keep people away from water (b/c not all non-swimmers are afraid and I don’t think water safety is taught unless you learn to swim).

    They had some parents of children/teenagers who had drowned and they all said that they didn’t take their kids to swim lessons b/c they were afraid of the water themselves.

    We do need to break the cycle and I think Cullen works with black kids to get more of them swimming.

    • Applause for your post. And so any parents reading this, please consider the YMCA for swimming lessons for both you and your child. Also, the Total Immersion series. It is NEVER to late to learn. Also, it is a great workout and really relaxing. If you have joint issues, an injury etc… swimming is gentle on your joints and builds good lung capacity.

  2. Apple

    I took swimming lessons 3 different times and I still neve learned :-( idk why I can’t learn it

    • Me too. My mother made sure me and my four siblings took swimming lessons but I could never quite get the hang of it? I don’t know why.

    • @Apple

      I used to teach kids to learn to swim and the key is being relaxed. If you are afraid and nervous then it’s really difficult to learn. Find someone you trust and try again. You’ll learn. It’s not hard at all.

  3. “Now statistically speaking it is true, plenty of black people, and minorities in general, don’t know how to swim…”

    What stats? Where are they? I’m not saying they don’t exist but if they do why not include them in the post. Otherwise this is all based on anecdotal evidence.