Friday, October 30, 2009

Black People Don't Float

In the world of the random, I had a swim coach tell me that Black people don't float the same as White people. It was very early in the morning, I had not eaten my energy bar, and I wasn't in the mood to defend my entire race. Not today. I made a mental note for self and opted to really not focus on what appeared to be a slight trip down the lane of crazy.

Later, when I was caffeinated and more alert, I learned about a few statistics that address the reason why more Black people don't swim. Most of the information related to parental habits, access to pools, family patterns, soci0economic factors, etc. Not one article had anything of merit or relevance about black folks and the ability to float. I did stumble across a variety of hateful and racists comments about the inferiority of Black people, but I had too much productive work to do for that day. And so, I shared this little comment with the woman who taught my dear little ones how to swim. After she rolled her eyes and let out a big sigh, she effectively said, tell them to swim harder and faster and to enjoy each day they are in the pool - that's crazy.

If there is anyone who would be able to attest to the float factor, it would be the woman who has taught my heavy non-graceful behind how to swim the length of the pool. If I didn't have to go to the deep side, I could probably swim 100 yards with some amount of competence. Reality is, it was just good to have someone who didn't share background, race, ethnicity, wealth, upbringing or anything else - simply dismiss this silly comment, after her 40+ years of teaching this craft.

The Josh Project is just one of the amazing discoveries I encountered as I was shaking off the potential offense. A phenomenal mother in Toledo, Ohio started this organization after her son lost his life to a drowning accident. Minorities make up a disproportionate number of drowning victims each year, and we should do something about it. I grew up in a middle class household, with tremendous values, and learning to swim was not a priority. The group lessons at the Y failed in many many ways, but that was me. Once I had the benefit of a personal coach - float. swim. enjoy.

Kids who complete the Josh Project lessons can earn a t-shirt and a tremendous lesson. Conquering your fears, whether in the water or in life, can happen if you simply put your mind to it. Problem is, your mind may be willing, but circumstances might not. Seek out opportunities to conquer those things that seem a lifetime away and spend little time debating the crazy. Black people can float. Maybe more importantly, all people can be taught to do things once out of reach, by ignoring at first glance, those that are simply out of touch.

Breathe and blow. Breathe and blow.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron + Alaine said...

Oversensitive Parent I may be - but I decided to publish this comment largely because it speaks to an upcoming post. While the science of floating has been debated and there is more than one reference for the inappropriate use of data in coming to this conclusion, I have little time today for a full response. Here is what I do know - I'll rest with the feedback of the 70+ Caucasian swim coach and trainer that I referenced in my post. A work in progress speaks to the fact that as a parent and a person I am a work in progress. Yet, having raised three wonderful children and watched the impact of people who have neither the sensitivity, sensibility, understanding, education, preparedness or spiritual awareness to raise a flee - I'll stick with my own references thanks.

I believe we live in a world of free speech and free dialog. The need to not draw any conclusions based on the observations one sees is a choice. But I imagine living in the world of the color blind and melting pot theorists ranks right next to another version of We are the World. I don't require it. My children don't require it either.

As for those who coach, teach, lead, neighbor, influence, and yes parent, - your words are powerful. You should guard them accordingly.