African-American and Hispanic Children at the Mercy of Their Parents' Fears

Thursday, May 27, 2010 2 comments
I thought I was finished blogging for the day, but alas, no.  Right when I was about to rest my weary fingers, I ran across the results of a diversity study by USA Swimming, the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming in the United States with membership of 300,000.  I'll cut right to the chase:  The study found that nearly 70% of African American children and 58% of Hispanic children have low or no swim ability, compared to 40% of Caucasians, putting them at risk for drowning. According to the study, parental fear is a major contributor to a child’s swimming ability.  Parental fear.  Just what I've been talking and typing about!  I even wrote a short blog post about parental fear and trust just this morning on the Black Home Educators Web site.  I guess I'm on point.  I don't want to be.
The study goes on to say the following:
While the study revealed children from lower income families were more inclined to agree that “family budget doesn’t include money for me to take swim lessons,” focus group research found that many parents wouldn’t let kids swim even if lessons were free, a theme that was tested four times in different focus groups. Overall, fear trumped financial concerns across all respondent race groups in low-income families.
According to a mother who participated in a Denver focus group, “You’re already uncomfortable and scared. You’re like, ‘I‘m paying them so I can have heart palpitations on the side-lines. It’s not worth it. It really isn’t. Why should I have to pay money to be afraid?”
Other major variables include lack of parental encouragement in African American and Hispanic families and personal appearance issues (notion that chlorine is bad for African American skin and hair).  [You've gotta be kidding me with the hair and skin thing.]  Minor variables included financial constraints and access to pools.
Okay, I'm dying here.  Come on, parents.  Let's grab ahold of our fear and empower our kids.  I'm trying to do my small part by giving kids that aren't afraid of the water a chance to experience unique and fabulous waterfront environments as is my staff of Brown Girl swimmers (see top left photo of CampCaribe Aquatics Director and lifeguard Miss Alley with a CampCaribe 2010 Adventurer). 
Let's be real:  People of color are already trying to do a balancing act on a playing field that isn't level.  Let's not sabotage ourselves by letting fear win.  Protect your children at all costs, but try facing your fears.  Please.
Okay.  Pretty please (with sugar on top).


  • Black Home Schoolers said...

    I love this post here. I like what you are bringing to the table for the African American community. When we were teens, we went on Inner City Outings where we hiked, went canoe riding, bicycling through hilly trails and more. This is great and I am glad you joined our site.

    Mrs. Banks
    Black Home Educators

  • OBG Adventure Camps said...

    From Facebook:
    Phyllis Lohar-Singh likes this.
    Isidra Person-Lynn That is part of it. The lack of access to pools or the aversion to them because of your hair must be some of it. When you grow up with one out back you can make friends with it early on. I didn't learn to swim til I was 21. it wasn't my Mom's fear. The only pools we had access to were opened in the summers and the teachers taught a bunch of us at once. If you didn't get it (or were too afraid to let go), no one noticed or they passed over you. I learned at 21 when I had a one-on-one coach.
    Thursday at 6:21pm · Tracey Friley When you get a chance, Isidra, check out the study. It touches on hair and lack of access, but says the main reason is parental fear. Glad your mom wasn't scared. =)
    Thursday at 6:25pm · Denise Keene I am happy to say-my 3 brown girls-(african-american/caucasian) LUV LUV swimming-when they were toddlers-I always had a kiddie pool for them-at about age 7-11, had apop-uppool-they have never taken swimlesson-but theyluv it!!!! yes-their hair is a MESS afterwards, but... is so totally worth it!!!
    Thursday at 6:34pm · Andrea Alvarado Castro funny that is the exact reason(fear) my mom put me in swimming since I was small till I became a lifeguard, she never let me give it up, she made sure that if she could not save me in the water, I would definately be able to do it for myself, she did not want fear to cripple me in life,... I am trying to do the same with my kids now...
    Thursday at 6:39pm · Sherrelle Kirkland-Andrews I MAKE my kids take swim lessons, but honestly they would rather not. For me it's a safety concern. FYI they take private lessons...they didn't learn a thing in group lessons.
    Thursday at 6:53pm · Shautel Walker just enrolled two of four kids in lessons..Yeah me..
    Thursday at 6:58pm · Cheryl Brown I literally had to drag My now 18 yr old son to swim lessons at age 8. He cried every day we went, even cried as he swam across the eight foot he thanks me that he learned to swim...Me on the other hand is still afraid of the water.
    Thursday at 7:12pm · Andrea Alvarado Castro Cheryl, you are like my mom, you may not of gotten over your fear but you are an awesome mom for not letting your son be part of that fear... maybe he may teach you!
    Thursday at 7:17pm · Cheryl Brown Thanks Andrea...Yes I think he just might do that .
    Thursday at 9:26pm · Isidra Person-Lynn Yeah, Tracy, that is why I said hair and access was SOME of it. I wonder if size has something to do with it too? A lot of us are irrationally afraid of dogs too. Some things came with experience deep in the roots.
    Thursday at 11:43pm · Lauren Little Interesting study Tracey. I grew up in a military family (Navy) and my parents knew we'd always be stationed near water. My parents wanted to ensure we could all swim. Oddly enough, my Mom is the only one in the family who can't swim and is terrified of the thought. Glad I can swm.
    Yesterday at 2:43am · Phyllis Lohar-Singh So true, this fear of water is passed on from generations before and our kids suffer. Teach your kids to swim. Expand their chance to experience life.
    Yesterday at 10:26am ·
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