The USA Swimming Foundation found that about 70 percent of African-American children can’t swim. Black children had almost double the rate of nonswimmers compared to White children. Around 60 percent of White children can swim, the foundation reported.

According to Lynn Sherr, author of “Swim: Why We Love the Water,” this is a new fairly new phenomenon. Sherr said that before the Civil War more blacks than whites knew how to swim.

“There are many stories of shipwrecks in which black slaves rescued their owners,” said Sherr.

Bruce Wigo of the International Swimming Hall of Fame argues that segregation marred the love of water for Blacks, as they were banned from many pools and beaches once Whites began to enjoy swimming. Because of that exclusion, many black parents never learned how to swim.

The fear of the unknown for these parents has been pushed onto their children, perhaps the biggest reason for such low swimming percentages. Swim education amongst Whites is doubled in comparison, the foundation says.

According to the New York Times, lack of access to water also plays a role as well as financial restraints and cosmetic reasons.

Not learning to swim has consequences. Drowning is the number two cause of death among children ages one to 19. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children ages four and older learn to swim.

They also suggest that very young children get familiar with the water early in order to make them more easily taught when it’s time for swim lessons.

(Photo: Splash Atlanta, USA Swimming Foundation)

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