Fan Perspective

Simone Manuel, Blacks & Swimming

I don’t have many regrets in life, but one thing I regret not doing is learning how to swim.

Unfortunately, I was never put in swimming lessons as a child. I’m not sure why my parents didn’t. Maybe it was because we never lived near water, and we only got in a pool or the ocean was once a year.

So maybe learning to swim wasn’t a necessity, but I wish it was. Even after a near drowning experience at 12 years old, I still didn’t pressure my parents to put me in swimming lessons.

Watching Simone Manuel become the first African American woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal was not only a historic and exciting moment for me, but it was also a wakeup call.

The summer Olympics have been around for 120 years. It took 120 years for a Black woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming. It wasn’t until 2004 when a woman of African decent—Maritza Correia—mad the U.S. Olympic swimming team.

There has always been a negative relationship between Blacks and swimming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1999-2010, the drowning rate for African Americans was higher than that of whites across all ages, especially among children ages 5-18.

The disparity is most pronounced in swimming pools, according to the CDC. African American children ages 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5.5 times higher than those of whites. This disparity is greatest among those 11-12 years where African Americans drown in swimming pools at rates 10 times those of whites.

These statistics proves why Manuel’s win was important for the Black community. Her historic win can significantly improve the relationship between Blacks and water.

Hopefully more African American parents will sign their children up for swimming lessons. Hopefully more swimming clubs will form in  predominately African American communities.

Hopefully I will finally sign up for swimming lessons.

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