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Jim Crow laws and other discriminatory practices kept generations of African-American children from learning how to swim in the safety of public pools. That legacy is one factor that fuels the stereotype that Blacks can’t swim.

Sigma Gamma Rho, an African American sorority, is helping to break the stereotype by organizing swimming clinics for Black children, the Baltimore Sun report.

The sorority offers swimming lessons in collaboration with USA Swimming, which provides volunteers to instruct the kids.

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USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body, estimates that 64 percent of African-American children do not know how to swim—roughly three times the rate of White children. Consequently, Black children between 5 and 19 drown in swimming pools at more than five times the rate of Whites in that age groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Swimming as a skill, as a recreation, as a sport and as a social activity has been passed down generationally among White Americans. This wasn’t the case with African American” Professor Jeff Wiltse, of the University of Montana, told The Sun.

According to the newspaper, the sorority conducted an internal poll of its 3,200 members to gather data on why African Americans are not swimming more. Many of the women had near-drowning experiences as children. Others pointed to the high cost of swimming lessons, as well as concerns about their hair.

USA Swimming said one thing is certain: children are unlikely to swim if a parent can’t swim. Accordingly, Sigma Gamma Rho launched its initiative by teaching Black mothers before focusing on children.

The program also opens the door to career opportunities, such as jobs in marine biology and the Coast Guard, the sorority told The Sun.

SOURCE:  Baltimore Sun


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