Nearly 60 percent of black children can't swim
New study underlies efforts to prevent drowning, boost sports participation
A recent survey by USA Swimming found that 58% of African-American children can't swim, and that Black children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate.
Now, I can swim, but I don't like to. I almost drowned in a YMCA swimming pool when I was four during "free swim" time at summer camp, and ever since then, I hate being in water over my head. Sweet Dub swims like he was born to it, and knowing of my fear of the water, he was determined to teach Viva how to swim (and how to LOVE to swim) from a very young age.
At the outset, Viva was fearless. She would launch off the side of the pool and plunge right in, paddling around even when her teeth were chattering. She just didn't want to get out. And then, a couple of years ago, she started "learning" how to swim at day camp. And all of a sudden, she was not so fearless. Sweet Dub was furious. We don't know what exactly happened, but suddenly she did seem to be a bit dubious about the water. "They put the FEAR in her!" he howled angrily.
Not long after that, we moved from the apartment building where we had a pool at our disposal whenever we wanted it, and to a house where there is a yard, but no pool aside from the kiddie pool we throw out there and fill with the hose.
I recently took Viva over to a friend's for a playdate. They live in a luxury apartment building, and they have a pool. I watched Viva and her friend swimming around, and I realized her friend is hugely confident in the water – she is not quite five, yet swims quite ably from the shallow to the deep end and back. Viva, on the other hand, is constantly getting water up her nose, swallowing water, and refusing to get her face wet.
Now: last year, when we went to
An added wrinkle: the African-American hair. Viva has lots and lots of hair. It is naturally kinky and naturally very dry. The chlorine really does a job on her hair and makes it even more fragile. It makes it harder to comb through and more subject to breakage. I do not need an extra struggle over her hair (yet another reason for her to hate swimming). This year, I would love to get her into a good swimming program, but I'm considering getting her hair braided to protect it.
Sweet Dub looks concerned. "Are you sure you really want to do that?" he says. "They just braid their hair so tight. I know I've seen little girls come back from having their hair done and their face looks like this–" and he stretches his face back with his hands in that universal symbol for "bad facelift." "And then we'll have to listen to her whining about how her head hurts."
Oh my God. Do you see?
I am trying to make sure my child will not drown, and if getting her hair braided tight* is the price we must pay, then so be it.
* Although I am not down with the dreaded traction alopecia. I don't want my baby to end up bald.
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