Real talk? I can’t swim. And if you’re Black, and reading this, chances are you can’t swim either. Statistics show that nearly 70% of Black people living in America can’t swim. According to the Center for Disease Control:
Black children ages five to 19 die from drowning at a rate 5 1/2 times higher than white children. The Washington Post.
I did not have a pool growing up, my family didn’t take beach or poolside vacations, and my friends didn’t have pools either. The only swimming pool in our town wasn’t within walking distance so going there made it virtually impossible. My parents worked many jobs and getting us off to swimming classes wasn’t a huge priority.
I didn’t start taking lessons until I was already nine-years-old, and full a fear. Short story: I was too scared to learn. Fast forward 20+ years later and here I am. I love the water. LOVE the water, but I still can’t do more than stand in it. And I know I’m not alone, which is why Simone Manuel’s win is so incredibly important.
Yesterday, Simone Manuel became the first Black woman to win an individual swimming medal in an Olympics. A gold medal, at that.
Simone broke down in tears during the award ceremony, stating:
This medal is not just for me, it’s for some of the African-Americans who have been before me and been inspirations. I hope I can be an inspiration for others…The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal or break records.
But she did win, and we couldn’t be more proud.