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  • Kiara Ruth

Miles WILL Swim!

Miles recently started swimming with Goldfish Cary. The funny thing is he had done a swimming lesson there before but it was when he was smaller and I just didn’t feel like he was ready.

When I look back at that time it was more-so me not being ready, rather than him. I had somehow made the swim instructor inadequate. I didn’t feel in control of the situation and the timing seemed off.

As I began to process these feelings now, I realized that unknowingly I had transferred my fear of the water onto Miles. We didn’t go to the pool without our puddle jumpers, life vest, or any other things that would keep us safe from drowning. I would only stay in the shallow end because I was afraid of drowning and I didn’t want to get my hair wet.

There were so many things I was told growing up about swimming as a black girl.

Here are a few:

⁃ “You shouldn’t swim if you have a relaxer because your hair will fall out”

⁃ “Black people don’t swim”

⁃ “Your hair is going to fall out”

⁃ “Don’t walk too close to the edge because if you fall in nobody will be there to save you”

⁃ “Don’t jump off the diving board because you could break your neck”

⁃ “When you go to the beach the water will swallow you up”

⁃ “They are racist at that pool”

Grant it, some of the things have a bit of truth to them but I took them ALL literally and avoided the water altogether, and guess what I may have told Miles some of these things too. Again, I was projecting my fear of the water onto him. Why are black people less likely to swim? I did a little research and here some facts stated by the YMCA:


"According to a recent national study conducted at Ys by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis:

• 64 percent of Black/African-American children cannot swim

• Only 40 percent of Caucasian children cannot swim

Equally concerning, 87 percent of non-swimmer youth plan to visit a beach or pool at least once during the summer months, and 34 percent plan to go swimming at least ten times.

There are cultural and historical factors that explain why children of color are at a higher risk for drowning:

1. Institutional racism: 

Increased privatization of swimming lessons and pools as well as a history of exclusion set the context for today’s low participation rates in swim lessons. A painful legacy of racial segregation and violent strife surrounds the history of municipal swimming pools. This legacy helped to erect high barriers to swimming participation that remain in place

2. Myths and stereotypes:

A lack of representation in professional swim sports and false beliefs surrounding people of color and swimming have also lead to restricted performance and limited participation.

3. Inherited fear of drowning:

The USA Swimming Foundation study shows that if a parent does not know how to swim, there is only a 13 percent chance that their child will learn how to swim. When adult role models fear water or have been negatively impacted by the above experiences, their comfort level with swimming is passed down to younger generations."


When I read facts like these it all makes sense. How often do we as parents, shape our children’s narratives based on our experiences?

Miles has been taking swimming lessons for a month now at Goldfish Cary and I can already see the difference in his confidence, technique, and overall attitude towards the water.

We ended our summer at an indoor pool with no life jacket, puddle jumpers, or any safety gear on. He did so well. He didn’t know this, but I celebrated on the inside because there he was rewriting the narrative, and there I was breaking a general curse. The truth is I am still not getting my hair wet but Miles will swim!

For more information on Swim Lessons at Goldfish Swim School - Cary, click here




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