Summer Fun Different for Blacks and Whites?

| 10/19/2010 | Comments (16)

Dear Ms. HeartBeat:
Growing up, swimming was such a huge part of my summer fun. I can’t remember ever not knowing how to swim. It’s as natural to me as walking and to my White friends and family. It never ceases to amaze me when I meet adults who can’t swim, especially Black people.  I date Black women and wanted my girlfriends to go swimming with me. But my Black friends never had much interest in swimming when we were kids, and as adults they have no interest in swimming at all. Other than something traumatic that caused deep phobias, why would someone never learn how to swim or even want to?

Ms. HeartBeat Responds:
Believe it or not, people DIE in water. It’s called drowning. Not only that, people with high muscularity, dense skeletal systems, and low levels of body fat sink in water.  Swimming is not fun at all for Black people that are not overweight (as the fat helps keep you afloat).  Notice that you don’t see Black folks involved in swimming competitions! Lean, muscular African Americans struggle to stay on top of the water and generally sink like rocks.

There may also be some cellular level genetically based repulsion with water. Lots of our ancestors jumped off slave ships and committed suicide in the water, were picked up and returned to the ship, or made it to shore half dead rather than live in slavery in the U.S.  Even those that stayed on the ship suffered horribly and saw nothing but ocean for weeks.

Historically, African Americans don’t have fond memories of large bodies of water, okay?

Another factor to consider is that chlorine dries out Black hair and causes severe breakage if not washed and conditioned thoroughly soon after exposure.  If a woman wears her hair in a press (hot combed), the water will undo her hairstyle within seconds. Even if she wears her hair straight from a relaxer, repeated exposure to chlorine will cause her hair some serious problems.  We love pool parties though! Black women will sit by the pool or river and look cute, or may stand in the water (while keeping our hair dry).  We are not very likely to jump in and start swimming.

Anyway, swimming is not the fun you describe. Being in lake or pond or river water with fungus and single celled parasites and disgusting fish and God knows what else decaying upstream is not fun! Being in public pools with urine and poopy diaper toddlers and adults that should know better than to blow snot in the water is even nastier!

If one is aware of such bacteria and nastiness and does not find pleasure in putting one’s body and exposing ones skin, mouth, eyes or body orifices to such disgusting nonsense, why would you even question why someone would not want to learn to swim?

Under the circumstances the better question is why would anyone want to!

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Dating expert and advice columnist since 1993, writing as Ms. HeartBeat. Author of the hilarious street smart dating guide "Sucka Free Love - How to Avoid Dating The Dumb, The Deceitful, The Dastardly, The Dysfunctional & The Deranged."

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Comments (16)

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  1. Oracle says:

    Ms. Heartbeat’s response is hilarious.

    1. The slave-ship/water aversion portion of the response was hopefully written in jest.

    2. The muscle mass part is not a factor. Case in point, a Black Male swimmer was part of the most recent gold medal relay swim team. Also, the Black movie ‘Pride’ was about a Black swim team in the ghetto that received national recognition.

    3. The Black Female hair concerns are 100% correct — and understandable.

    • Raz says:

      Yeah but you don’t know how much harder he had to work to keep his muscle mass afloat when compared to the rest of those white swimmers. He may have had to expend a little more energy.

  2. Monica says:

    Okay, I accept that this response is a bit extreme to garner some humor and reaction, but it is a bit much.

    As a black woman, I’ll give you the hair argument on gp. But most of black people’s “problem” with swimming has more to do with a lack of real exposure than any centuries long fear of water from slavery times. A 3-year-old who cries at the side of the pool has no idea that her great-great-great-great grandmother drowned in the lake back in the day trying to escape master’s wrath. Likely she’s sensed the fear her mother/father has for the water and no one will help her get over that fear.

    In many of our communities, there are no pools (working), there are no large bodies of water and more importantly there is no impetus for kids to become comfortable with water and learn how to swim. But there are plenty of b-ball courts, streets to run on, etc. Because many parents have had no exposure to swimming, there is no incentive to help their children become exposed and learn.

    Thankfully, I was able to take swimming lessons as a child and while I’m not a strong swimmer and I still have a healthy respect for large bodies of water, I love to swim. If the hair were not an issue, I’d swim more as it is excellent exercise.

    The black community should probably be looking at ways to overcome the fear and disdain it has for swimming rather than trying to rationalize and excuse it, imho.

    • Black kids in the inner city learning to swim under the circumstances you describe has about as much importance to them as learning how to play Polo, tennis or golf. What for? When would they be able to use that skill? What benefit is it to them? When would they be able to enjoy doing it? NEVER. So why bother stressing yourself out as a parent to teach your children something they will never use, especially when those things cost money that you don’t have to spare?

      Be realistic. Children of any race learning to swim well that don’t live near a water source to practice in regularly is not going to happen.

      • Monica says:

        That’s somewhat of a narrow minded view. And I’m not simply addressing kids in “inner cities”. There are as many suburban kids who have never learned how to swim. So I shouldn’t bother to learn about other countries, cultures, views, people, ’cause since I’m in the inner city (or wherever), I’ll never encounter those types of things??? Hmm.. That kind of thinking may explain why many of us are still there. By assuming they’ll never use that skill, you’re cripping them before they’ve even got a start. I think Richard Williams would disagree that there was no point to teaching his daughters to play tennis in Compton was pointless.

        • You are mixing up all kinds of things in a discussion about SWIMMING. Who cares about what goes on in other countries and cultures when I am not talking about THEM SWIMMING, the article is speaking about BLACK AMERICANS SWMMING. That’s it! I disagree that there are just as many suburban Black kids that don’t swim because in the burbs people have pools right in their homes! There are pools right in the high schools and middle schools! Swimming is taught in PE in the suburbs, but not in the inner city. So your statement is quite faulty.

          Secondly, a single parent struggling to put food on the table is not going to be “wasting” money paying for swimming lessons. Remember, 75% of Black American children are being raised in single parent homes. That means food, lights, gas in the car, and shoes/clothes are the necessities, not learning to swim. That is a luxury, not a necessity. That is reality.

          And if Richard Williams had the money and the time to teach his kids how to play tennis (which can be done even in the inner city as there are tennis courts [no nets but the courts are there] for little to nothing as long as you have someone to teach you FREE… which we assume their Dad did). How many children have a parent that can teach them to play tennis on a FREE court in the FREE park? Not many. But they do have older brothers and neighborhood boys that will teach them to play basketball and softball in the FREE park. Some kids can’t even afford to get their own bat and glove, but they can still play because its FREE.

          That’s the part you seem to be missing in your quest to win an argument.

          • Monica says:

            Not trying to “win” an argument. Are we arguing?? I’m expressing a different pov. That’s allowed, right?

          • Nope. But as soon as you criticized MY POV I was entitled to fire back and tell you why you were wrong. If you don’t want to deal with criticism of your statements, then just state your case without making any kind of judgment about what I say.

      • carol andrews says:

        Hi Beborrah, just came across this interesting article on BV AOL and thought about you . Let me know what you think.
        website is Incase I didnt get the address right , go to AOL Black Voices abd search for Cullen Jones importance of learning to swim. He says a mouthful about this life threatening topic !!! Oh by the way, he the first african American to break a record for swimming in over 100 yrs !!! I know- you probably think that is a fluke….

        • The fact that it is the first in over 100 years (going on 120) speaks for the “flukeness” all by itself. He mentions the fear of water that Blacks have innately, and I think I touched on that. Even though my presentation was humorous, I think it has merit. After all, slavery is attributed as being the source of Black men’s failure to uphold family values and the reason our relationships are in jeopardy, right? That to me means my theory about the fear of water due to transatlantic transportation and death or slavery for life could have just as much merit.

          By the way, I never said learning to swim was stupid or not something to be done. I merely pointed out that the lifestyle of the majority of African Americans with children does not lend itself to water sports due to the inaccessibility and cost. I applaud Mr. Jones’ efforts, but until more pools and swimming lessons are available to Black and Latino children living in the inner cities at a lower cost, the drownings will continue.

  3. Ravenelvenlady says:

    Very well considered explanation why black people do not generally swim. Thanks Ms. Heartbeat.

  4. carol andrews says:

    Hi Deborrah, I agree with you wholeheartedly on some points of why Blacks dont swim- I am not sure about “lean muscular African Americans struggle to stay on top of water and generally sink like rocks”.

    I do believe we may have genetic aversion to water due to traumas and ills of slavery, however this is something that we as apeople must overcome.

    This is a LIFE SKILL. Did you read about the tragic deaths last summer of 6 or 7 young teens that were picnicking at a state park and got caught up in a sinkhole, all but one survived – they did not know how to swim. I never learned to swim, have no interest in swimming but I went out of way to try to make sure my children learn this life saving skill.

    Blacks need to learn to swim even if they dont plan on swimming same as they should learn how to operate a car – these are both LIFE SKILLS in this day and age!!!!

    • Deborrah is also a certified fitness trainer. Scientific testing proves that the most muscularly dense people are Black, and the most muscularly dense person on the planet is a young Black male 18-24. Even if the scale weights for the two people is exactly the same, their body composition will mandate who will have an easier time in the water. The less body fat you have and the more dense your bones and muscles are, the more difficult it is for you to stay on top of the water and float. Fat floats and solids sink.

      Look at cooking for an example of this. You put 1 oz. of fat in a pot of water, it will float on the top. You put 1 oz. of sand in a pot of water, it sinks to the bottom quickly. Same principle.

      • Raz says:

        When I was learning to swim, I noticed I had to work a little harder doggie paddling than my white swim classmates. I was doing everything they did. My technique was perfect. My swim instructor who was a fat guy BTW, told me, you just have to ‘work a little harder’ because you have less body fat (his words). He was a white guy too). I had to paddle more than they did and I was relaxed and everything. So there is validity in body fat and density in terms of water.

  5. vonnie says:

    lmao!!!! well when you put it THAT way

  6. LMH says:

    Thank you Deborrah! I think of swimming as kind of taking a communal bath, YUK!!

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