Health + Safety

Why African-Americans Are Less Likely To Learn How To Swim

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8-11-2014 2-41-23 PM

Kyla Woods from WLWT News 5 admitted her inability to swim on-air. She took it as an open challenge while taking on an in-depth look at why many people in the black community don’t learn how to swim.

Nearly 70 percent of black children would not be able to save themselves if they were drowning.

Shirley Dunham, who learned how to swim at the age of 57, is now an active participant in water aerobics.

“I felt so accomplished,” she said of her experience. “It was something major in my life, and I think that the fear of it should not stop you.”

Woods said the admission was a weigh lifted off her shoulders because it motivated her to face her fears and learn how to swim. However, fear isn’t the only reason why people in the black community refrain from swimming.

Council member Yvette Simpson noticed a trend.

“Mentors, moms, aunts: You see them in the pool and they’re standing up,” she said. “They’re not getting their hair wet. We’re all concerned about our hair, and I think that just carries over.”

However, African-American ancestors stayed out of the waters because of segregation. In order to flee to freedom, slaves would often have to cross rivers. Slave owners took note of the escape plan and developed ways to instill fear of water in their slaves.

It may still be the season for swimming lessons and pool parties, but children in the black community are 40 percent more likely to drown than other children.

For Woods, the time had come as she learned to swim alongside her daughter, Ava Burns.

Read more on this story here.

(Photo Credit: WLWT Investigates)