African-American children and teens are nearly six times more likely to drown than their white counterparts.
Black people between the 5 and 19 drowned in swimming pools at rates 5.5 times higher than white kids in the same age group between 1999 and 2010, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found.
It was unclear what caused the disparity, but data provided by USA Swimming Foundation showed that around 64% of African-American children do not know how to swim, compared to 45% and 40% of Hispanic and Caucasian children, respectively.
The numbers are “insanely accurate,” according to D’Angelo Thibodeaux, a swimming instructor in Beaumont, Texas, who spends his evenings giving swimming lessons to African-American kids to help prevent them from drowning, 12 News reported.
Thibodeaux, the founder of the swim school Healing Waters Aquatics, believes Black kids are unable to swim because of history, not stereotypes.
“We do understand that in our history as Black so here in America, we weren’t always privileged to work or to swim in community pools. It got passed on from generation to generation. So you have a sizable amount of people that, like people said, didn’t show too much interest in teaching their kids how to swim or learning to swim themselves,” he said.
Social class was another factor that could determine an African-American child’s ability to learn how to swim, Thibodeaux, who is Black, said.
“Well, one of the things that I’ve come to find out is not a lot of Black kids have access to swim lessons like some other ethnicities as far as their parents being able to afford them,” the swimming instructor said.
While African-American children do come to pools every year, they come in not knowing how to swim, Thibodeaux observed.
These children end up “kind of just moving through the water, but not knowing the proper way how to swim or how to navigate to the water,” he claimed.
Thibodeaux is now trying to break generational curses by teaching at least the last three generations, including children, how to swim.
“[I]t’s really important especially in the African American community for us to break the stigma, to learn how to swim and then promote swimming for all the generations to follow,” he said.
Black households should learn water safety year around instead of two months out of a year, Thibodeaux suggested.