What America didn’t know about the real reason “black people can’t swim” is totally horrifying, but it can’t be ignored.
The longstanding stereotype that “black people can’t swim” stems from adeeper-rooted issue than just socioeconomic status.
Many believe that itwas a result of African Americansnot having the financial resources to get their children access toswimming pools, and more specifically, swimming lessons.However, what has often been overlooked is how much racism played a part in this “limited access.”
In a viral Facebook post written byMateen Stewart, he shares a horrifying photo that represents just how far America has come, from dumping acid on black people in pools to watching Simone Manuel win the Olympic gold in the Women’s 100-meter freestyle:
This is a guy throwing muriatic acid at people in a pool because he didn’t want blacks to swim in it. A lot of people don’t know where the stereotype that black people can’t swim came from. Generations of blacks never learned to swim because they weren’t allowed to go swim in public pools due to segregation, and the ones that could were sometimes met by racists like the guy pictured. On numerous occasions pools were closed and filled with dirt just to keep blacks out. This is why it was so important for me to see Simone Manuel hold up that Gold Medal.
For Simone, tying for gold with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak was an equally powerful feat. She’s the first African American woman to win an individual swimming gold, and she beat the world record while she was at it. No American has won the event since 1984.
It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality, said Manuel. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.
After the historic win, Manuel fought back the tears as she made sure to give credit where credit was due:
All I can say is all glory to God. Its definitely been a long journey these past four years. Im just so blessed to have a gold medalIm just so blessed.
While she is so proud to represent the black community and hopes her win affects positive change, she admits that it has been an immense weight to carry:
It is something Ive definitely struggled with a lot, she said. Coming into the race, I tried to take weight of the black community off my shoulders. Its something I carry with me. I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not Simone the black swimmer.”
While this is surely a moment to go down in history, I can’t help but agree with Simone that the weight she is carrying is too much for one pair of shoulders. While we’ve come a long way from pouring muriatic acid into pools, there is still much to be done to fight the racial barriers that still exist today, and it takes an army to do it.
No doubt, Simone is a superwoman in the making, but let’shelp her make that change together.