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Behind the Curtain at TMM

Why Can't You Swim?

We got a lot of comments about our segment on swimming and why black kids (and Latino kids) are far less likely to swim than white kids and are, as a consequence, far more likely to drown. We did a segment yesterday about a new Aquatics concentration at Hampton University and the instructor there Jodi Jensen, who is white, told us about her adventures not only in the pool but in cross cultural understanding.

I am reminded of a really interesting book we covered last year that goes into some of the historical reasons why this disparity in swimming competence exists. It's called Contested Waters: A Social History of the Swimming Pool in America.

Check out the piece we did last year about the book. It's academic (sorry, Jeff, It's true), but still very readable

And here's one piece I didn't get to explore: the study by USA swimming that documents disparity in swimming competence is nearly the same for both black kids and Latino kids — 58 percent of black kids and 56 percent of Latino kids, compared to 31 percent of white kids, can't swim. But, twice as many Latino kids as Black kids are now involved in competitive swimming.

Why might that be? Is it that middle class Latino kids are more likely to live in the suburbs and thus more likely to have access to a pool? Or, is it that black kids have more thoroughly internalized the stereotype that black kids can't or don't, or have no reason to, swim?

We're still working on our contribution to the pirate story, which is to say we're looking for something to add or say that would offer a different perspective. Until then, here is a piece. It's blog commnentary, but it quotes an interview with K'Naan, a Somali rap artist. He has a provocative take on this story.