Black People; PLEASE Learn how to SWIM!!!

As a Matriculating student at the Fine institute of Howard University, I found myself at first perplexed then later angered by its archaic policy of mandatory swimming classes for those enrolled in the School of Arts & Sciences, which is the most populated.

Coming in as a student in the department of Communications, I was unaffected but annoyed as  I watched my fellow students drag themselves to their classes and pack swimming gear.  Of course, this would become my reality as I prepared to switch to a Psychology major – which is housed under the school of Arts & Sciences. I just thought about the burden of having to shower in between periods, wading in nasty pool water and having to pack my delicates with my textbooks. Lockers and the smell of Chlorine did not entice me. Neither did the idea of being around partial male nudity when I could be in a regular class staring at the backside of a female classmate.

It was especially Womp-worthy for me because I already knew how to swim.

But it’s times like this, as in the case of this Louisiana Family that lost 6 of its teens to a drowning accident, where I realize the significance of such a seemingly outdated rule.

I’m sure you’ve heard this story by now,

if not, please take the time to click on the link underneath http://www.examiner.com/x-15540-New-Orleans-Top-News-Examiner~y2010m8d3-6-teens-drown-in-Louisiana-river?cid=channel-rss-News

An African-American family was out having a gathering by Shreveport’s Red River and a group of teenage family members were in the shallow parts when they lost their bearings and fell into deep waters. The shock alone would terrify anyone and catch them off guard, but what makes this story so tragic is that none of the teens knew how to swim. The circumstance was only exacerbated by the fact that out of this large group as a whole, not one of the family members could swim, making rescue an almost impossible act.

Upon hearing this, I was just at a loss. What an extreme situation. How is this possible?? Nobody?? Not one?

Now, taking into account the area where the family is from, and the socioeconomic factors abounding – not to mention that the victims here were teens, it becomes painfully obvious that these were not College educated folk who had the luxury of being required to take swimming lessons. How ironic that this little collegiate thorn in my side could’ve saved 6 lives? Now I’m wondering why it’s not mandatory in high schools…

No matter how surprised Iam when I meet peers of mine who tell me they cannot swim, Iam always taken aback by how many there actually are, but never does or has my mind ventured to think how it can be a survival skill. Basically that’s it whole purpose.  Sure, some of you may love the cool of the waves, the freedom of water, or the oneness with the Earth, but essentially, being acclimated to land as opposed to water, man acquired this skill in order not to perish at the wrath of tides.

I cannot tell you the last time I have swum or entered a body of water not contained in a tub. I Absolutely Hate Public beaches and the only good pool to me is a hot tub. Still and all, once you know, it’s like riding a bike…as they say, you never forget. I have full knowledge that if ever I have to swim, I can just get to it. Especially if my life depended on it. So long as I do a good deal of stretches prior to. You should never have to be afraid of the water, but always respect it.

As I learned more about this story I couldn’t help but think…’Damn, is THIS why Howard made such a big deal of it?’  No one around campus seemed to know why it was mandatory. I told myself that I would research the origin of it that would explain it’s continuation, but someone finally told me that (as I guessed), this was a decision instated in the University’s early days to combat stereotypes of failed Black ability and athleticism in that area. I was turned off at how trivial and cosmetic the thought process behind that was and never delved any deeper. But Now I see just how important it is. And I hope it doesn’t change anytime soon.

Looking at how much I’ve taken this knowledge for granted, the perspective is slightly different now. I ‘m just thinking how I’ve had girlfriends who were on swimteams and were Lifeguards…And then how many people I know who can’t even see underwater because they haven’t gone as far as to duck their heads and open their eyes. It’s now my personal mission to teach every person I know who can’t swim how to if the opportunity presents itself. Blacks being my first priority for obvious reasons.

My heart goes out to this family, for this is truly the result of ignorance (meaning lack of knowledge/not knowing) in its purest form. We can do so much better…