"He said, 'I thought black folks couldn't swim' the way you'd say 'I thought chickens couldn't talk.'"


In answer to the Day 4 Question “Can You Swim?”

My sisters and I took swimming lessons as children growing up in Ohio and there were plenty of other black kids in the pool with us. Swimming was a freshman gym requirement at my sisters’ (very diverse) high school…funny, I don’t remember hearing of anyone complaining about their hair (too much), threatening lawsuits, etc. As an adult I started lessons again at the Y and spent an hour every Sunday morning doing laps next to old white folks who’d been swimming since birth. It says a lot about my environment that I made it all the way into my 30s before I first heard of the notion that black folks couldn’t swim, and it came from a white man who was trying to talk to me. He said, “I thought black folks couldn’t swim” the way you’d say “I thought chickens couldn’t talk.” Needless to say he didn’t get very far with me! It’s been a while since I did laps but if you threw me into a pool, I wouldn’t drown and I could get out on my own.