Can we have real talk about pool etiquette?
Swimming pools are a MAJOR trigger of racial trauma for AAs. I’m telling you because I want you to love your friends and community better.
- An estimated 70% of African Americans cannot swim. This is because of systemic racism restricting access to public swimming pools and bodies of water. If you have questions, ask Google.
To my AA friends – please look into taking a class for you and your children this summer. YMCA, Community College, check Craigslist for instructors. Let’s stop this legacy. A disproportionate number AAs drown each summer. You don’t have to like the water, but we need to be able to engage it safely.
AA brothers and sisters, you are in danger for skin cancer and sunburns so please cover your beautiful melanin with sunblock. It’s a myth that we can’t get a sunburn or skin cancer.
- AAs have been historically kept out of community swimming pools through discrimination. If you see an AA family at the swimming pool SAY HELLO. Get to know your neighbors. Don’t be weird or assuming. If the parent isn’t in the water, there is a possibility they aren’t comfortable in the water. Look into the possibility of a lifeguard for your community pool.
If your friend or their children can’t swim, please offer to teach them privately or join them in a class.
- If you’re throwing a pool party for your kids birthday or summer celebration, be aware you may be choosing an event AAs will NOT send their kids to. If you’re close enough to ask, please ask how the parent and child feel about swimming.
- DO NOT throw kids into the pool unless you have the parents permission AND the child asks. This is regardless of their race.
- Many AA women and girls do not want to get their hair wet, but want to enjoy the pool. This may seem unreasonable to you, but my hair legitimately takes me 10-20 hours a week to care for and chlorine is extremely destructive to my hair. This doesn’t even touch on the cost of hair products. Please ASK if they’re okay with being splashed and don’t assume your personal and cultural rule that if you’re in the pool you’re asking to get wet is universal or “right.”
- Go ahead and take monkey in the middle out of your vocabulary. Any version of it. We notice and it hurts. You can use Keep Away if you’re struggling for an alt name.
- Don’t talk about how dark you’re getting. Don’t talk about how you need to get darker. Don’t talk about how you don’t want to get darker. We notice and it hurts. AA experience more racism the darker they are and dark skin comes with discrimination, danger, and fear for POC in the US.
- Don’t make fun of people who can’t swim and don’t pressure them to do things in the water they’re uncomfortable with.
- If you get to your community pool and the music or people are louder than you prefer and the crowd is bigger than you’re comfortable with, please realize we have a VERY different cultural norm for noise and crowds. I personally hate music and anything more than 5-10 people. Instead of trying to force people to conform to my comfort level I choose to swim at times when it is less crowded and quiet.
- Cultural misunderstandings can escalate quickly without communication. Do not call the police on your neighbor without speaking to them first. AA people are not unreasonable and may very well be terrified by you. Please get to know your neighbors. I cannot say this enough. Most issues can be resolved by simply knowing each other and making an attempt at communication.
- The swimming pool is a time white people who haven’t been around people of color much are sometimes exposed to large amounts of black skin for the first time. This can cause major discomfort, fear, and feelings of danger. Truly search your heart and see if you have fear of black skin. We are NOT inherently dangerous, rowdy, violent, evil, prone to trouble, or sexually promiscuous. Many need to reconcile feelings about black skin so that we can be safe and in community together.
I hope each of you has a fun and safe summer.