Using Swimming Lessons to Close the Racial Gap In New York

About 58 percent of Latino Children and 69 percent of black children have little to swimming ability, that’s relative to the 42 percent of their white counterparts. According to a survey conducted by the US Swimming Foundation, the gap between the number of Latino and African-American children with limited or no ability to swim compared to white children is shrinking. At the moment, the gap is still significant, but more low income and minority children are finding their way into the water.

Targeted Audience

In New York city, the efforts to close the gap are led by a number of private and public entities that offer free swimming lessons to children from this particular demographic. Non-profit organizations have their free swimming lessons programs too, but the state government, through a program sponsored by the state parks department, is leading by example. New York’s parks department offers free swimming lessons for over 20,000 children across the five boroughs. According to Rose Harvey, the commissioner of the New York state parks department, this is a targeted audience.

Fear of Drowning

The audience is comprised of people who don’t have an opportunity to learn how to swim that their counterparts might have. According to the study, the biggest impediment to learning how to swim among Latino and African-American children is the fear of drowning, a fear that’s so closely linked to race. African-American children, as well as their parents, are more fearful of drowning than their white counterparts. By offering free swimming lessons for low-income and the minority in the society, New York city hopes to close the racial divide, one lesson at a time.

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