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Protecting Our Children: Addressing the Drowning Risk for African American Youth

June 8, 2024

June 8, 2024

Drowning remains a critical and preventable cause of death among children, with African American youth facing particularly high risks. This article delves into the alarming statistics, historical context, and crucial safety measures that can help protect Black children from drowning. Additionally, we highlight the hidden dangers of blue bathing suits and provide actionable tips for parents to enhance water safety. Learn how to reduce the drowning risk for African American youth.

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The Alarming Statistics

Drowning is the leading cause of death among children aged one to four. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African American children aged 10-14 drown in swimming pools at a rate 7.6 times higher than White children. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that African American children account for 23 percent of pool or spa drowning deaths where race is known. These statistics underscore the urgent need for focused intervention and education in water safety.

Why Are African American Children at Higher Risk?

Several factors contribute to the disproportionate drowning rates among African American children:

  • Lack of Access to Swimming Facilities: Historically, African American communities have had limited access to public swimming pools and affordable swimming lessons. This legacy of exclusion has led to generational gaps in swimming proficiency.
  • Economic Disparities: Lower-income families often have fewer resources to invest in swimming lessons and safety equipment, further exacerbating the risk.
  • Cultural and Historical Barriers: Historical exclusion from swimming facilities has fostered a lack of familiarity and confidence in the water, perpetuating a cycle of non-swimming within many African American families.

The Hidden Dangers of Blue Bathing Suits

One often overlooked safety concern is the color of swimwear. Blue, white, and turquoise bathing suits can blend in with the water, making it difficult to see a child who might be struggling or submerged. This is especially dangerous in public pools or natural water bodies where visibility is critical.

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Why Avoid Blue Bathing Suits?

  • Camouflage Effect: Shades of blue, white, and turquoise can mimic the color of the water, causing children to disappear from view even in clear pools.
  • Delayed Response: In an emergency, every second counts. If a child is wearing a bathing suit that blends with the water, it can delay the response time, increasing the risk of drowning.

Safer Alternatives?

  • Bright Colors: Opt for neon yellows, oranges, greens, and reds. These colors are easily visible against the water, enhancing safety by allowing quick identification of your child.

Historical Context: A Legacy of Exclusion

During the Jim Crow era, African Americans were systematically denied access to public swimming facilities, which left a lasting impact on swimming proficiency and water safety within Black communities. A notable example of this exclusion is the incident involving actress Dorothy Dandridge, who merely dipped her toe into a Las Vegas hotel’s swimming pool in the 1950s, leading the management to drain the pool entirely—a stark reminder of the era’s racial prejudices.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, some cities began to introduce public swimming pools aimed at serving African American communities, marking the beginning of increased access to swimming opportunities for Black children. Despite these advances, disparities in access and proficiency remain significant today.

Practical Tips for Parents to Prevent Drowning

1. Enroll in Swimming Lessons Early: Introduce your child to swimming lessons as early as possible. Programs such as those offered by the YMCA and the USA Swimming Foundation provide affordable options for African American families.

2. Supervise Constantly: Always watch your child around water, even during non-swim times. An alarming 70% of drowning incidents involving young children occur when swimming isn’t planned.

3. Choose High-Visibility Swimwear: Avoid blue, white, and turquoise swimsuits. Instead, choose brightly colored swimwear like neon yellow, orange, or green to ensure your child is easily visible in the water.

4. Learn CPR: Take a CPR course to be prepared for emergencies. Quick, informed action can save a life if a drowning incident occurs.

5. Create Safe Swimming Environments: Ensure any swimming area is safe and supervised. For home pools, install barriers such as fences and keep emergency equipment like life rings and reaching poles nearby.

“African American children aged 10-14 drown in swimming pools at a rate 7.6 times higher than White children.”

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A Call to Action To Reduce Drowning Risk For African American Youth

Drowning is a preventable tragedy, and with the right measures, we can significantly reduce the risks for African American children. By addressing the unique challenges faced by Black youth and taking proactive steps towards water safety, we can create a safer environment for all children to enjoy swimming and other water activities.


Drowning Prevention for African American Youth
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03 blue 01vzaa2w on successful black parenting magazine Why are African American children at a higher risk for drowning?

  • Limited access to swimming lessons
  • Economic disparities
  • Historical barriers to swimming facilities

03 blue 02g8xbea on successful black parenting magazine What are the signs of someone drowning?

  • Bugged-out eyes
  • Excessive splashing
  • Vertical body position
  • Silent struggling
  • Going underwater without resurfacing

03 blue 03w6ermg on successful black parenting magazine How can I improve my child’s swimming skills?

  • Enroll in swimming lessons early
  • Use community resources like the YMCA and USA Swimming Foundation

03 blue 044mwfww on successful black parenting magazine How can I ensure my child’s safety around water?

  • Supervise constantly
  • Create safe swimming environments

03 blue 05tuhmfw on successful black parenting magazine Why should I avoid blue, white, and turquoise swimsuits for my child?

  • Blue, white, and turquoise blend with water, reducing visibility
  • Opt for bright, contrasting colors like neon yellow or orange

03 blue 06jbmfmw on successful black parenting magazine What should I do if I see someone drowning?

  • Call for help immediately
  •  Attempt a rescue if safe
  • Learn CPR for emergency response

By focusing on water safety education and proactive measures, we can work together to reduce the risk of drowning among African American children and ensure they have the skills and confidence to enjoy water activities safely.

7231832 waterball water drop pool icon on successful black parenting magazine

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