As I was thinking about to write regarding Black Lives Matter, I wondered what questions would arise.
Why is it even important that a swim coach state that Black Lives Matter?
What could swimming possibly have to do with the fight to end continued police brutality against black and brown bodies?
Can’t swimming just be about fun and break from all this?
The answer to that last question is a definitive and resounding NO.
Because BLACK LIVES MATTER.
In the water. Out of the water. Everywhere.
We are living in a time that where people across the world are calling out and challenging systems of racism, institutions allowed to remain static for far too long.
And as a swimmer and coach and lover of the water, I am angered and embarrassed at the way we have ignored this issue in my beloved sport.
For far too long, we, and by “we” I mean white people, have ignored the inequities that limited the access that black and brown and POC people have to the water.
Sadly, it’s an area that is all too easy to overlook.
As a white woman, I go to the pool and do not worry that I will not see myself reflected in the other swimmers around me.
I use the locker room and no one views me as threatening.
I show up at a hotel or condo pool and no one questions my right to be there.
I swim, and no one marvels that I can. No one watches, because it is expected.
I share a lane and no one shies away from me, or moves to another lane at the first chance.
For black swimmers, things are different.
How many times have you seen footage of someone at a neighborhood pool calling the police because a black family has arrived to swim? Or blocking access before they are even allowed to enter?
How many times have your children been in a swimming class with black children?
How many times do my friends tell me of staying at a hotel with a pool, and having white families look askance or leave because they’ve arrived?
How many times do I have clients tell me, after learning to swim here, that they don’t feel comfortable going to the public pool because they know they’ll be the object of speculation and that people will stare and that someone is wondering “oh, can she swim?”
And how many times must we hear the stories of black and brown children and adults drowning because they are not afforded the opportunity to learn this life-saving skill?
How many generations of families suffer because of trauma inflicted by negative experiences related to the water?
And how many largely black neighborhoods lack adequate water facilities and pools because of skewed urban planning?
Black Lives Matter in the water because, for far too long, we have denied water access, in any number of ways, to black and brown individuals.
That threatens their safety, their health, their sense of well-being, and limits their opportunities.
Nothing about that is okay with me.
BLACK LIVES MATTER in the water because BLACK LIVES MATTER out of the water.
We need to see more black swimmers, more black lifeguards, more black people playing Marco Polo, more black families enjoying their time at a pool or at our local swimming hole.
We need to see more black swimmers in the Olympics and more black swimmers at our local YMCA. We need to see more black scuba divers and triathletes, more black kids jumping off of the diving board, and more black families playing in the waves at the beach.
We need to create and foster environments where black people can enjoy their time without being subjected to scrutiny, without fear, and without being made to feel as if they do not belong.
Writing this is part of my pledge to do more to make sure that is the message people receive when they visit Swimcrest.
I am always looking for ways to do this, for ways to make the water more approachable and accessible. And I am open to suggestions.
I will be honest and say that the task seems overwhelming sometimes, and that I am not always sure where to begin and how to contribute to making change. I am still learning.
I want to be sure that Swimcrest is a welcoming environment, and that even without reading my Statement of Diversity and Inclusion, people know they have a place here.
But I want to do more than that.
I want to contribute to larger change in the sport.
I want to hear about more of the black kids I’ve taught to blow bubbles growing up and ending up on swim teams because they love the water. And because it doesn’t occur to them that they don’t belong on such a team.
I want to show up at an open water event and feel proud of the representation in my sport, instead of feeling sad that yet again, it’s an all white field of athletes.
I want more swimmers of color on my Masters swim team.
I want more instructors of color, and more lifeguards, and more role models for kids and adults to look up to.
And while I do not conflate being black with being economically disadvantaged, I want to make sure that I continue to seek out ways to make my services financially viable for ALL families, something that has been a bit of a struggle with maintaining and covering my own costs. How can I better offer scholarship opportunities for those swimmers who might not otherwise be able to avail themselves of my services?
We have a lot of work to do.
I want to continue the conversation and I welcome your input on how we can work together to make sure that in swimming, as in everywhere else, BLACK LIVES MATTER.