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  1. #1 Affirmative Action Lifeguards: We will work with you in your swimming abilities" 
    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    In Phoenix, A New Quest For Diverse Public Pool Lifeguards
    http://www.npr.org/2013/03/28/175571...ool-lifeguards
    by Jude Joffe-Block
    March 28, 2013 9:56 AM

    After noticing that most of the lifeguards at the public pools used by Latino and African-American kids were white, the Phoenix aquatics department decided to try to recruit minorities.

    More than 90 percent of the students at Alhambra High are black, Latino or Asian. On a recruiting effort there over the winter, the city's Melissa Boyle tells students she's not looking for strong swimmers. Like many under-resourced schools, Alhambra doesn't have a swim team.

    "We will work with you in your swimming abilities," Boyle says.

    Boyle's colleague Kelly Martinez takes on the delicate task of explaining the scenario the city is trying to correct.

    "The kids in the pool are all either Hispanic or black or whatever, and every lifeguard is white," she says, "and we don't like that. The kids don't relate; there's language issues."

    Martinez turns to a Latina student next to her. "Do you speak Spanish?" she asks. "We need more lifeguards who can speak Spanish."

    Competitive swimming still has a reputation as a white sport. And a national study released in 2010 found African-Americans and Latinos reported much lower swimming proficiency compared to whites.

    "It's that catch-22," says Becky Hulett, who oversees Phoenix's public pools. "If the kids don't learn how to swim, as adults they are not going to swim, [and] they aren't going to take their own kids to swim."

    So two years ago, Hulett began rethinking lifeguard recruitment. Traditionally, Phoenix's 500 lifeguards came from more affluent parts of town, most of which are farther from the public pools.
    "It really populated from schools that had swim teams, and so that was our feeder into our lifeguarding programs," she says.

    To help diversify its lifeguard ranks, the city raised about $15,000 over the past two years in scholarships to offset the cost of lifeguard-certification courses. Recruits who pass a swim test at the end can apply to be city lifeguards.

    As the teens swim laps at Alhambra, it's clear many haven't had much formal training. But the coaches of the course aren't fazed and are prepared to put in the time to teach.

    "Honestly, I have a little bit a fear of the water, and I wanted to overcome that fear," says high school junior Jesus Jimenez. He didn't grow up going to pools with his family but likes the idea of lifeguarding.

    "It is nice to have the satisfaction of knowing that if somebody is in trouble you can save them at any time," he says.

    If he is selected to be a lifeguard, other pool staff will work with him on his swimming skills all summer.

    This report story was done in collaboration with Fronteras, a public radio project that focuses on border and changing demographics in the American Southwest.



    Okay, so the city of Phoenix is prepared to hire lifeguards of marginal swimming ability in order to satisfy the diversity fetish. Apparently, drowning in the presence of someone who speaks your language or resembles you but cannot swim is more acceptable than being saved by an evil white devil who may not know the nuances of Spanish, but can pull a kid out of deep water without drowning himself. Do these idiots ever think that the primary function of the job, being able to save lives, is more important than skin-deep diversity? Are they so racist that they will permit minority kids to drown rather than hire the best qualified lifeguards?
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    I was a lifeguard for 4 summers. One or two of the guys I worked with had been on swim teams, but affluence wasn't the operative value. It's a sport that attracts some people and not others. I guess in a global scheme, we were all affluent, but for Washington DC we were quite middle class. None of the guys I worked with were the product of country club pools or exclusive addresses. They all lived in communities with community pools, as is the norm for DC even if you are relatively poor and darker complected.

    I work at one black swimming pool and substituted at a couple of others. The function is not race or ethnicity, it's culture. At some point it becomes uncool for black teenagers to swim. They might hang out at the pool, or outside the pool, but they don't go swimming. Since very little actual swimming goes on in a swimming pool anyway, it wouldn't be a function of proficiency. As the director correctly state (in my opinion) : kids who swim have parents who swim. My parents spent a lot of time at the swim club with us when I was growing up.

    I know this sounds silly, and probably doesn't explain a latino aversion to water, but I suspect that blacks stop going into the pool at the point at which they start spending a great deal of time and money on their hair.

    It would be interesting to hang out at the swimming pool at Quantico and see if black males use the pool in anything resembling their representation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaheart View Post
    I was a lifeguard for 4 summers. One or two of the guys I worked with had been on swim teams, but affluence wasn't the operative value. It's a sport that attracts some people and not others. I guess in a global scheme, we were all affluent, but for Washington DC we were quite middle class. None of the guys I worked with were the product of country club pools or exclusive addresses. They all lived in communities with community pools, as is the norm for DC even if you are relatively poor and darker complected.

    I work at one black swimming pool and substituted at a couple of others. The function is not race or ethnicity, it's culture. At some point it becomes uncool for black teenagers to swim. They might hang out at the pool, or outside the pool, but they don't go swimming. Since very little actual swimming goes on in a swimming pool anyway, it wouldn't be a function of proficiency. As the director correctly state (in my opinion) : kids who swim have parents who swim. My parents spent a lot of time at the swim club with us when I was growing up.

    I know this sounds silly, and probably doesn't explain a latino aversion to water, but I suspect that blacks stop going into the pool at the point at which they start spending a great deal of time and money on their hair.

    It would be interesting to hang out at the swimming pool at Quantico and see if black males use the pool in anything resembling their representation.
    When I was in the Armor Officer Basic Course, those of us who wanted to go to Airborne school had to take a combat water survival test. Basically, you had to swim well enough to avoid drowning if you landed in water, so the test included things like going off the high dive in all of your gear and coming back up to the surface without it, dropping blindfolded into the pool, and swimming fully clothed with a weapon. We have one black officer from Mississippi who couldn't swim, so he and I spent a few nights at the pool so that I could coach him, and he eventually passed. I'd never met anyone who couldn't swim before who was above the age of seven or eight. I'd gone to summer camp where swimming was taught (they did the Red Cross program, and eventually you could get the lifesaving certificate, which was required for lifeguards). The YMCA and a lot of other organizations ran similar programs for poorer kids, but the parents had to make the effort to sign them up. If a kid didn't learn to swim, it was because his/her parents didn't care enough to get theme into one of those programs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odysseus View Post
    When I was in the Armor Officer Basic Course, those of us who wanted to go to Airborne school had to take a combat water survival test. Basically, you had to swim well enough to avoid drowning if you landed in water, so the test included things like going off the high dive in all of your gear and coming back up to the surface without it, dropping blindfolded into the pool, and swimming fully clothed with a weapon. We have one black officer from Mississippi who couldn't swim, so he and I spent a few nights at the pool so that I could coach him, and he eventually passed. I'd never met anyone who couldn't swim before who was above the age of seven or eight. I'd gone to summer camp where swimming was taught (they did the Red Cross program, and eventually you could get the lifesaving certificate, which was required for lifeguards). The YMCA and a lot of other organizations ran similar programs for poorer kids, but the parents had to make the effort to sign them up. If a kid didn't learn to swim, it was because his/her parents didn't care enough to get theme into one of those programs.
    I taught swimming one year, and my first student was a twentysomething black woman who had never learned to swim. Fear of the water was 90% of the issue. Since I had the time, we spent a good deal of time with her just floating, with my hand under her back. It really was amazing to see her transform from fear to total relaxation. She managed to learn to doggie paddle and a rudimentary breast stroke. She went to the pool everyday for the rest of the season. It was like an ABC after school special.

    I don't know what the rules are at black community pools. When I was kid, the Elks Club required that a child had to pass a swimming test before he could go to the pool without a parent. The test was that you had to be able to swim across the pool (olympic) and you had to be able to jump off the low board and make it to the ladder.

    BTW, as far as I can tell, all the lifeguards at the South ST Pete community pool near here are black. All the lifeguards at St Pete Beach pool are white.
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    I started swimming lessons the summer after kindergarten, and had swum plenty at beaches before that, as my grandparents had their home on GT Bay, and we lived 30 minutes from Lake Michigan.


    My school required us to take swimming classes once they built the pool-I was in 7th grade at the time. In 7th grade, they would bus us all over to the high school for swim class for a few weeks, instead of gym class. In high school, it was a required gym class for graduation. Around the same time the high school got a pool, my dad had one put in our back yard.

    None of my black friends every came over to swim, although they were invited. My best friend in college grew up in suburban Detroit and did not know how to swim, and was afraid of water. One of my sister's black friends would come over and sit by the side of the pool because he was afraid of water. A lot of my black coworkers over the age of 50 or so are afraid to swim. There is something to that, and it's beyond social status and income levels.
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    Well, playing basketball, selling drugs, and listening to hip hop music is far more important than swimming anyway.
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    If I was drowning there's no way I would let a black person or latino save me! Nosiree buddy! I'd rather drown and be done with it.




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    Quote Originally Posted by noonwitch View Post
    I started swimming lessons the summer after kindergarten, and had swum plenty at beaches before that, as my grandparents had their home on GT Bay, and we lived 30 minutes from Lake Michigan.


    My school required us to take swimming classes once they built the pool-I was in 7th grade at the time. In 7th grade, they would bus us all over to the high school for swim class for a few weeks, instead of gym class. In high school, it was a required gym class for graduation. Around the same time the high school got a pool, my dad had one put in our back yard.

    None of my black friends every came over to swim, although they were invited. My best friend in college grew up in suburban Detroit and did not know how to swim, and was afraid of water. One of my sister's black friends would come over and sit by the side of the pool because he was afraid of water. A lot of my black coworkers over the age of 50 or so are afraid to swim. There is something to that, and it's beyond social status and income levels.
    So, what is that 'something', in your liberal opinion?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unreconstructed Reb View Post
    So, what is that 'something', in your liberal opinion?

    I don't know.


    The pool I swim at has plenty of black swimmers, in a way that is proportional to Warren's population. But they are mostly young people, families with kids or teenagers. I'm swimming laps frequently when the water aerobics class is happening in the other part of the pool. It's mostly older women (and a few older men who I think are just trying to get laid). There are probably 40-50 people in the group and only one or two of them are black.

    I think the reason young black people swim more is that more schools have pools, and once they get a pool they require all students to take swimming class. But I have no idea where that widespread fear of swimming that a lot of black people my age and older have comes from.
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