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Fewer Mississppi African-Americans Know How To Swim

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 03 Jul 2012 04:49pm | comments

The Fourth of July holiday is a popular day for swimming in pools and Mississippi waterways. But, as MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports, it can be dangerous for adults, especially African-Americans, who don't know how to swim.

At a YMCA in Clinton swimming instructor Conner Rouch teaches a group of African-American women how to swim.

Standing on the side of the pool, Rouch says teaching adults is different than teaching children how to swim.

"Just because you have to do it on more of an adult level and a lot of times adults have deeper set fears because they have had bad experiences in the water where little kids are just scared and you just have to get them in the water," Rouch said.

Only about one-third of Black Mississippians know how to swim compared to two-thirds of white adults.

Several factors contribute to African Americans being less likely to know how to swim including their parents not knowing and being less likely to grow up around pools.

68-year old Geraldine Mannery says used to stay away from the pool because of her hair.

"Well a lot of it had to do with going to the hair dresser. You pay a lot to go to the hair dresser and you can't go to the pool the next day. After I started to go with an afro, I feel I can do it now," Mannerly said.

Another member of the class, 22-year old Johnette Jefferson, says no one in her family can swim, so no one was around to teach her.

"I think we are just scared of the water. You grow up in a neighborhood and you don't grow up around a lot of pools. I just really think it is everybody is afraid of the water. Their parents didn't know, they didn't know and if you want to learn you have to do it yourself," Jefferson said.

Teaching more adult African-Americans to swim could save their lives but also the lives of minority children, who are three times more likely than white children to die of drowning.




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