Documentary highlights racial divide in swimming and drowning

Swimming pool file photo
Posted at 11:24 AM, Sep 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 11:24:18-04

In an effort to battle stereotypes, myths and fears, Ed Accura has produced, “A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim,” currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

Accura is in the UK where 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children don’t swim, according to the Black Swimming Association.

In the United States, the statistics aren’t much better. The YMCA reports 64% of Black children can’t swim, while 40% of Caucasian children can’t swim. The fatal drowning rate of Black children is three times that of white children in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, many of the safety concerns are regional for people of any race. The Florida Department of Health reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children ages 1 to 4, the state’s death rate is the highest in the nation.

In the film, Accura interviews a variety of his friends who are Black with differing backgrounds about their personal experiences. He wants to bring light to the cultural stereotypes that have perpetuated generations and permeated cultures.

In his own experience, he struggled with fear of drowning, coupled with an outlook in his family from childhood.

“My mother is very big on water safety. She is huge on water safety. Her idea of water safety is stay away from the water and you will not drown. And that’s how she brought me up. And there’s a lot of people out there right now that live on that ideology. You don’t touch fire you don’t get burned. You don’t go into the water, you will not drown,” he said.

In the film, people describe how their family may not have made swimming a priority during their youth. Some say they learned to swim in childhood, others in adulthood, and others still don’t know how. One myth repeated more than once by people in the film claims that people who are Black have more dense bones, making them unable to stay afloat. Accura says it’s easy to hide behind stereotypes.

“Another stereotype is you know, heavy bones. You’re black, you’re good on land, you can run, you can jump. You can’t swim. Now I personally hid behind that stereotype most of my life. So when people ask me, can you, I say of course I can’t. I’m black. Of course I can’t swim. What a silly question. Because it was easier to hide behind it than to do anything about it,” he said.

Accura learned to swim in the film. He says just recently he started to feel the joy associated with being in the water.

“The first time I ever got into a swimming pool, outside of just dipping my feet in it was in the film. So yeah, if you watch it, you see in the film, is the first time I’ve ever been in water,” Accura said.

The myths, fears, and stereotypes about why Blacks can’t swim are varied, but they can perpetuate culture and generations.

“Most black people who suffer from aquaphobia don’t even know it. Because it’s something that’s happened over generations. So stories from past generations, they say if your mom and your dad don’t swim, your parents don’t swim, you only have 13% change of learning how to swim.”

Accura hopes his film opens an opportunity to talk about the need for people to learn to swim, and start children swimming earlier in life.

His film has captured the attention of swimming brands, organizations and publications worldwide.

“Giving people the license to talk about the issue. A lot of people said, I didn’t even know there was an issue. But thinking about it, I go to the pool and I don’t see a lot of black people there. And so people started having conversations about it,” he said.