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Mon Aug 15, 2016, 11:49 AM

Swimming’s Racist Past Makes Simone Manuel’s Win an Even Bigger Deal

Swimming’s Racist Past Makes Simone Manuel’s Win an Even Bigger Deal

[Opinion] Racism and segregation kept many African Americans from learning to swim—a fact we can’t forget while celebrating Simone Manuel’s historic Olympic gold medal


Simone Manuel cries during the medal ceremony for the women's 100-meter freestyle final. AP/Michael Sohn

On Thursday, the world watched as Simone Manuel became the first African-American to win a gold medal in an individual swim event, and first Black woman to win an Olympic swimming medal period. As she glided through the water, I yelled, “SWIM, SWIM, SWIM!” as I watched her touch the wall in first place, setting a new Olympic record in the process. Full of pride, I immediately went to Twitter and Facebook to post my congrats, when I ran across an article about racism in swimming. My mind quickly shifted, as I knew there were deeper implications of what Manuel had done outside of winning an Olympic medal.

The first thought that crossed my head was the powerful scene in “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,” the HBO film about the actress’ life. In the scene Dandridge (played by Halle Berry), walks past a hotel swimming pool after being told she couldn’t get in. Instead of being defeated, she defiantly dips her toe in the water and kicks it around. In the very next scene, however, the pool is being drained and cleaned by Black workers as Dandridge watches from her hotel room. Apparently, even dipping a toe in the water was too much for the hotel’s White patrons who complained. With the film and Manuel’s historic win still playing in my mind, I took to Twitter. "Never forget. They drained an entire swimming pool because Dorothy Dandridge stuck her toe in it. That is why Simone Manuel is important."— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) August 12, 2016

I woke up this morning to hundreds of notifications as the tweet has since gone viral and the world has been reintroduced to the ugly history we have faced as African-Americans in this country. According to statistics from the USA Swimming Foundation, nearly 70% of Black children are unable to swim, and many Black adults hold a petrifying fear of even entering the water. The long history of African Americans fear of water does not go unwarranted as the trauma from our ancestors is still deeply rooted in us today. Enslaved Africans traveling thousands of miles across the ocean, being deprived of food and water, while watching the bodies of their shipmates being cast away is still embedded in our DNA. When we take a look over the past 100 years, our history with the “fear of water” is even more understandable. Racist product advertisements for soap—depicting Black babies as “dirty” in the before picture and coming out “clean and white” in the after picture—still circulate on the internet today. Images of segregated of water fountains based on belief that Black people had diseases that could be contracted if shared are still in our collective memories. Stories about Black celebrities like Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr. swimming in hotel pools (like the New Frontier Hotel & Casino in 1952), only to have them drained after they got out still get told.

Back in the 1960s, Black Americans were systematically denied access to swimming, and many saw it as a privilege for whites that was never meant to be for us. With desegregation came the hopes that this pathology could change, but the only thing that changed was how much deeper our country would dig its heels into the racism surrounding shared water. Rather than desegregate, many public pools closed or were filled in with cement to prevent anyone from swimming. Those that remained open were hostile to African Americans. According to the Washington Post, “White people even went as far as pouring acid in the water while Black people were swimming in the pools, and staging protests and walkouts after desegregation”

. . . .

http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/simone-manuel-racism

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Arrow 22 replies Author Time Post
Reply Swimming’s Racist Past Makes Simone Manuel’s Win an Even Bigger Deal (Original post)
niyad Aug 2016 OP
malaise Aug 2016 #1
muntrv Aug 2016 #2
benld74 Aug 2016 #3
niyad Aug 2016 #4
Spitfire of ATJ Aug 2016 #5
niyad Aug 2016 #6
mainstreetonce Aug 2016 #7
niyad Aug 2016 #8
OnlinePoker Aug 2016 #9
Sen. Walter Sobchak Aug 2016 #17
TexasMommaWithAHat Aug 2016 #10
BumRushDaShow Aug 2016 #11
niyad Aug 2016 #13
BumRushDaShow Aug 2016 #14
smirkymonkey Aug 2016 #12
annabanana Aug 2016 #15
LWolf Aug 2016 #16
niyad Aug 2016 #18
niyad Aug 2016 #20
LWolf Aug 2016 #21
niyad Aug 2016 #22
niyad Aug 2016 #19

Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 12:43 PM

1. Great post

Rec

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 01:42 PM

2. Just like the significance of Tiger Woods winning the 1997 Masters.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 01:45 PM

3. I grew up in a small Illinois town in a county having only 1 stop light.

I never experienced Black Americans growing up. I do recall getting Mohammed Ali's autograph while visiting my aunt in Chicago when I was 8-10 years old. I also recall being the only white child waiting for his autograph that day. My area of the world growing up was very white indeed.
As I read about events that took place during that time period, I shake my head with disbelief. I do the same with the current reports of police brutality during arrests of Black Americans. I also do the same when I click on the comments section of these news stories and read the venomous replies people have the nerve to associate their names.
I do not understand HOW anyone can contrive such beliefs in a short lifespan. I guess even now going on 60 years of age, I find myself just as naďve as I was in my earlier years.
I pray.

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Response to benld74 (Reply #3)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 01:51 PM

4. I grew up in a very integrated world, so never understood how people came by such

narrow, ignorant, hate-filled beliefs. still don't.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 01:54 PM

5. Millenials find it hard to believe racism was that bad.

 

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Response to Spitfire of ATJ (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 01:55 PM

6. and now it is out in the open again.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:19 PM

7. I have a friend whose son had a swim scholarship

to a big NE University.

First day there he called his mom and said he met the whole swim team.

Mom asked how he met the whole team so quickly. He told her it was easy.
They put all the athletes in one dorm, the white guys,they're the swimmers.

Hey white guys, meet Simone.

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Response to mainstreetonce (Reply #7)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:20 PM

8. I wish that weren't so damned sad.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:44 PM

9. Sadly for Canadian Penny Oleksiak, Manuel's win will overshadow her win as well.

The 16 year old tied Manuel for the gold but it will always be a footnote in the historic race (it's not even mentioned in many articles about the race).

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Response to OnlinePoker (Reply #9)

Tue Aug 16, 2016, 12:31 PM

17. Young women in a gold medal tie in a high-profile sport?

 

Endorsements, 30 for 30 etc. I'm pretty sure those two are going on this ride together.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:59 PM

10. I think the U.S. is so dominant in swimming

now because we have thousands of neighborhood community pools and community summer swim leagues.

Anyway, black students make up about 25% of our school district, so, hopefully, many of them are watching Simone and will want to follow in her footsteps. The same team that trained Simone is right here!

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 05:39 PM

11. "Back in the 1960s, Black Americans were systematically denied access to swimming"

Hate to break it to her but this hasn't stopped. Just 7 years ago, right here in the Philly area - big case eventually settled in 2012 and the place was bankrupted.





Congrats to Simone for breaking a barrier that should not have had to be broken this late in our history in this country!

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #11)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 09:38 PM

13. and remember the story of the cops being called on blacks swimming in a condo pool just

a few months ago (the guy hosting the party was a resident!)

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Response to niyad (Reply #13)

Tue Aug 16, 2016, 05:14 AM

14. Yup plus this disgrace

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 07:02 PM

12. Bravo Simone!

 

Breaking records and making history!

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Tue Aug 16, 2016, 06:16 AM

15. Sadly, these disgraceful chapters in America's history are not

mentioned, or severely glossed over in the textbooks of our nations public schools. We are SO in need of a re-education campaign.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Tue Aug 16, 2016, 10:57 AM

16. My brain

is wandering down a familiar path for me, reading this. I think this is a great article. I am not black. I don't have that collective memory; I have my own memories, as a little white girl in a racist culture, with my mom leading me outside the racist norms of the time to grow up as far outside that culture as she could get me.

But the real path this takes me down is professional. I'm a teacher. I teach both English and Social Studies.

The problem lies here: My last 3 principals over the last decade, outside of the current brand-new principal, have all told me to quit teaching Social Studies. Literally to quit teaching it because it wasn't tested. When I've asked what they'd like me to put on the report card where it says "Social Studies," they told me to "fake it." Really.

So for so many years, I've been sneaking SS in on the sly, integrating it into what we were doing for English, and always backing whatever we were doing up with reading and writing standards. In this modern culture of competition instead of collaboration, it helped that my students outscored the rest of the district on the fucking test, so they didn't pay that much attention to what I was doing.

This year, the new principal has actually given me overt permission to teach SS. So I'm working this summer on planning that out for the year. Great news for my students.

My point, though, is this. Much of our country really has no clue what the ugly history you have faced as AAs in this country is. No fucking clue whatsoever. They know almost nothing about the general history of their country or how their government works, and they know nothing at all about the world. I'm sure there are still places where they regularly teach history and government out there, but it's not tested, so it's not emphasized. My students, when they get to high school, will be required to take a couple of classes. Those couple of classes can't make up for years of nothing. And, of course, even when history has been taught, it often doesn't include AA history, or glosses over it on a speedy surface level.

So movies, tweets, whatever it takes to get the story out there while the high-stakes testing movement keeps a lid on Social Studies...we need more of them.

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Response to LWolf (Reply #16)

Tue Aug 16, 2016, 09:25 PM

18. NOT teach social studies? I wish I could say I am in shock, but I have seen what has been

happening to our "educational system" for decades now.

honestly, I do not know how decent teachers stand it.

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Response to LWolf (Reply #16)

Tue Aug 16, 2016, 09:29 PM

20. would you consider posting this as its own OP--I think this sort of information needs to be very

widely spread.

and we know why howard zinn's "people's history" and roxanne dunbar-ortiz' "an indigenous people's history" are not required reading in every high school.

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Response to niyad (Reply #20)

Wed Aug 17, 2016, 10:48 AM

21. We've had parents

show up at board meetings to demand that some of the teachers using "People's History" as supplementary reading remove it from classrooms and use.

I'll put it in the ed forum.

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Response to LWolf (Reply #21)

Wed Aug 17, 2016, 11:05 AM

22. cannot say I am surprised about the parents--saddened, but not surprised.

goddess forfend that we teach our children the real history of this greatest, bestest, most wonderfulest nation in the whole history of the universe.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Tue Aug 16, 2016, 09:26 PM

19. . . .

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