Summer is officially “on.” And with it, comes concerns about safety, especially for our children. When we think of life-threatening situations, the American Red Cross comes to mind as one of the champions—always ready to help and rescue.
That’s why it was so shocking to read that this disaster relief icon put out a poster about swimming pool safety that was so blatantly racist. Does racism have to seep into swimming rules? Can’t we at least remain color blind about safety?
The poster mostly labels the black children as misbehaving or “not cool.” The white children, however, are mostly labeled as behaving and “cool.” It labels as “not cool” example of a black girl pushing a white girl in the pool, a “not cool” example of a black boy in the water who looks like he’s gasping for air (as if that is wrong), and another black boy diving into the water. Maybe he jumped in, instead of using the diving board. You really can’t tell from the picture. But it is clear that the white girl about to get on the diving board is “cool.”
The American Red Cross issued an official apology after the poster went viral on social media. While it was supposedly designed to teach children to follow the rules of swimming, its visual message suggests that black kids don’t follow the rules. This is particularly disturbing given the push to teach more black folks how to swim, and the fact that there was a time when blacks were not allowed to share a pool with whites. As one advocate pointed out, the poster suggests that black kids are not welcome in public pools.
Shame on the American Red Cross. They should know better. You’d think that such an organization, whose mission is to bring relief to people from around the world, would show a little cultural sensitivity.
When disaster strikes, a person’s race should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Why then, would the Red Cross stir up the pot like this? It’s so disappointing. It makes me wonder if race would be a factor in determining who to save or who to let die.
I may be over-reacting, but I’m just sayin’.