CDC: Black children are more likely to drown than white children, leading to programs to promote water safety

Summer is here and COVID-19 restrictions are ending. With the warmer weather arriving, many people will venture to the beach or local pool. But the dangers of getting in the water are very real concerns for many people.
Many community pools were not open last summer because of pandemic restrictions. Now the risk of drowning has increased because many children were unable to take swimming lessons. Some children also do not have access to pools, and that lack of access can translate to never learning how to swim.
“It only takes a second for tragedy to hit and you never know when it’s going to happen,” says Kenia Vigilante, of Madison.
Vigilante is making sure her son learns how to swim – something she did not learn while she was growing up.
“I think it’s very important for every child in any age to learn how to swim,” she says.
Almost 4,000 people die from drowning each year. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death among kids age 1 to 4 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At the Goldfish Swim School, children as young as 4 months are already splashing around before they learn how to walk.
“I want to know that [my daughter is] going in the water. It takes that stress off of me knowing that she knows how to swim,” says Chris Beckman, of Plainfield.
According to the CDC, Black children are five and a half times more likely to drown in a swimming pool than white children. The Black community historically did not have access to pools because of segregation. When white people started to move to the suburbs and Black people moved to cities – also known as White Flight – many city-run pools were left abandoned, hindering many people from ever learning how to swim.
But initiatives like Black People Will swim, run by Paulana Lamonier on Long Island, are attempting to squash that stereotype, by ensuring that the next generation of Black and brown children know how to swim.
"I wanted to do my due diligence and get a better understanding of where does this stereotype stem from, because me teaching Black people is one thing. But understanding where do these fears come from or what hinders them from learning how to swim is just as important,” Lamonier says.
The Goldfish Swim School has partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation to raise funds and awareness about swim safety. All funds go towards providing opportunities for children across the country to learn to swim.
“It’s never too early to start and it’s never too late to start,” says swim instructor Drew Steele. “They do have scholarships to give out to families in need, so that they can afford swim lessons.”
Experts say that constant supervision, enrolling in swim lessons, never swimming alone, and wearing an approved life jacket are some ways to prevent drowning while swimming.