What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Can Black People Swim? Yes, No and Maybe

April 9, 2013, 12:38 PM
Black_swimmer

On the question of whether or not black people can swim the answer is yes, no and maybe. I asked the question in my book of a very special panel.  I call them the black panel and I asked them "Can you swim?" and it was meant as a tongue in cheek joke because there is certainly a lower preponderance of swimming ability within the U.S. black community and there are historical reasons for that.  Access to pools is one of them.  Discrimination like whites only being allowed at pools had a big cultural impact.  There is also, especially for black women, a concern about hair.  There is a particular way to do your hair and the pool really undoes that and it’s just not easy to kind of wash it out and rinse.  You’ve got to take a lot more time with it and then there this has become within the culture a less popular thing to do.  There is a larger fear of water for some strange reasons.

A fellow comedian friend of mine, he couldn’t swim, but he blamed it on growing up in New York City, not on being black. But for the people who could, they all still had fun stories—and when I say fun I often mean traumatic and horrific.  I use the word fun like the word smurf, it can kind of cover anything.  Another story involved a woman who grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland and she noticed that a lot of her peers didn’t want to swim, were afraid of getting their hair wet, afraid of getting in the water, but it was also pressure from the outside. This one white kid made a joke that the grease in her hair would ruin the Chesapeake Bay. And she’s like, "that’s what it’s going to be like to be black for a while."  Like that’s just a little weird and a little racist.  

For my part, I learned how to swim very early on at the YMCA in Washington D.C.  It was a traumatic experience because we kind of practiced swimming with floaties, which I don’t consider to be swimming.  I consider it to be playing with floaties in the water and then one day we showed up and they threw us in the deep end of the pool.  They literally tossed little children in ten feet of water and said "Swim!" and I was like, "but you haven’t taught me how to swim yet!" and the point was that you actually already knew how to swim, you just had to be thrown into the environment, so trial by fire, but in this case water.

I personally love swimming.  People should know how to swim.  It’s a survival skill and if nothing else, look, global warming is here and it’s coming.  Sea levels are rising.  Swimming is going to become more necessary.  I saw Water World.  There is water everywhere.  Learn how to swim!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Can Black People Swim? Yes,...

Newsletter: Share: