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The recent news story regarding the banning of swimming caps designed for Afro hair from the Olympics is a clear example of some of the systemic and institutional barriers that has led to very few Black people competing in aquatics and swimming in general.
According to the sport’s governing body, Swim England, only 2% of regular swimmers are Black. It found 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England do not swim. While 79% of Asian adults and 79% of Asian children do not swim, Black children are three times more likely to drown than White children.
The drama documentaries ‘A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim’ and ‘Blacks Can’t Swim The Sequel’ were created not only as a platform for the community to voice their frustrations and share their reasons as to why a disproportionate amount of Black and Asians do not swim, but also to educate the swimming sector and the world at large on these issues.
My 10 year old daughter who currently takes private swimming lessons has a full body of natural hair which does not fit comfortably in a standard swim cap and my biggest concern is that decisions like these sends out the message that there is no place for someone like her in elite swimming and we therefore end up with situations such as Alice Dearing being the only Black swimmer on Team GB.
Removing these barriers and making swimming attractive from a grass roots level is our only hope of success in making it inclusive and diverse enough to create a level playing field for all to enjoy and compete.