After noticing that most of the lifeguards at the public pools used by Latino and African-American kids were white [gasp! – LM], the Phoenix aquatics department decided to try to recruit minorities.
More than 90 percent of the students at Alhambra High are black, Latino or Asian. On a recruiting effort there over the winter, the city’s Melissa Boyle tells students she’s not looking for strong swimmers. Like many under-resourced schools, Alhambra doesn’t have a swim team.
“We will work with you in your swimming abilities,” Boyle says….
“The kids in the pool are all either Hispanic or black or whatever, and every lifeguard is white,” she says, “and we don’t like that. The kids don’t relate; there’s language issues.”
Martinez turns to a Latina student next to her. “Do you speak Spanish?” she asks. “We need more lifeguards who can speak Spanish.”
But isn’t the notion that blacks can’t swim an awful stereotype?
Competitive swimming still has a reputation as a white sport. And a national study released in 2010 found African-Americans and Latinos reported much lower swimming proficiency compared to whites.