American Red Cross Apologizes For ‘Racist’ Pool Safety Poster

The American Red Cross has apologized for a pool safety poster that, by some interpretations, can be deemed racist, KUSA (Denver) is reporting.

Margaret Sawyer tells the local NBC affiliate that she and her family were driving across the country, and when they stopped in Salida, Colorado, she saw a poster that caught her eye.

“I thought, ‘It must be really outdated. This can’t possibly be a recent poster.'”

She assumed it was a one-off thing — perhaps a case of a pool manager having old safety materials — until she saw the exact same poster at another Colorado swimming pool, this time in Fort Morgan.

A photo of the pool safety poster is posted below. See if you can spot the problem.

In case you didn’t get it, the problem, as Ms. Sawyer sees it, is this: All of the kids who are obeying the rules and enjoying the pool safely and properly have white skin and are labeled “cool.” The miscreant kids who are disobeying the rules and are labeled “not cool” all have darker skin.

The image was not lost on Ebony Rosemond of Largo, Maryland, who runs an organization called “Black Kids Swim,” which is focused on helping African-American kids learn to swim and enjoy swimming.

“When I saw the poster, I just, was just very saddened that the Red Cross had chosen to put out an image that might one, discourage African-Americans from trying swimming if they were new to it, and also something that would extend a negative stereotype.”

In fact, in the past, African Americans and public swimming areas have had something of a strained relationship. Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, according to a 2012 BBC News report, it was not uncommon for blacks to be banned from public swimming pools or beaches.

American Red Cross Pool Sign
A “Whites Only” public swimming pool in Washington, D.C., 1942. [Image via Farm Security Administration/Wikimedia Commons by Public Domain]

This meant that when it came to beaches, blacks were forced to swim in more isolated, potentially dangerous areas. And when it came to municipal pools, by the time integration came around, whites stopped swimming in them and cities stopped pouring money into them.

This perfect storm of issues led to a problem of American blacks being largely unable to swim, a problem that continues to this day. As of 2010, some 70 percent of African-American children said they don’t know how to swim, compared to 42 percent of white children. And black parents don’t appear to be teaching their children to swim in the same percentages that white parents do.

Rosebud said the poster is a harsh reminder of these problems.

“How can an organization that prides itself on being so open-minded, so understanding of the diverse populations of the world create something like this?”

According to the Washington Post, the swimming pool safety sign in question came from a safe-swimming campaign from 2014.

The American Red Cross, for its part, has apologized for the poster and directed any swimming pools still using it to remove it.

“The American Red Cross appreciates and is sensitive to the concerns raised regarding one of the water safety posters we produced. We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone… We have removed the poster from our website and Swim App and have discontinued production. We have notified all of our partner aquatic facilities requesting they take down the poster.”

Do you find the American Red Cross pool safety poster racist?

[Image via Kristina Zhuravleva/Shutterstock]

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