Poll: Reality and Movies - How Many People Can Swim?

Benny Blanco

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Jan 23, 2008
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Been swimming since I was a baby. Why not?

Jamash said:
uneek said:
Jamash said:
craftomega said:
Everyone should know how to swim.....

I really cant fathom why you would not know....

(Other then being Hydrophobic)
It's a cultural thing. There's an interesting article on the BBC about why lots of Black Americans can't swim:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11172054

I know it's a racist trope that black people can't swim (at all, because of genetics), but it's also a true observation that lots of black people can't swim because they've never learned how to, for a multitude of reasons.
I don't understand that stereotype. Doesn't it contradict the other black stereotype that we're all athletic?
I don't really understand the stereotype either.

I became aware of the stereotype some years ago (I think through the punchline of jokes and comments), but I don't really understand where it came from, apart from observations being touted as evidence of racial differences and superiority/inferiority.

There's some kind of genetics based pseudo-science that says black people's bones and musculature is more dense, so they sink, but that's mainly spouted by closet racists trying to justify their prejudices with science.

While it may be true that black people don't swim as much or as well as other races, that's because of sociological, cultural and geographical/environmental reasons, not race based genetics.

It's quite a hard stereotype to investigate independently without encountering closet or overt racial superiority theories, although that BBC article did address it in a good way without directly identifying the stereotype.
Discussions about racial differences often get mired in racial politics so I'm going to start with the disclaimer that I am an Anthropologist, not a racist. Also, bear in mind that "black people" describes a completely non-homogenous group, both in terms of genetics and culture.

Humans, it is generally accepted, evolved in Africa, where hunting typically involved chasing down faster animals on endurance runs. Humans, being hairless and better able to sweat, did not overheat so severely and could run down exhausted game animals. Running ability was, therefore, a key reproductive advantage in Africa at this stage in evolution.

I think the most plausible theory that I've heard wasn't due to muscle density or body fat (although I have heard these) but to differences in Achilles tendon proportions. Supposedly, black people have a proportionately longer Achilles tendon than people of European or Asian backgrounds, which is great when it comes to running but not so good when swimming.

Although it's not inherently racist to say something like this, (any more than it is to note that black people typically have more melanin and curlier hair than Europeans and East Asians, or that Indo-Europeans have a lower incidence of lactose intolerance than black Africans or East Asians) it doesn't make sense in an evolutionary sense in the same way which other differences in adaptations to climate (etc.) in humans do. Humankind has never been a particularly aquatic species and there are no reasons why adaptations to make humans more suited for running should not exist outside Africa. Europeans and Asians needed to hunt prey too, so the adaptations would not die out there. The only possible explanation for its absence, if the difference is genetic, is that it emerged in Africa after groups had left into Asia and Europe.

Of course, it's pretty hard to control for activities which would naturally affect tendon growth in individuals when testing these things. If you take a guy from a landlocked African country who still lives like a hunter-gatherer (in one of the few such societies which still exist) and compare him to a Polynesian or Southeast Asian who swims and dives regularly, the differences between their regular muscle use are likely to make more difference in terms of physique as their genes. Not to mention difference in diet and the effects these have...

Whatever the case, none of the black people I know in London are particularly keen swimmers; by far the best swimmer I know is of Chinese descent. This aversion may be due to culture, but I'd expect that with most of my black friends being from Afro-Caribbean families that this wouldn't be such a significant factor as the African-Americans in the BBC article, certainly the social history is different.
 

Nigh Invulnerable

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I learned to swim when I was very young, and earned my Swimming merit badge in Boy Scouts some years ago (it involved lifting a 10lb block off the deep end of a pool and using my jeans, which I'd been wearing when I jumped, to float for 60 seconds). Fun times.
 

lacktheknack

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Jan 19, 2009
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Jamash said:
craftomega said:
Everyone should know how to swim.....

I really cant fathom why you would not know....

(Other then being Hydrophobic)
It's a cultural thing. There's an interesting article on the BBC about why lots of Black Americans can't swim:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11172054

I know it's a racist trope that black people can't swim (at all, because of genetics), but it's also a true observation that lots of black people can't swim because they've never learned how to, for a multitude of reasons.
I go to a pool every day for fitness purposes, and I just realized as I read this that I've not seen a black person there that I can remember. It's mostly Orientals and Caucasians with a couple Hispanics.

MIND = BLOWN

OT: Yes. I took swimming lessons as a kid, and it's the only thing of value I can remember from my various fitness classes.
 

Whitewillow

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Mar 30, 2010
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I grew up three blocks from the ocean and both my parents made a point of taking us swimming frequently in the summertime.
 

Meestor Pickle

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Jul 29, 2010
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I love to swim, live in Australia so you pretty much have to :)
Hate sand though...but still love making castles...
 

Guffe

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Jul 12, 2009
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Yeah I can swim.
I'm not a competitive swimmer but I can swim pretty long before drowning.
 

That_Sneaky_Camper

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Aug 19, 2011
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Well I don't know how to swim well, but I know how to prevent myself from drowning with the basics like stroking and doggy-paddling.
 

Plinglebob

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Nov 11, 2008
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I've been going to swimming pools since I was 1, with my local swim centre having photographic proof, and I'm also a trained lifeguard and swimming teacher. I have taught people who never learned to swim with one being hydrophobic and the others just never learning so while it doesn't surprise me, I think everyone should learn how to at least tread water and doggie paddle.
 
Aug 11, 2009
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To be fair, it is one thing to swim in a pool without any current and in your swimwear
and a whole other thing to swim in full clothing in the ocean or a fast flowing river.
But yeah, swimming lessons are pretty much part of your PE curriculum where i live.
 

Jonluw

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May 23, 2010
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I can swim. I would even say I can swim pretty well.
I am, however, rubbish at keeping my eyes open under water. I've tried getting used to it by forcing myself to open my eyes, but it's soooo painful.
 

Frybird

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Jan 7, 2008
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Most would qualify it as "barely", but yes, i can swim enough so i wouldn't drown (even though i didn't for maybe 8 years or so) and get out on my own if land/something floaty is nearby.

Without knowing it for a fact i'd even argue that non-swimmers, unless caught in a storm or a strong stream, mostly would drown because of panic and guess that at least staying afloat is something that should kick in instinctively when not panicking.
 

Ninedeus

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Feb 26, 2010
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Yup. Went to the beach pretty much every weekend when I was a kid. Also frequented swimming pools. I can't swim competitively but if ever I'm forced into a situation where I have to swim, I can pretty much survive.
 

Phasmal

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Jun 10, 2011
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I had a perforated eardrum growing up, so I always hated going to the pool.
I got it fixed when I was about 12, but by then I wasn't interested in it.
I've tried to learn, but I sink like a stone.
 

zumbledum

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Nov 13, 2011
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Loop Stricken said:
Colour-Scientist said:
According to the poll, I'm the only person who can't swim.
That's slightly depressing.


Better get my floaties out in case of flooding.
It's okay, for I am here to join you.

And really, why would I need to swim? I live in the UK, in Birmingham ffs. I don't intend on being anywhere NEAR any body of water in which I could conceivably drown.
well theres more miles of canals in Birmingham than n venice so its not exactly a dry town ;)

and you might find yourself leaving that town on occasion to maybe go on holiday or something.
 

SirDeadly

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Feb 22, 2009
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I have known how to swim for as long as I can remember. It's pretty much compulsory to learn down here in Australia as other have said.

There is a show called Bondi Rescue that I watch on tv and I cannot believe how many people (mainly Asians) come down here not knowing how to swim and almost drown. There are a couple on that show every week.
 

Muspelheim

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I can swim fairly well, and I just love it. It's good, comfortable exercize. Of course, that's under my conditions, I doubt I'd do very well if I'm ever caught in a shipwreck. Swimming in a calm, warm lake is one thing, but in icy water, high waves and puddles of leaked oil, it's another.

I think most people around me can swim, too. It's a part of early school in most Scandinavian countries, I believe. And why not? It's a fairly useful skill if you fall into a pond or something, and it's a good way to burn some cals.

Frybird said:
Most would qualify it as "barely", but yes, i can swim enough so i wouldn't drown (even though i didn't for maybe 8 years or so) and get out on my own if land/something floaty is nearby.

Without knowing it for a fact i'd even argue that non-swimmers, unless caught in a storm or a strong stream, mostly would drown because of panic and guess that at least staying afloat is something that should kick in instinctively when not panicking.
Aye, that's a good thing to remember even if you can't swim. Your body, unless weighed down, will happily just bob around on the surface if you relax. It's when you start the wild flailing and kicking that you start to sink. Also, I believe that attracts sharks.
But then again, that's the best, main survival tip: remain calm and try not to panic. It's what usually gets you killed.
 

Scarim Coral

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Nope I can't fully swim properly. I mean I can sort of stay afloat for abit above the floor but not for long.
I don't know why I can't swim and while I would like to take some swimming lessons but I can't afford it and it's not on top of my list of what to do next. Yeah I properly going to regret it in the future but hey I'm have no intention to go to some cruise.
 

NLS

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Jan 7, 2010
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I'm not the best swimmer, I tend to get tired after too much swimming, so I try to not swim too far. But at least I learned it at school.