While I agree with grimfaire that a bill that singles out black urban children like that... is stupid. And obviously the color of ones skin doesn't effect buoyancy.
I also know my husband can't swim. He's black, and grew up on a farm, and used to love to fish. Many of the people who attend his church, also cannot swim... and it is a rather prosperous, but rural country (Kentucky) church where people go fish all the time (as in, are near water). Mostly, they don't swim, and I've never heard of any of the kids there having swim lessons/etc. (The one time I asked, they thought I was crazy, then were very amused that I had taken lessons as a child.)
Although it sounds racist as hell, according to him, a lot of it has to do with not getting their hair wet. Seems it's a huge hassle, more so if you're female. Me, I've no idea why it is--but this church-congregation at least.. is neither urban nor economically disadvantaged. Could be when it comes to water skills, this church isn't the norm... but I'm not so sure it's abnormal either.
I agree, though... everyone--black, white, purple, red--should know (at the very minimum) the basics of how to swim and tread water.
Hmm. The hair thing sounds like it's related to how much work black people (especially women) are expected to do to keep their hair under control and styled instead of letting it look natural. For those who keep it really short, of course it would be less of an issue. Braids could also help.
Have you ever seen the movie Men Of Honor? based on true story of Carl Brashear, the first African-American to overcome vicious racial barricades imposed by the US Navy in its elite diving program. He was accepted into the program in 1952. It's a really good film.
I agree with one of the people in the article, who commented that 6-year-olds are fearless and love playing in the water. I have a hard time relating to not being able to swim, since I have been able to almost as long as I can remember. There are even quite a few ways to swim without getting your head under water. So I hope more awareness leads to more people learning, and making it a part of Black American culture like it was part of the culture where I grew up.
The hair thing sounds like it's related to how much work black people (especially women) are expected to do to keep their hair under control and styled instead of letting it look natural. Ohhhh, I know. You should've seen the looks I got for walking out in the rain without an umbrella after church. I never carry one... I don't use any products on my hair, and I figure "If it gets wet, it'll get dry." I said that exactly once, and was pulled aside later and told it was improper/unfeeling to say.
I've seen that film, and it is a very good one.