Saturday, August 11, 2012
To Swim or Not To Swim
To graduate from Marine Corps Recruit Training, prospective Marines must pass a swim/survival test. In the summer of 1985, I failed it twice before qualifying. The second time my lungs filled with water and flowed out of my mouth as I lay prostrate on the side of the pool deck unassisted. As I coughed up the remaining liquid from the pit of my stomach, the swim instructor barked that I had fifteen minutes to get back in the water. The third try was the charm. I passed. But as I looked over to the far side of the pool, I saw a distinct class for recruits who could not pass after the third try. The overwhelming majority of them were Chicano/Latinos and African Americans. In a New York Times opinion essay, Martha Southgate provides an informative perspective as to the reasons why high proportions of people in poverty and of color, especially African Americans, tragically don’t know how to swim.