History’s Mystery: Her Story is the Missed Story

History was made last week.

I try extremely hard to keep my posts free of politics but today my personal reflection of America’s history may make this political.

I’m on a sabbatical, well I’m at a conference and today is my sabbatical from the world. My hotel is the headquarters for the Youth Division and I’m relaxing by the pool when I hear a child’s or a teen’ s voice say ‘No way could I sit there by all that water!’ Another voice, maybe that of an adult says, ‘that water is not deep enough for you to do all that you want to do. When we get home you can resume your diving and such.’

So one of the kids want to dive? My how things have changed.

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Today, anyone and everyone can enjoy a public swimming pool.

The law no longer prohibit us from jumping or stepping into this pool but when I get in it I will walk to the shallow end and gingerly step into the water. Why? Because as long as I can feel the bottom of the pool under my feet I will feel safe. Because I can’t stop thinking about the little brown feet that was not allowed in pools when I was a child.

Years ago people of color were not allowed in public swimming pools. When swimming became a part of the physical education curriculum in public schools the schools in the less than affluent neighborhoods did not bother to fill the pools. So…we went to the neighborhood Y. At the Young Women’s Christian Association we learned how to float and swim. Lucky me: my mom could afford the membership and the cost of the swim class so I learned something.

Today I swim because it relaxes me. I swim because I want to, I swim because I enjoy swimming. I have never regarded swimming as a sport or an opportunity to compete and win. But today I can’t help but think about the history of the public swimming pool and people of color. Do you think that one of us could have won a medal in the Olympics before last week?

Her story is now history (thus herstory) and my story is mystery or a missed story.

As for Me, I believe that training and encouragement would have produced the same results in a swimmer years ago. But let’s not take away the glory of being the first; let’s applaud the training, the diligence and I’m sure a lot of sacrifice to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming. How wonderful to see the first African American to win the gold in swimming. Swimming! Congratulations to Simone Manuel of Sugar Land, Texas who won the 100 meter freestyle.

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You may be thinking, ” it sounds like you can swim. Why will you gingerly enter the pool?”

My mother worked overtime to get the money to pay the Y. In 1969 nobody thought swimming lessons were important enough to pay for; at least no one else in my family or in my community. I can’t dive or flip or swim fast enough to win anything but I can get in this pool, enjoy the cool water and swim across to the opposite side.

Some things don’t change. I took the time to watch some of the Olympics on TV, however it was on Facebook where I learned that Simone Manuel won the gold in swimming. Shame on NBC!😥 Did the network not think this win was worthy enough to share? It chose to give us swim history and commercials instead of the Canadian and American young ladies receiving their gold medal in swimming. I’m so glad the official carrier of the Olympics corrected that err but a UK citizen posted this bit of news on Facebook almost immediately and I caught it. Why would it allow Facebook to get the news out first and News is their business?

Some things never change.

I gingerly, deliberately step into the pool in honor of my mother who believed a little colored girl should know how to swim. Thank you Momma.

I gingerly step into the water because I am too old and too educated and too intelligent to take anything for granted. Yes, segregated pools are a thing of the past…but…. it is not good to forget.

Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so you do not forget the things you have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV

 

 

 

 

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