Simone Manuel made Olympic history last night by becoming the first black American female swimmer to win gold. However, Manuel’s achievement also helps slam shut the racist stereotype that black people can’t swim.
This view dates right back to the 1920s and ‘30s when segregation stopped black people from joining the swimming boom that spread across the U.S.A. Where pools began to arrive in black neighborhoods after integration but they were often poor quality and small, leaving generations of black Americans without the same opportunities to swim.
Speaking on her win, Simone said:
“I kind of tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders, which is something I carry with me just being in this position. I do kind of hope it goes away. I’m super glad with the fact that I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport. But, at the same time, I would like there to be a day where there are more of us and it’s not ‘Simone, the black swimmer.’
“The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal or I’m not supposed to be able to break records. That’s not true because I work just as hard as anybody else and I love the sport and I want to win just like everybody else.”
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