Drowning in gaps

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Kevin Helliker devoted a column (subscription required) to one of those economic and/or racial “gaps” beloved by liberals promoting the expansion of government:

Perhaps no institution in America is less racially diverse than the swimming pool. The result: Black children drown at rates far above average.
The problem has drawn little attention because drownings kill a fraction of the number of African-American children who die in, say, automotive accidents, and because black parents haven’t much protested against the dearth of pools and swim instruction in the inner city. In part this is because of higher priorities such as improving schools and reducing crime.

Helliker ascribes the cause — on the basis of no data and no serious analysis — to the lack of swimming instruction for blacks.

If we are on the verge of a second Clinton era, can midnight swimming be far behind? Helliker retails a few more, albeit related gaps, in the column as he attributes the dearth of swimming instruction for blacks to “spurious research — some of it published in academic journals as recently as the 1960s — describing blacks as inherently less buoyant and disadvantaged in water.” According to Helliker, this research has had powerful negative effects:

[B]lack parents in disproportionate numbers have never learned to swim, have harbored a fear of water and have cautioned their children to stay away from it, according to many who have studied the problem, including an African-American swim instructor named Lee Pitts of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Blacks have bought into the myths and misinformation about blacks and swimming,” says Mr. Pitts. He recalls a childhood friend who, prohibited from entering the neighborhood pool by his water-fearing mother, climbed the fence late one night and drowned.

But help is on the way:

Now, a coalition of local and national health officials and swim groups are creating programs to teach inner-city children how to swim, focusing particularly on minorities. Mr. Pitts, for example, has created a how-to-swim video featuring African-American instructors and students. A black swim star named Sabir Muhammad is spearheading an effort to promote inner-city swim instruction through boys-and-girls clubs, including encouraging nonswimming parents to learn alongside their children.

Good grief.
The subject of accidental deaths is fascinating and full of “gaps” of the kind to which Helliker devotes his column. Herewith a few facts that put a somewhat different twist on the black “drowning gap” than the twist applied by Helliker.
*There is a large disparity in drowning rates between men and women. In 2003, males accounted for 80 percent of the drownings in the United States.
*During 2002


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