Since We Last Spoke: Dangerous Waters

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New twists on past stories.

By Francie Diep

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(Photo: Chuck Espinoza; Model: Elaine Rensing; Stylist: Mark Starr; Make-Up: Gaby Ramos Torell)

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared on PSmag.com on August 17th, 2016, with the headline “How to Tackle Racial Inequality in the Water.” This edited version was published in our November/December 2016 print issue.

In Pacific Standard’s May/June 2016 issue, James McWilliams reported on America’s struggle to prevent accidental drowning, which is the fifth-leading cause of “unintentional injury death” in the United States and the second-leading cause of death for American children under the age of 15 (“A Brief History of Drowning”). He pointed out that African-American kids and young adults are more likely than whites to drown, a disparity that’s especially pronounced in swimming pools, due, in part, to a legacy of segregation at public pools. In August, the Texas native Simone Manuel made global headlines by becoming the first female African-American swimmer to win an individual Olympic gold medal, potentially encouraging a generation of minority youth into the water. Miriam Lynch of Diversity in Aquatics, a non-profit organization focused on curbing the high numbers of drowning deaths among high-risk groups, including African Americans, told the New York Times that Manuel’s victory could help reverse “a cultural fear of swimming in that group.”

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