TikToker Explains How ‘Black People Can’t Swim’ Stereotype Linked To Segregation

by : Julia Banim on : 24 Feb 2021 13:48
TikTokmayaechols/TikTok/VICE News/YouTube

A TikToker has explained how the ‘Black people can’t swim’ stereotype is actually linked to segregation.

Maya Echols took to TikTok with an eye-opening video, giving her 475,000 followers an important lesson in an underdiscussed part of American history.


Explaining that her grandma ‘didn’t swim for this exact reason’, Maya added, ‘Let’s not act like Black people got their rights a long time ago.’

You can watch Maya’s video below:

@mayaecholsMy grandma didn’t swim for this exact reason, let’s not act like black people got their rights a long time ago.

♬ original sound – Maya Echols


Maya began the video by stating that 64% of Black children in America don’t know how to swim, remarking, ‘This is not a stereotype, this is history.’

Maya explained:

Aside from the fact that slaves were chained together and throw into the ocean off of ships, in the 1920s, when Jim Crow laws were in full effect, public swimming facilities such as pools and beaches were segregated by race.

However, Black people still faced violence and harassment within their own community. White people would come to these public swimming pools and throw cleaning supplies or acid into the pools while Black children or families were swimming in them.

She continued:


This lasted for decades and it caused a widespread fear of pools within the Black community. During de-segregation in the late ’60s, white people still did not want to swim with Black people because they viewed them as dirty, so they got pools in their own backyard.

swimming poolsmayaechols/TikTok

Maya then went on to explain how, for generations, not being able to swim ‘became a common trait within the Black community’, with parents who were never taught to swim not teaching their own children in turn.

The video then ends with a horrifying piece of a historic news footage from St. Augustine, Florida, dated June 18, 1964, which shows someone dumping cleaning fluids inside a pool where a group of Black people are trying to swim.


Those who’ve seen the video have been left shocked and horrified, with many people having been unaware of the link between segregation and swimming pools.

swimming poolsmayaechols/TikTok

One person wrote:

It’s crazy how much we’re kept from learning in the US school system but this is SO significant.


Another said:

I have never learned this. This is so sad. Thank you for this.

A 2017 study conducted by the Department of Health and Social Services at the University of Memphis found that 64% of Black children in the US didn’t know how to swim, compared with approximately 40% of white children.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

Most Read StoriesMost Read


Patient Reportedly Denied Heart Transplant Due To Being Unvaccinated

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, Now, Swimming, TikTok


Maya Echols/TikTok and 1 other
  1. Maya Echols/TikTok


  2. US National Library of Medicine

    Predictors of Swimming Ability among Children and Adolescents in the United States