Posted: August 15, 2008 in Just "Why?"

Okay, okay I get it already. Cullen Jones was the first second Black U.S. swimmer to win gold. But to all of a sudden appoint him as Black ambassador to swimming pools everywhere is nutz.

Courtland Milloy in his piece “A Win for U.S. Swimmers and Black Children, Too” does something that I have yet to see any Black commenter online do regarding this amazing race: He told the WHOLE truth.

The U.S. men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay team won Olympic gold by a split second in Beijing on Monday. Thank you Jason Lezak, whose phenomenal performance not only rescued teammate Michael Phelps’s quest for record gold but also, dare I say, helped save the reputation of another teammate, Cullen Jones.

Let’s face it: Jones, the first African American to participate in an Olympic swim relay final, got smoked. He had begun the third leg with a slight lead over the archrival French team but ended up a half a body length behind. It happens to the best of them. Just ask Alain Bernard, France’s sea serpent of a sprinter, who lost the final leg in the blink of an eye to Lezak. (more…)

Milloy later mentions how Jones made the following comment at a recent press conference.

“The stigma that black people don’t swim ended today.”

Thank you Jones for proving to the rest of the world that Black people can swim too!

Now think about that for a moment.

While we’re at it, allow me to take this time to thank others for proving to the rest of the world that we can do basic things.

#I want to thank Mavis Beacon for showing the world that we can type.
#Also I would like to thank Morgan Freeman for showing the world that we can drive
#A special shout out goes to Bill Cosby for showing the world that we can have a orderly household.
#Lastly, Tiger Woods for showing to the world that a Black/Asian/etc./etc. can play golf.

What’s my point? Why are we the only ones in need of one person to prove to the world that AN ENTIRE RACE is capable? I wonder how many reporters asked Michael Phelps “How does it feel to the the first White Olympic athlete to win more gold medals than anyone in history?” “Also, can you tell us what your win means for Whites everywhere?”

So much for Anthony Ervin.

  1. Andre says:


    Thank you Jones for proving to the rest of the world that Black people can swim too!

    This is not a sentiment the author just conjured up to get published. I mean, people really do still think along these lines. That’s why I maintain that it’s important to highlight stories like those you mentioned (albeit sarcastically) in your post. Trying to get validation from white American is one thing (and something I’m not necessarily advocating in this case). Showing black folks that engaging in certain activities is NOT “acting white” is another ball of wax. To be clear, I hate using terms like “acting white”, because it implies that certain activities are only attributable to particular people/races. But in the interest of ‘keepin’ it real’, I’ve been surrounded by people who actually think that.

    I think this is why I hate Black History month. It has been reduced to some cheesy, watered down, trendy “thing to do” which only focuses on the fairy-taled aspect of our history. Meanwhile some of the aforementioned people are creating their own history; one which is far more relevant today. I mean, Harriet Tubman was cool and e’erything, but I don’t think we’ll be needing more railroads underground any time soon.

  2. Give it a rest says:

    Well Duane,

    I learned to swim at the ripe old age of 3 years old. I have also worked as a life guard. To be honest unlike most black folks in Armerica I have had access to private pools, health clubs, country clubs, and sports facilities my whole life.
    I have to admit that there is some truth to the sterotype that most blacks can NOT swim. Going to the pool or beach and getting in the water and actually knowing how to swim are two different animals. Pubilc pools generally do not count because yo really do not get a chance to learn how to swim with a crowd of hundreds jumping and splashing around.

    Swimming in the USA, particularly in the northerns parts of this country is bascially an expensive activity to engage in. Family memebrship in the local YMCA is easily over $1000 per year for a family of 4. The affordable health clubs generally do not allow children to use their facilities, many schools do not have active pools, and any of the programs you can join still cost money. No pool, no swimming, hence we find that a great deal of blacks in the USA do NOT swim.

    The situation is also far worse for black women than men because of the whole “hair thing”.

    Swimming is like the rest of what I consider the “country club” sports like Tennis, Golf, Polo, Skiing, Ice Skating, etc that require access into what for the most part are privately owned facilities that generally require membership or a significant cash outlay to make use of.

    The next issue is I have found that many black people do not trust pools, they think they are dirty and unhealthy. I guess a great deal of this mindset comes from using public pools were folks are known to liberally urinate and even poop in the water.

    It is easy to speak from the outside on matters like this, but I understand were Cullen Jones is coming from. I am sure he has found it somewhat lonely in the sport of swimming as a blackman. I have been there and know the feeling. It so easy from the outside to make claims that yeah us black folks can swim too, but once you get on the inside you will find yourself saying “Where are all the brothas and sistas!”

  3. Richard Froggatt says:

    “hence we find that a great deal of blacks in the USA do NOT swim.”

    Nope, blacks in the USA just get wet.

  4. Kamau says:

    I’m in agreement Duane. We is the “first” or even “second” black person always paraded to show the world blacks in ameriKKKa can do something.

  5. Richard Froggatt says:

    “ameriKKKa” Don’t believe the hype.

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