There are 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States, and until last week you may have been able to see a particularly concerning and racist pool poster created by the American Red Cross.
The poster in question was designed to teach children how to follow the rules at a swimming pool. However, it appears to only label white children as behaving in ways that are “cool,” while children of color are depicted as behaving in ways that are “not cool.”
The “not cool” images include one of a young black girl shoving a young white girl into the pool, among others.
“The American Red Cross appreciates and is sensitive to the concerns raised regarding one of the water safety posters we produced,” the organization said in an apology published Monday. “We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone.”
While the apology issued by the Red Cross may have earned them forgiveness, the poster shines light on the effect media can have on young black children.
According to a new study at the University of Houston (UH) titled “A Longitudinal Study of Racial Discrimination and Risk for Death Ideation in African-American Youth” led by UH psychology professor Rheeda Walker, experiences of racial discrimination may be linked to thoughts of death or dying in African American children, particularly in girls.
Walker analyzed data gathered from interviews with 722 African-American children from schools in Georgia and Iowa. These boys and girls were interviewed at age 10 and again at age 12.
In her analysis, Walker noted that more than one-third of the adolescents reported death ideation, which was accounted for in part by experiences of racial discrimination.
While the study does not detail specific interventions, Walker noted that parents and educators can implement or encourage adaptive coping methods to support children affected by racial discrimination.
Posters like the one issued by the American Red Cross can unintentionally have a hand in racial discrimination, and in turn, harm young children.
The Red Cross has since ceased all production of the poster, removed it from their website and mobile Swim App, and requested that any facilities that have the poster displayed take it down.
“As one of the nation’s oldest and largest humanitarian organizations, we are committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do, every day,” Red Cross said in their apology.