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Simone Manuel’s Olympic Win Is Huge Considering Swimming’s Racist Past

Posted by Michelle Moquin on August 13th, 2016

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Happy Saturday morning!

Racism runs deep in our society. Racism slithered into the pool and had it’s day there too.

Here’s the write from the Huff Po:

Simone Manuel’s Olympic Win Is Huge Considering Swimming’s Racist Past

Black people weren’t always welcomed in pools.

Swimming - Women's 100m Freestyle Final

Simone Manuel, number one. 

There are levels to Simone Manuel’s epic Olympic win on Thursday. The 20-year-old has become the first black woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming competition in the history of the Olympics. Tying for the gold medal with Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak, Manuel also set an Olympic record with a time of 52.70.

What the Texas native has managed to accomplish during her time in Rio is most definitely historic ― but it’s also weighted with meaning that extends far beyond the Olympics.

There is an infamous photo from 1964, of a motel manager named James Brock pouring acid into the swimming pool of his Saint Augustine, Florida, motel. Below him, black and white protestors attempting to integrate the segregated pool scream in shock and fear.

James Brock Dumping Acid into Swimming Pool

Protesters demonstrating in the swimming pool of the Monson Motor Lodge in Saint Augustine, Florida, scream as motel manager James Brock dumps “muriatic acid” into the water.

The photo is a visceral reminder of the everyday realities of segregation in the United States. Black people weren’t even allowed the dignity of cooling off in a pool or at the beach without being segregated and denied access.

According to The Guardian, during the 1920s and ‘30s thousands of luxurious public pools were opened all over America. All of them were segregated. When desegregation began in the ‘50s and ‘60s, government officials withdrew funding for desegregated pools. White pool-goers ultimately fled for the perceived comfort and “safety” of private, segregated pools and the rundown public pools left over for black people were gradually closed down.

Today, there’s a stereotype that many people, including some black people, subscribe to: “Black people can’t swim.” Of course, that isn’t completely true. Many black people, throughout the diaspora, know how to swim.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.32.27 AM

But what is true is that white people in America are two times more likely to know how to swim than black people. What is true is that black children are three times more likely to die in the water than white children. What is true is that many black people over the course of America’s history have been unable to learn to swim because they have had to contend with a lack of access to safe places to swim, the stigma of swimming being a so-called “white” sport, and generations of older black people passing on their fear of the water to younger generations.

Is it any wonder, then, that in the professional sports world, so few black people (and especially black women) have made it to the Olympic level in swimming? After all, it was only 12 years ago, in 2004, that Martiza Correia McClendon became the first black woman on the U.S. swim team.

“I’m proud to be the first, but I don’t want to be the last,” McClendon said at the time.

What’s a little jarring about Manuel’s historic victory in Rio is the fact that some media outlets have seemed to downplay or ignore its overall significance. As many black Twitter users pointed out on Wednesday, Manuel’s first place position in the 100-meter freestyle semifinal was completely passed over by NBC, with very little acknowledgement (there was an obligatory tweet). The media was criticized for making light of Manuel’s win, focusing more on her opponents and Australian swimmer Cate Campbell.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.35.20 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.35.35 AM

The athletic accomplishments of young black women like Simone Manuel, like Lia Neal and Ashleigh Johnson (the first black woman to compete in water polo at the Olympics) are vital, their presence in Olympic swimming competitions even more so. They serve as a palpable and important reminder of how far black people have come in the United States after something as simple and necessary as being able to swim was denied to us. Today, we’re not just swimming ― we’re slaying the game.


Readers: Can you imagine someone pouring acid into the pool water? And denied access to the joy of swimming in a pool on a hot summer day? I cannot. I had many a summer growing up swimming in a public pool. Not being able to swim was never a concern of mine. Oh, the things we took for granted that so many others were denied because of cruel and sickening people.

Times have changed but not nearly as much as I wish. The struggle for many is still alive. However, it is great moments like this that warm my heart, knowing that change is possible and is happening. Big Kudos and congrats to Manuel. I HOPE the ripples of her swimming go wide and broad in impacting and inspiring many to follow.

Horace: Of course. And yep…I did notice. Pretty crazy lady. You probably don’t know those people because you have a college degree. Most of those who are voting for Trump are blue-collared with no degree.

Mary: Yes it is old but does that matter? It resurfaced this past late June and because Trump is a nominee for president, I wanted to put it out there again. As Nina stated, “this is not the first most of us have heard of this, and it does speak to his character.” However, this is the first time I have heard of this. I’m surprised that I hadn’t seen this news before. If it’s a first for me, I have a feeling it might be a first for a few others. Hence the reason why I wanted to post it.

That it for me. The forum is open. Blog me.

PS: I have a big family gathering this weekend so I won’t be commenting much for the next two days. I hope you all have a lovely Saturday! Thanks for being here with me.


Lastly, greed over a great story is surfacing from my “loyal”(?) readers. With all this back and forth about who owns what, that appears on my blog, let me reiterate that all material posted on my blog becomes the sole property of my blog. If you want to reserve any proprietary rights don’t post it to my blog. I will prominently display this caveat on my blog from now on to remind those who may have forgotten this notice.

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47 Responses to “Simone Manuel’s Olympic Win Is Huge Considering Swimming’s Racist Past”

  1. Irene Says:

    Kudos to you Michelle for publishing the rape allegations against trump. So many whites in the media give him a pass. If this was alleged against Obama or any other OTW, we would be listening to media specials on every channel like the ones they did on Cosby.

    Funny how we don’t see the media encouraging women who may have been wronged by the donald to come forth.

  2. Martha Says:

    I love that she took time out to voice her concerns about police violence against OTWs. “A simple traffic violation, coupled with systemic racial biases that disproportionately impact poor black and brown people, can create situations in which low-level offenses can spiral out of control into unpaid legal fees people can’t afford, or, even worse, an escalated police interaction that could cost them their lives.” German Lopez

  3. Karen Says:

    Michelle, throwing acid in a pool was a mild slight in the course of what whites have done to OTWs while waving the “Constitution that promises freedom for all.” Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    White america is fond of proclaiming to the world how moral and religious they are. I have no idea what god they are praying to, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t the same one I’m praying to.

    “At the 1936 games in Berlin, Jesse Owens helped America put Adolf Hitler to shame by winning four gold medals for track and field — and still had to enter through the back door of a reception in his honor when he returned home.”

    I desperately need someone to explain how you do that as a nation and proclaim your moral superiority as a nation to others on the planet.

  4. Nolan Says:

    Yeah I read that article. It was shocking to learn that in the 1968 Olympics John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in a Black Power salute on the podium after winning for track and field at the games in Mexico City. Doing so resulted in their gold and bronze medals being revoked.

    “As soon as we raised our hands, it’s like somebody hit a switch,” Carlos told Vox. “The mood in the stadium went straight to venom. Within days, Tommie and I were suspended from the US Olympic team and had to leave Mexico City early.”

    I wonder if there has been an effort to get their medals returned. I doubt it considering the memory of american whites when they feel they have been wronged. That wrong usually has to be held high for all to see for infamy.

    But when they have done their mean deeds and dirt to OTWs, they shout “get over it.”

  5. Craig Says:

    Nolan#4, actually that is what I would say to blacks, Good lord, get over it already .

  6. Chris Says:

    See Craig#5 that is just what Nolan is talking about. All we hear in this country is the what some white boy has done, or suffered in the past to make this country what it is. But they are quick to tell us the Olympics is a place where addressing issues today due to the past is irrelevant. A place where your history, heritage and culture isn’t important. But their’s is.

  7. Bob Says:

    You blacks need to stop whining about all the things whitey did to you in your dreams. Grow up and take control of your surroundings with out murdering people. Will that about do it for you?

  8. Peter Says:


    As a white person, I can say we haven’t taken control of our surroundings without murdering people so who are you to judge?

  9. April Says:

    Craig#5, Get over history? I thought you were suppose to remember it? Lest we forget? Why does past racism make you so uncomfortable?

  10. Sam Says:

    Bob#7, Not every article discussing someone doing something no one of their heritage has ever done is the same as advocating the murder of one race for the crimes of their ancestors. You need ot get a grip.And for the record I am white, so “whitey” didn’t do anything to me or my ancestors.

  11. Craig Says:

    April#9, It doesn’t make me unconfortable. Watching grown adults who didn’t experience the struggles of their grand parents whine and make excuses for their lack of desire or will and therefore like watching an adult throw a fit like a 5 year old however is somewhat uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the real adults in the room like Manuel are kicking ass and taking names.

  12. Rubio Says:

    What part of that demonstrates a lack of desire or will on his part? And which one of you is throwing a fit like a 5 year old?

  13. Eric Says:

    Craig#11, I guess you are a teenager because it was the late 60s when this stuff was happening so this was happening to my mother and father. The 60s was 50 years ago.

    Do you celebrate Fourth of July if so stop get over it the so called founding of America was in 1776 and is not relative today. Also lets get rid of history classes it doesn’t matter

  14. Kate Says:

    Craig#11, your statement presupposes that adults today have never experienced any racism. you are wrong.

    While our struggles have not been exactly the same as our parents, grandparents, and the rest of our ancestors, we too have experienced racism.

    The racism they faced has impacted our lives through the generations. Opportunities not afforded them meant we had less than the children of the dominant demographic.

    Your ignorance of the effects of the legacy of past racism is telling, and your ignorance of the impact the racism still has today disqualifies you as one not intelligent enough to participate in conversations on the topic.

    Whether your ignorance is willful or negligence I can’t say. However, before you try to talk to adults about experiences you know nothing of, I suggest you spend some time learning and listening. That way, you will spend less time embarrassing yourself with your incredible lack of knowledge.

  15. Brent Says:

    Kate#14, I never saw any hungry niggers out there When I was growing up both blacks and whites were poor but because of skin color they get the front door

  16. Scott Says:

    Craig#11, I could pick apart your grammar “grown adults” but instead I’ll inform you that the “struggle” that you think was experienced so long ago, still exists.

    Not to mention, in my lifetime of 49 years, I have been asked by white folks several times, when the subject of swimming has come up, how did I learn to swim?

    I have heard jokes about the stereotype, and as a teen I have been given the “look” when entering an all white swimming pool in my mostly white suburb.

    So, it most definitely is relevant to discuss the stigma many of us black folks have endured over a simple childhood experience like going for a swim.

    I just want white folks, who share your “get over it” mentality to explain why the discussion of racism, in an historical context, makes them so uncomfortable? So much so, that you felt the need to log in to Michelle’s blog about Simone Manuel’s accomplishment and post your disgust of the discussion of historical racism, to the audience who I’m sure you assumed would be here to celebrate this accomplishment.

    You seem to be able to discuss other historical events with no blame or shame…why is racism in an historical context, so abhorrent?

    Celebrating historical firsts and placing the context around what makes it so important is progress, not as you put it, making an excuse or whining.

  17. Sherman Says:

    Craig#11, Black People will never forget where we came from!! Many African Americans have no other land of origin to relate to other than America!

    Many European groups can show pride for being Italian, German, Irish, Polish, and even Russian.. When African Americans refer to their lineage, many times it leads back to slavery, racism and discrimination!!

    We will remember forever from which our people came just like any and every other ethnic group!! We are over it! That’s why we celebrate our achievement’s despite the continued hatred, discrimination and evils perpetuated against us..

    We must educate our youth, and prepare them to kick but in American Society.. The same way others had to, in order to survive and demonstrate our capability and ability to achieve excellence in a Country that we built that continues to spawn generations of haters and discriminators!! YOU Get over it!!

  18. Lou Says:

    I agree with you Craig#11, What about the Irish? They were the first slaves in mass numbers. Actually, they were treated worse in many cases because they were less “valuable”. I never hear an Irishman bring up the past.

  19. Beverly Says:


    No one would dare say this to a Jew about the Holocaust but you ignorant crackers think you can say “get over it” to people who were affected in larger numbers and for centuries longer than Jews? GTFOH

    At least their descendants received an apology. Economists have shown that our worth as labor for this country is in the trillions.

    STFU and get over your denial about your white privileged existence being built upon the continued subjugation of the descendents of enslaved humans.

  20. Rhonda Says:

    Sherman#17, AMEN!

  21. Tina Says:

    Sherman#17, Thank You.

  22. Aldofo Says:

    Scott#16, those same jokers probably have a rebel flag flying on their pick-up.

  23. Jeff Says:

    Beverly#19, I say get over it to Jews, too. And many of them work for the economist obviously haha.

  24. Anna Maria Says:

    Beverly#19, You sure told him off but he’s probably too ignorant to absorb your wisdom.

  25. Maddy Says:


    Lol the open hatred of black people in your post is HILARIOUS. Why is it always the racists that are so angered by discussions of racism?

    Your existence is proof that these articles need to be read, appreciated and shared. Your desperate, unfounded, foam-at-the-mouth anger is as hilarious as it is embarrassing.

    Just remember – you should be ashamed. I promise, your family is.

  26. Jason Says:

    Craig#11, That’s part of the problem too many people think that the struggle is over like African Americans are still not fighting for equality.

    This is African American history 246 years of slavery, murder, and rape, 100 years of legal discrimination and segregation, being 2nd class citizens and being denied the constitutional rights the foundation of America is built on.

    40 years and still counting how president Nixon used a the claim of “a war on drugs” to target the group republicans know are basically democratic party voters.

    Nixon’s Justice Department used their offie to increase the arrest rate in the African American community which directly affects the current conditions in these urban neighborhoods today and created the negative statistics about African Americans, people like you, like to point out.

    Report: Nixon aide says war on drugs targeted blacks, hippies – CNNPolitics.com

    So, how are we whining about the struggle and the experiences of our grandparents when we are still in the struggle?

    Dismissing and ignoring the problems of African Americans that were intentionally created does not mean they don’t exist.

  27. Paula Says:

    Craig#11, I am a white woman in South Carolina. LOL, you mean like the South has “gotten over” losing the Civil War? Oh wait …

  28. Mable Says:

    Craig#11, Get over it? Typical entitlement behavior from an ignorant idiot who doesn’t understand what minorities face on a day to day basis.

  29. Donald Says:

    Mable#28, tell me what happens to you today. You as an individual. You can get in to the same colleges as everyone else with lower grades and test scores. In the world of academics that’s a huge advantage plenty of poor white immigrants wish they had…

  30. Scott Says:

    Donald#29, You assume the struggle for equality starts with getting into college. The real issues of institutionalized inequities start with getting TO college.

  31. Scott Says:

    Craig#11, Furthermore, your assumption that another group of people are only in college due to a quota system answers your question about where racism happens today.

  32. Donald Says:

    Scott#30&31, There is a ton of data showing minorities getting in to the same schools with significantly lower grades and test scores.

    Asians are actually hurt more than white people by this affirmative action garbage. Asians in nyc are in higher rates of poverty compared to blaxk people….but they still consistently perform better in school as a whole.
    Better than white people too.

    Let’s consider the possibility that we have all evolved in different geographical environments. These unique environments place unique stressor on the organism and over time genetic selection occurs. Why do we keep thinking all human beings are the same? We each have unique skills. Just like differences within one family exist, differences between people from different continents and races can exist as well.

  33. Mable Says:

    Donald, There goes your failed assumption. Your post is a great indicator as to why you feel pushed out by minorities; your failure to excel. Stop riding on that coat and find yourself the real reason, ignorance.

  34. Donald Says:

    Mable#33, Actually I got into one of the most difficult fields today…medicine. I’m a physician. And I attended some of the best schools in America. Look up the data for medical school acceptance by race and look at how low the scores can be for minorities who are still allowed in over asian and white people with significantly higher scores. It’s all there.

  35. Mable Says:

    You’re a doctor, right and I’m an alien from another planet. Claiming to be part of the academia to give your claims weight is an old con.

    Unfortunately your ignorance shines to assume that people get into academia on lower grades. Pity for you to know that I actually excelled and have always excelled. I get in on my own merits, can your lazy behind claim the same or will you use minorities as your excuse for falling short?

  36. Wilhelm Says:

    Donald#34, How is it that while only representing 62% of the population white people take 75% of the spots in colleges? Doesn’t seem like anyone is “taking” their places. https://www.washingtonpost.com

  37. Jason Says:

    Donald#34, History comes from your past, your past directly dictates your future. So why don’t you research the data showing why affirmative action is needed in the first place?

    Why do schools, mostly in the African American community have significantly lower grades and test scores? The answer is our history of oppression and abuse a history to many people want us to get over and forget.

    Not realizing it is the only history we know, since we were forced to do away with our African history, languages, and culture as slaves. So you basically want us to get over and forget where we came from again?

  38. Donald Says:

    You blacks may not like it but more and more studies show a difference in iq between races.

  39. Wilhelm Says:

    Donald#38, IQ tests are being proven less and less an actual indicator of intelligence. Perhaps your biases and opinions are also slightly outdated. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new

  40. Donald Says:

    Wilhelm#39, Lol oh wow one article? You can find plenty of peer reviewed studies showing the validity of iq. Plus it’s not just iq…it’s grades and test scores. I’m not going to do the research for you. It’s all there. Or you can use logic. Look at modern tech and inventions, look at the Forbes top 500. Who has invented and contributed most to science in the past 200 years?

  41. Wilhelm Says:



    Here’s a place to start. It would serve you well to learn something that doesn’t just reaffirm your own sense of self importance.

  42. Alycedale Says:

    Let me add to this discussion in which some want to insinuate that racism doesn’t exist against blacks anymore.
    Let me add that not only does it exist, but it permeates every fabric of of our lives.

    Take for example when we go to see a doctor, “…researchers discovered in a recent study comparing pain treatment between white and black patients in the ER. The survey of national hospitals found that black patients with back or abdominal pain were consistently less likely to be given or prescribed opioid-based pain medication than white patients with identical symptoms. For each case, the University of California San Francisco researchers noted, “pain severity” was the leading factor determining whether or not a patient received pain medication.” https://thinkprogress.org/https-thinkprogress-org-black-patients-pain-55f49498d759#.f5tlydkwv
    If one can’t count on the medical facility they have to go to in an emergency to be non biased, what can they count on in a country they call home?

    Whites take their “privileges” for granted. Those “privileges” are really the benefits OTWs should be receiving as a right to equal treatment.

  43. Brittany Says:

    As usual Alycedale, you are dead on. I am white but I don’t think access to education, careers, public office etc should be determined based on one’s race, sex, religion or ethnicity.

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