“I can swim” Thank you, Simone Manuel!

imgres-1Simone Manuel winsimagesimages-2

by Lucretia Carter Berry

When Simone Manuel won, I heard the beautiful sound of false beliefs being flushed down the drain. I love that sound! And with that sound, more and more the asinine belief system established by race ideology loses it grip. Olympians are made when talent, hard work, perseverance, opportunity and support align. The race caste system has stolen opportunity and support from many people thereby creating a ripple effect of more false beliefs resulting in more lives stolen. But humanity is resilient!

When Simone Manuel won, I felt the death of that conversation I’d had countless summers as an adult. It goes something like this:

Them:  Can you swim?

Me: Yes

Them: Really? Are you sure?

Me: Yes

Them: I thought black women don’t swim. (Or something like that. Some don’t actually say it, but their faces show that they are thinking it.)

I want to answer with this, “It’s not that we don’t…It’s just that for so long we were denied the opportunity and forced to live in places with no pools, and…” But usually, there’s no time for an extensive education on how the race caste system has stolen, killed and destroyed so much for so many. And frustrated that my ‘yes’ is not enough, that my ‘yes’ seems weak against the hard wiring of mis-information and false beliefs, I gently respond, “I grew up with a pool in my yard.

I know that telling them that I grew up with a pool in my yard, though true, makes space for more confusion, but at least it ends me feeling like I am on trial defending myself against their burden of stereotypes. Honestly, I am left a little beat up by their perspective, but simultaneously empowered by the expression of my truth! I can swim!

And there is always an awkward tension that I can’t interpret. Are they embarrassed by their assumption? Are they confused by my response? Are they rewiring their thinking—replacing old information with new revelation? I am always hopeful that they are rewiring—not just for their sakes but for the sake of humanity. If they are re-wiring, if change within is occurring, then the awkward conversation is worth it!

When Simone Manuel won, I felt the weight of that—the history of stolen lives, the burden of correcting false beliefs, that childhood memory of watching white families get out of the resort pool when my black family got in,  the ‘I can swim’ defense along with the emotional and psychological trauma, pain, strength, patience, embarrassment , awkwardness, and empowerment that come with it—LIFT AND BECOME A TRILLION TONS LIGHTER. I sensed a billion eyes opening and minds being set free. I heard the snap of shackles breaking!

When Simone Manuel won, EVERYONE WON! Congratulations!!