It’s not safe to go back in the water. At least for anyone hoping to avoid drowning in soft bigotry. The Red Cross had to issue a formal apology this week after a water safety poster appeared to single out African American swimmers for “not cool” behavior while lauding the habits of white swimmers.
In the illustrated guide, “Be Cool Follow The Rules,” four of the five kids called out for “not cool” behavior appear to be black, while the two individuals cited for their “cool” behavior are both white.
“The American Red Cross appreciates and is sensitive to the concerns raised regarding one of the water safety posters we produced,” the Red Cross said in a statement published to its site. “We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone.”
Interestingly, Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton, an African American woman, says she didn’t initially see anything racist about the poster. Rather, she saw it as a positive example of diversity and inclusion by the simple fact that the Red Cross had chosen a broad cross-section of children to appear in the poster. It was only when a white friend of hers pointed out the negative labels dominating the poster that it took on a different light. “Racism — like sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry — is filtered through the eyes of the beholder,” she wrote. “Sometimes we might not recognize it, but that doesn't mean it isn’t there.”
For its part, the Red Cross said its discontinued production of the poster, pulled it from their app and removed it from their website. And in what will hopefully be a move to turn this embarrassing and hurtful moment into a positive development, the Red Cross said it is taking steps to bring on a professional diversity coordinator for all future projects.