“I just kept thinking ‘It looks like they’re trying to do something here that shows all kids together of all different backgrounds but they’re clearly not hitting the mark,'” she said. William Fortune of the Red Cross, said the children in that photo “were more designed to be children rather than any racial motivation.”
The poster also caught the attention of Ebony Rosemond of Largo, MD. Rosemond runs an organization called Black Kids Swim, a group dedicated to helping African-American youth engage in swimming.
She said America has a history of racism surrounding pools and swimming. She noted a history of violence toward African-Americans to discourage them from swimming in public pools, and beaches that banned African-Americans which forced them to swim in dangerous locations.
She called the poster step backwards.
“When I saw the poster, I just, was just very saddened that the Red Cross had chosen to put out an image that might one, discourage African-Americans from trying swimming if they were new to it, and also something that would extend a negative stereotype,” she said.
Fortune added that when producing materials, they undergo several layers of scrutiny before production.
“It makes me really question who is sitting at the table at the executive levels at the Red Cross? What is the representation like? What is the diversity like in the people who really get to say ‘yes or no?'” Rosemond said.
Fortune said the posters have since been removed and the organization is developing “more appropriate material.” Rosemond said she wants the Red Cross to think harder about the impact of their material and send out a more deeply felt apology.“I think the Red Cross can go further, they can issue a much more public apology and a much more nuanced apology that really gets to the root of what they did and what community specifically they hurt,”‘ she said.
Red Cross Pool Safety Posted That Some Have Called Racist.(Photo: Courtesy Margaret Sawyer)