Red cross poster racist

‘Super racist’ pool safety poster prompts Red Cross apology


(Courtesy Margaret Sawyer) By Peter HolleyPeter Holley Technology reporter June 27, 2016

When Margaret Sawyer first noticed the Red Cross safety poster at a pool in Salida, Colo., she thought she was looking at an unfortunate relic of the past.

When she saw it a second time at an entirely different pool in the central Colorado town, she was shocked, according to NBC affiliate KUSA.

“I saw this one, and 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.

Not only were the poster’s designers not hitting the mark, Sawyer thought, they had created an image that was racist. Sawyer complained to a lifeguard at the first facility and penned a letter to management asking for the poster’s removal, she told KUSA.

After seeing the poster a second time, she posted an image of it online.

“I felt really angry,” she said.

The poster — titled “Be Cool, Follow The Rules” — depicts various children playing at the pool. But white children are labeled as behaving in a “cool” way while children of color who are depicted defying pool rules are labeled “not cool.”

KUSA discovered that the poster was from a safe-swimming campaign in 2014.

The Red Cross apologized for the “Be Cool” posters in a statement that was posted online Monday:

The American Red Cross appreciates and is sensitive to the concerns raised regarding one of the water safety posters we produced. We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone. 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.

To this end, we have removed the poster from our website and Swim App and have discontinued production. We have notified all of our partner aquatic facilities requesting they take down the poster. Our organization has emphasized to our partners and on social media that it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone and apologized for this inadvertent action. We are currently in the process of completing a formal agreement with a diversity advocacy organization for their guidance moving forward.

(Read the full statement here.)

But others wondered how a racially insensitive poster could have been published by the Red Cross in the first place.

Ebony Rosemond heads a Maryland-based organization called Black Kids Swim, which is dedicated to helping young African Americans to become swimmers. Rosemond told The Washington Post that black children face a legacy of discrimination at public pools and beaches that makes them less likely to take up swimming as a recreational activity or sport.

For decades, she noted, black swimmers were denied swimming lessons or barred from public pools, forcing them to swim in more dangerous locations. Stories about drownings imprinted on a generation of African Americans a fear of the water that has not subsided, she said.

Even now, Rosemond said, it’s often more difficult to find regulation-size pools for swimming and diving in black neighborhoods. Many other communities have turned to splash parks as a cheaper alternative to maintaining pools, which means many children never get a chance to truly swim, she said.

“The current state of affairs is unfortunate, and images like the one created and circulated by the Red Cross make things worse,” Rosemond told The Post. “In connection with the lack of images showing African Americans excelling in swimming, the poster doesn’t make you feel welcome — it suggests to a black child that you’re not welcome here.”

Rosemond said she wondered how an organization like the Red Cross, which prides itself on working with diverse populations, could allow material like the poster to be widely circulated, and she believes an apology is not enough.

“We are aware that the Red Cross has put out a statement,” she said. “We want to restate that that apology is insufficient, and their system for creating and evaluating material needs to be looked at, and they need to be extremely diligent to make sure that every poster is taken down.”

Sawyer, who spotted the posters, agreed and told KUSA that the incident reveals that the Red Cross probably needs to reimagine itself and its constituency.

“I’m just a citizen, I’m not an organization; but I would want the Red Cross to collaborate and build relationships with Black Kids Swim and other organizations that do advocacy around this so that this doesn’t happen again,” said Sawyer, the former executive director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project.

“Clearly, they’re thinking of themselves as only having one constituency, and that’s not true.”

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‘Racist’ pool safety poster spurs apology from Red Cross

June 27, 201601:09

An American Red Cross Hospital signboard that carried a “super racist” message about swim safety guidelines for children prompted an apology from the hospital on Tuesday.

The dialogue opened on Twitter after a photo circulated of the poster in Fort Morgan, Colorado. The poster, which has since been taken down, read at the top: “Be Cool, Follow the Rules.” Below the heading were depictions of children playing. The white children were labeled as behaving “cool” while children of color were depicted as misbehaving, or “not cool,” for breaking pool safety rules.

American Red Cross has since confirmed that it has discontinued the production of the poster and has already removed it from the hospital’s website and Swim App.

Hey, @RedCross, send a new pool poster to @SalidaRec bc the current one they have w your name on it is super racist pic.twitter.com/TY8MmFB3Qk

— John Sawyer (@JSawyer330) June 21, 2016

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“The American Red Cross appreciates and is sensitive to the concerns raised regarding one of the water safety posters we produced,” the hospital released in a statement to NBCBLK. “We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone. 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.”

“Going forward, we are developing more appropriate materials that are more representative of our workforce and the communities we serve,” the statement continued. “Our aquatic instructors have been notified of these concerns and we will advocate that our aquatic partner facilities remove the poster until revised materials are available.”

But others are still unsatisfied with the hospital’s efforts, including the woman who took the photo of the poster.

“I’m just a citizen, I’m not an organization, but I would want the Red Cross to collaborate and build relationships with Black Kids Swim and other organizations that do advocacy around this so that this doesn’t happen again,” said said Margaret Sawyer, the former executive director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project. “Clearly, they’re thinking of themselves as only having one constituency and that’s not true.”

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Sawyer had taken the photo after seeing the poster twice while traveling with her family in Colorado over the weekend.

The mother of two first saw the poster at a pool in Salida, Colorado, where she immediately reported her concerns to the lifeguard on duty and wrote a letter to the facility urging the poster to be taken down.

She initially dismissed the matter after leaving the town, convinced that the poster was an outdated by-product of an earlier time.

She was shocked to find the same poster at another pool in Fort Morgan, Colorado, where she decided to take a photo and post it to social media after reporting the photo to management.

“I think it’s really important to think about the messages that we’re sending kids, I ask for all of us to take that job on,” said Sawyer. “I hope the Red Cross will use this as a lesson for taking their role seriously.”

Sawyer is now mobilizing efforts to send formal letters to Red Cross and to the mayors of both cities, Salida and Fort Morgan, to demand that the posters be taken down and replaced at pools nationwide.

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Red Cross apologizes for ‘racist’ pool safety poster

DENVER — The Red Cross is developing a new pool safety poster after some criticized the organization for being racially insensitive in a previous version of the poster.

Margaret Sawyer said when she first saw the Red Cross poster depicting “cool” and “not cool” pool behavior, she assumed it was outdated. The only examples showing “not cool” behavior involve dark-skinned children.

“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.”

Fortune said the poster was never meant to be offensive, and the organization strives to be inclusive.

“We’re committed to diversity and inclusion in everything that we do,” he said.

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.

American Red Cross apologizes for ‘racist’ pool safety poster

The American Red Cross has apologized for a water safety poster that has been called racist for showing black people engaging in inappropriate behavior.

Margaret Sawyer was traveling with her family in Colorado when she noticed the poster on two separate occasions.

“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,” Sawyer told NBC affiliate KUSA.

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“How can an organization that prides itself on being so open-minded, so understanding of the diverse populations of the world create something like this?”

The Red Cross apologized on Twitter and made a public statement claiming that it was never their intention to offend anyone.

“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. “We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone. 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.”

The Red Cross said they have removed the poster from their website and mobile apps. And continued to say “it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone and apologized for this inadvertent action.”

However, some folks just wondered why the Red Cross would ever publish the poster in the first place.

Ebony Rosemond, who leads the organization named Black Kids Swim, said that African-American children face discrimination at public pools that typically discourage them from taking up recreational swimming.

“The current state of affairs is unfortunate, and images like the one created and circulated by the Red Cross make things worse,” Rosemond told The Washington Post. “In connection with the lack of images showing African Americans excelling in swimming, the poster doesn’t make you feel welcome — it suggests to a black child that you’re not welcome here.”

Is this the most racist advert of 2016?

Can you spot what’s wrong with this American Red Cross poster on pool safety?

According to labels of “cool” and “not cool,” a disproportionate number of black, brown and non-white children are depicted as not following the rules at the pool while the only people shown as examples of appropriate pool behavior are white.

Hey, @RedCross, send a new pool poster to @SalidaRec bc the current one they have w your name on it is super racist pic.twitter.com/TY8MmFB3Qk

— John Sawyer (@JSawyer330) June 21, 2016

Margaret Sawyer, the former executive director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project and one of the poster’s most vocal critics, told KUSA:

“I thought ‘It must be really outdated. This can’t possibly be a recent poster’…I saw this one and 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.'”

On Monday,The American Red Cross apologized for the poster and said that they have ceased distribution of the poster and removed it from its website and mobile app.

Public pools have been at the center of racial discrimination throughout America’s history.

In June 2015, a video was released of a white police officer in McKinney, Texas breaking up a pool party by pointing his gun at black teens and pinning a black teenage girl to the ground.

During the same month, after a minor breach of pool rules regarding proper swimming attire, Ohio police pepper sprayed a young black girl, and a 12-year-old girl claimed an officer fractured her jaw and broke her ribs in the altercation.

After the McKinney incident, Jeff Witse, an associate professor of history at the University of Montana and author of the book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pool in America,” wrote in an essay for the Washington Post:

We do not see this type of behavior in other public spaces such as parks. Why do swimming pools bring out the worst in people?

Part of the answer has to do with the uniqueness of swimming pools as physical spaces. They are visually and socially intimate. Swimmers gaze upon one another’s nearly naked bodies, lie in the sun next to one another, navigate through crowded water and flirt. This type of contact and interaction piques social anxieties and exposes the lack of trust and understanding between people of different social classes…

Swimming with others in a pool means accepting them as part of the same community precisely because the interaction is so intimate and sociable. Conversely, excluding someone or some group from a pool effectively defines them as social others—as excluded from the community.

The racist stereotyping present in the Red Cross poster extend far beyond the space of a public pool – Stanford research has shown that teachers are more likely to label black students as troublemakers.

While the poster has been removed from physical and online spaces, the fact that the poster was even distributed in the first place reveals the unconscious racist bias that people associate with children of color, pool or no pool, and all the dangerous consequences that come with it.

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