A poster distributed by the Red Cross titled “Be Cool, Follow the Rules” displays several children playing and swimming in a pool. The issue is that white kids are shown following the rules while minority kids, mostly black, are pushing others, running and holding a glass bottle, thus labeled “not cool.”
The Red Cross issued an apology on Monday regarding the poster, claiming that they did not mean to offend anyone. It appears that the poster was also present on their website and their Swim App, so it was consequently removed. The Red Cross has also asked for aquatic facilities with the poster in sight to remove it as soon as possible.
A “not cool” poster
According to Whitney Wild from KUSA, it appears to have been first witnessed by Margaret Sawyer in Salida, Colorado. She then saw it again on Fort Morgan and “felt really angry” about the portraying of the kids. She argues that the poster designers may have tried to show kids of different races having a good time together, but it seems that they did the complete opposite by labeling some as “cool” and others as “not cool.”
Sawyer remembered America’s painful history of racism, especially when it comes to pools and public recreation facilities. Black people were initially forbidden of swimming in public pools and beaches that were reserved for white people. The only pools and beaches open for African-Americans were in dangerous and unsanitary areas.
— John Sawyer (@JSawyer330) June 21, 2016
According to a report by Jeff Wiltse from the Washington Post, the first public pools were built in the 1920’s in New York and Chicago, and without hesitation, white people protested having to share the pool with black people, mainly because they were able to see and interact with white women. There have been cases of violent attacks against black swimmers, many times encouraged by police, which then proceeded to arrest the black victims under the charge of “inciting to riot.”
It was only after World War II that pools stopped being segregated, but opposition was still teeming because whites did not want to swim alongside blacks. It came to a point when white people stopped visiting specific pools because black people were starting to frequent them. Some municipalities managed to keep segregated pools in secluded spaces, but this was still forbidden by law, to which legal action was to take place after the pool was discovered.
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) June 27, 2016
The report notes that a more recent event occurred in 2009 when Hispanic and black campers visited a club in North Philadelphia. They paid for their stay and they were entitled to use the club’s facilities. But as they entered the pool, many club members removed their children from the water and complained to the club’s administration for the minorities’ presence.
William Fortune, a spokesman for the Red Cross, stated that the organization aims for inclusion. He claims that every illustration goes through different stages of analysis to ensure that it is a product of quality and that it portrays the organization’s social vision. But it appears that this time, it was not enough or something went unadvised when this poster was first printed in 2014.