Imbeciles React to a Story About Swimming

SwimmingStoryHeadline

This is controversial, apparently.

I saw a fairly innocuous local news story come across my Facebook feed today.  The piece was the sort of semi-fluff that local stations like to show on their 5 o’clock broadcast.  The underlying news item was that data indicates that drowning is the fifth-leading cause of unintentional death among all Americans, but that African-Americans are about six times more likely to drown than other ethnic groups.

In the piece, a local news anchor who happens to be African-American goes through the process of learning how to swim.  The idea was to do a lighthearted story that spotlights a not-so-lighthearted problem.  No one is suggesting that drowning is as serious a threat as, say, heart disease, but that’s why this is a 5 o’clock story and not a 6 o’clock story.

Enter the astute denizens of Facebook.  By all means, weigh in, gang:


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So, we have the classic fallacy that exceptions disprove rules.  And look at all those “likes!”  Also, racism!!!  Of course.  I’ll come back to that in a minute.  For now, I’ll just say that the data (from the CDC, no less) is being used to try to help a community that is disproportionately affected by a particular problem.

Moving on, here’s someone who objected from an entirely different angle:


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“We are all Americans.”  Yes, we are.  This is a terrific point.  Let’s try to reconstruct the original headline without those sorts of shameful distinctions!  By my reckoning, it would read like this:

Did you know Americans are up to six times more likely to drown than Americans or Americans?

Problem solved!  Great work, everyone!

Correction: Great work, Americans!

But, if there were one exchange that truly crystallized the entire issue, it was this one:


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“The story isn’t saying who can swim and who can’t.  It went straight to who is more likely to drown.”

“The story isn’t saying who can swim and who can’t.  It went straight to who is more likely to drown.”

“The story isn’t saying who can swim and who can’t.  It went straight to who is more likely to drown.”

We have a lot of problems in this country, just as we’ve always had a lot of problems in this country (which is not to say we’ve always had the same problems).  Sometimes, these problems are concentrated among a particular ethnic group or sub-culture.  And that’s ok.  Because figuring that out can often help us shape and focus our solutions in ways that will make our efforts more potent.

Unfortunately, we’ve now reached the point where a healthy percentage of the populace is too immersed in sensitivity rhetoric to understand that not all information broken down by group constitutes discrimination.  This leads to silly ideas like, as here, suggesting we shut down any kind of research that reveals differences among groups.  Even if conducting such research might help us mitigate problems that harshly impact those groups.

Suffering fools has never been a strong suit of mine, but I’ve recently reached a breaking point.  It’s one thing not to understand an issue.  It’s quite another not to understand an issue, yet to feel completely uninhibited when weighing in on said topic.  The latter point is what has changed in the era of social media.

Previously, the imbeciles of the world might have an audience ranging in size from zero to one.  No harm done.  Now, we all must be subjected to a level of stupidity that doesn’t even see a connection between swimming ability and likelihood of drowning.

What are we doing, people?

We have a group that, for whatever reason (very likely cultural), is much-less likely to know how to swim.  This is a concern, because drowning is a fairly common culprit in accidental deaths.  A piece encouraging members of that community to swim by showing a member of that group learning to swim is a good thing.

Instead, we respond with insanity like, “Any color can drown!” and lob accusations of racism.

Hey, did you know that heterosexual men can get AIDS?  It’s unlikely compared to the chances of a gay man contracting the disease, but, hey, since anyone can get AIDS, why target a particular community with information and prevention measures?

Rod Roddy: The face of breast cancer.

Rod Roddy: The face of breast cancer.

And, oh, men can get breast cancer!  It’s true!  Rod Roddy, the old The Price is Right announcer had breast cancer.  So, why all this pink ribbon stuff?  Why the connection between Mother’s Day and breast cancer awareness and  fundraising campaigns?  Either sex can get breast cancer!  It’s so ignorant to say that it’s a “women’s” disease!  This is an equal-opportunity killer, people!  Let’s try to be a little less ignorant, ok?

We’ve just gotten so obtuse.

Do we really think that a local news station (not to mention its African-American anchor) has nefarious, racist motivations behind a story like this?  Do people seriously believe that?  Do they seriously believe posts like these when they write them?

I wouldn’t be so pessimistic if it weren’t for the fact that the same sorts of people who leave comments like these are also the people who often drive the dialogue around such issues.  These—THESE—are the people that politicians are afraid to offend when they discuss problems like education and the breakdown of the family unit.  Our leaders are squeamish about acknowledging that certain communities feel a disproportionate effect of certain bad behaviors, because that implies judgment and/or shaming.  So, they spout the kind of rhetoric we see above.

In short, if learning about an issue reveals that the problem manifests unequally among groups, then those who advocate solutions that take that reality into account will be dismissed or silenced.

My plea to these folks on Facebook is a simple one: Stop being dumb.

If that’s too tall an order, then stop talking.

Or, failing both of those, then at least have the common decency to stop voting.

Thanks in advance.

This entry was posted in Commentary, General Culture and News, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Imbeciles React to a Story About Swimming

  1. Pingback: Best of 2013 | The Axis of Ego

  2. Rod Johnson says:

    Looks like the imbeciles better rise up against CBS!!

    http://www.cbs.com/cbs_cares/topic_video/39

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