The American Red Cross’ “Be Cool, Follow The Rules” poster on its website and swim app has been dubbed “super racist.” The illustration showcases kids who are behaving either “cool” or “not cool.” And four of the five kids who were “not cool,” i.e. behaving badly by running, diving or pushing, were children of color.
Despite the fact that research has shown that 70 percent of Blacks can’t swim, the American Red Cross deemed it appropriate to cast Black kids in a bad light when they visit the pool to break the rules. This writer is left to believe the century-old organization believes Blacks act a fool and run wild rather than enjoying the benefits and fun at the pool. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die from unintentional drowning every single day, and for Black children the chances of drowning are “significantly higher than those for whites and Hispanics at every age from five years through 18.” With this in mind, Black children would likely be more concerned with their own safety than trying to drown their peers.
Amid criticism, the American Red Cross has pulled the poster and they issued an apology that reads in part.
“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.
“We are currently in the process of completing a formal agreement with a diversity advocacy organization for their guidance moving forward,” the organization added.
With this campaign, we are focusing on areas with higher-than-average drowning rates and participants who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to take swim lessons.”
The organization also announced they’ve discontinued production of the poster and has requested partner facilities to take it down.
The American Red Cross’ swimming and water safety efforts aren’t new. Their mission to reduce the drowning rate in 50 high-risk communities by teaching at least 50,000 children and adults to swim is to be applauded but the activation of such an insensitive campaign is appalling.
This is perhaps a teaching moment for the American Red Cross. Please increase your diversity on your marketing team so you don’t come under fire in the future with important campaigns.