The poster was designed to show appropriate or “cool” poolside behaviors. It happened that the only kids shown on the poster doing anything “cool” were white and four of the five kids shown being “not cool” were black.
Twitter user, Margaret Sawyer, noticed the poster at their local public pool and complained about the problematic depictions of black and brown people, telling a local news outlet:
“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.’”
Other critics complained that the implicit racial bias of the imagery trafficked in the same tired stereotypes about black people and swimming and evoked the recent past when pools dedicated for the general public were strictly segregated by race.
“Put It Back Up! It’s Not Racist!”
While some officials agreed to remove the posters when asked, many social media users complained that others were over-reacting or just didn’t see anything wrong with the design.
Put It Back Up! It’s Not Racists! There are also 3 WHITE kids labeled as “Not Cool”. STOP BOWING TO P.C. BABIES!!!
The poster was created as part of a 2014 pool safety initiative. The image was widely circulated to public pools in the US and was featured on the Red Cross website and smartphone app. The century old disaster relief non-profit acknowledged the public’s concerns and issued an apology on their website stating:
“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.”
The Red Cross removed the image from its online presence and vowed to discontinue production and distribution of the physical posters.
@JSawyer330 Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re removing this from our site immediately & are creating new materials. — American Red Cross (@RedCross) June 21, 2016
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