Diversity Is a Multi-Step Process

By Bob Schaller
Updated: March 9, 2005

Alison Terry

Alison Terry

ARIZONA—(BASN)The hurdles of getting more African-American athletes involved in swimming run a lot deeper than many people might think.

African-American swimmer Alison Terry, a World Championships competitor and Olympic Trials finalist, says many black athletes still have problems with access to facilities, a basic for any would-be swimmer.

“There needs to be access to facilities for everybody, and that’s just not currently the case,” said Terry, who is now assistant swim coach at Mesa College. “There has to be an awareness.; communities need to understand that there isn’t this access.”

Terry said the mis-perception is that blacks do not have any interest in swimming. Rather, she notes, the opportunity has not presented itself. Long running prejudices and racist standards have, she says, kept blacks out of a lot more places and opportunities than just swimming pools.

“It’s not like black people made choices not to do certain things,” she said. “It was the law, state or federal, or both that they couldn’t. Federal policies and laws long said that said you cannot swim in this pool, cannot drink out of this water fountain, that you have to sit in the back of the bus. That’s part of the culture. While it has changed for the most part, it hasn’t changed in people’s minds in a lot of cases.

Opening people’s minds, Terry says, requires opening both their hearts, and mouths, if a new direction is going to be initiated.

“We can start by having an honest dialogues with one another,” she said. “That’s one of the hardest things for people, because they don’t want to have that honest dialogue.

“They don’t want to look at those issues, the reasons behind it, the long-running policies that led us down this path, and what it will take to change that. A lot of people just don’t want to talk about it.”