Pool Lifeguards Too White for Phoenix; City Spends $15,000 to Offset Certification Fees for Black and Brown Lifeguard Applicants

white lifeguard phoenix.jpg
Image: http://phoenix.gov/parks/pools/lifeguard/index.html
As this image from Phoenix's pool-info website seems to show, the typical city lifeguard is white. The city has spent $15,000 in the past two years in an attempt to recruit more black and brown lifeguards.
Too many lifeguards in city pools are white, say Phoenix officials behind a program to encourage more racial diversity in swimming sports.

In the past couple of years, the city has spent $15,000 on free lifeguard certification courses for black and brown kids in an attempt to reverse the longtime trend, National Public Radio reported last week. City staff told NPR that the public pools mostly are used by Hispanic and African-American kids, but the city's 500 lifeguards tended to come from parts of town with well-funded competitive swimming programs. Which meant they were nearly uniformly white.

"The kids in the pool are all either Hispanic or black or whatever, and every lifeguard is white -- and we don't like that," Kelly Martinez, recreation coordinator for Phoenix, told NPR. "The kids don't relate; there's language issues."

white lifeguard trainees.jpg
Image: phoenix.gov/parks/pools/lifeguard/index.html
The city of Phoenix is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to try to prevent scenes like this.
We left a message for Martinez this morning but haven't yet heard back.

The general idea has some merit. Statistics show that black and Hispanic people teach their children to swim in lower numbers than whites. The problem seems to be cultural -- while minority populations in the United States used to have trouble finding access to pools, that's no longer the case, experts say.

Training and recruiting more black and Hispanic lifeguards could lead to more blacks and Hispanics becoming proficient in swimming, which would actually save lives.

Still, the comments from Martinez come off as weird. If black and brown kids "don't relate" with white lifeguards, how does that affect the lifeguards' performance as rescuers? Or is the city trying to facilitate a dating service between lifeguards and pool users?

As for "language issues," somehow we doubt that white kids move more slowly to save the lives of struggling swimmers screaming "ayudame!" instead of "help!"

NPR reports that the $15,000 has paid for the $75 lifeguard certification course fee for more than 200 students. Phoenix lifeguard salaries range from $10.30 to $11.35 an hour.


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20 comments
Lalala
Lalala

Hey, lets just spoon feed all the blacks and hispanics.  Good idea.  Forget having them work for anything.  That would be racists.

fifthisfab
fifthisfab

This is a wonderful program that brings instruction with no promises to kids who have never had the opportunity to learn to swim or life guard.  If anything, they might be a little over concerned about the job to which they are hired to do and be more cautious about what they might be faced with in that prestigious guard's chair.   I'm sure that no pool manager will sacrifice skill set for skin color.  They are smarter than that.  But don't take away an opportunity from a youth whose not had the exposure that your child has just because you can afford to provide it for your child.  I am sure they had to prove that they could handle themselves in the water and in the chair.   I am almost certain that comments were taken and misrepresented by all the agencies who chose to pick up this "story."  There is no story here, people. I think that those guards from last season who were not rehired are mad that they forgot to go online and reapply for their job.  For them, this is the story that they have fabricated.  

robert_graham
robert_graham

She is a racist and she must be fired. If a white person said this about Hispanics and blacks there would be a civil riot in the street. She must go.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

I've been an admirer of Phoenix Parks and Recs folks for a long time.  If what was reported by Phoenix New Times was accurate (and MANY time their reporters are not accurate in their reporting - witness the many spelling errors we see in these pages), IF, Ms. Martinez has a lot of xplaning to do.   "We don't like that"?  Who is "We"?  The rest of the Parks and Rec staff?  Did they perform a survey on the people who use the pools?  If she has no actual basis on which to base these remarks, then she truly is an idiot and a bigot (I won't say racist because the means a whole larger kettle of fish). 

The other deal here is that the kids are only white during the first week of the pool season - after that they tan up and look as brown as any other Norte Americano.  


Ms. Martinez, explain yourself!


lainer
lainer

Martinez is an idiot and a racist. If a white person said this about a black or hispanic lifeguard, this would be a national story. Just because she is of another ethnicity doesn't giver her the right to say racist statements like this. No one is stopping any ethnic group from becoming a lifeguard. The only thing stopping people from becoming a lifeguard is the fact that they don't want to be a lifeguard. the blame game is over. Work for what you want. that's for everyone human, regardless of color. 

sarum
sarum

The logic presented is fallacious, repeatedly.   

waytogokelly
waytogokelly

I wonder if kelly martinez is okay with the idea that white swimmers may not relate to black or mexican lifeguards. Surely he/she would apply his/her theories across the board and not like the idea of white swimmers having to see and relate to lifeguards who don't look and speak like themselves. Going along with kelly's unquestioned evenhandedness, perhaps he/she will recommend separate swimming pools for each ethnic group, staffed by appropriately colored lifeguards.

wtf....
wtf....

What a BS!!!!... most if not all Hispanic kids speak perfect English! once again racist comments and stereo typing about Hispanics don't speak English.

Tommy_Collins
Tommy_Collins

Of the more than 200 students whose certification costs have been paid, how many have actually followed through and worked as life guards for Phoenix?

Language issue? I think the problem might be that someone doesn't expect those from other countries to learn and understand American English. That would be a good first step.

TeaPublican
TeaPublican

Let's see.....Black and Brown kids don't like to swim.....so the white kids that like to swim are the ones applying for the life gurad jobs.  And you think this is a problem?  Bahahahaha!    The only problem here is spending $15,000 of taxpayers money trying to have political correct life guards!   If their black butt is drowning I really doubt they give a crap what the color of the person is that just jumped in the pool to save them!   A lot of kids would die everyday waiting for a political correct life gurad to show up. 

sonick55
sonick55

there's language issues ? Hmmmm,  now how could we rectify that ?

royalphoenix
royalphoenix

Teach all children in public schools to swim. I think Maricopa County has plenty of pools. peace

pedro.dalion
pedro.dalion

How could somebody be the mouthpiece for the city and say something clearly stupid and blantently racist? I imagine since her last name is Martinez, she can only be assisted by black or hispanic first responders. What a dipshit.

Aidrenalin
Aidrenalin

I am glad the Phoenix New Times decided to comment on this bizaar story. I assume that what pool goers want is someone who is a good lifeguard and a strong swimmer.

On a related note, all of my Zumba teachers have been hot Hispanic ladies and I am 100% ok with that – even though most Zumba class attendees are overweight, white ladies (like myself).

Lassie
Lassie

FYI, Ms. Martinez is not Hispanic or Black.

ohnoes
ohnoes

@lainerI fear that it's even worse than plain, old mexican racism. Google image "Kelly Martinez, recreation coordinator for Phoenix." It looks like we might have a self-loathing white liberal on our hands.

robert_graham
robert_graham

@Aidrenalin This is not a good  How would this story be reported if a white person said the same thing about Hispanic or black lifeguards?

robert_graham
robert_graham

@Lassie Not Hispanic? Maybe then she is Chinese or Japanese..... of course she is Hispanic you dumb fool.

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