Ontario University Promotes Racially Segregated Swim Times To Help Black Students “Build A Better Relationship With Water”

Natasha Biase

The University of Waterloo is under fire for introducing a swimming period exclusively for black people. Coined as “Black Folx Swim,” the Ontario-based school’s website states that the racially segregated swim time “is dedicated to building a better relationship with water for the Black community.”

As part of its Open Recreation, where students can drop in and participate in athletic activities, Black Folx Swim allows black students to use the pool and diving area at their leisure.

“This dedicated time can be used for lengths or recreation in the six available lanes for Fast, Medium and Recreational swimming. The diving well is open. Please follow the ‘Lane Swim Etiquette’ and all Health Regulations as posted on the wall of the pool for the safety and enjoyment of all participants.”

Although there are no confirmed dates listed for the segregated swim period, swimming lessons are also offered for black adults on Mondays between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on a first-come-first-serve basis to encourage black people to learn swimming skills in a safe space.

“The aim is to get more Black Folx into a space where they haven’t always been welcomed while providing them the opportunity to learn swimming skills,” reads the website.

“These lessons will be taught by experienced black swimmers/instructors.”

News of the school’s efforts to promote a racially segregated swim time sparked outrage on X (formerly Twitter), from many who find the athleisure time to be regressive.

One satirical news account by the handle @TheDailyTuba wrote sarcastically: “[The] University of Waterloo segregates pools for ‘black folx’ with their own dedicated swim lanes; organizers hope washrooms and buses will be next.”

Others referred to Black Folx Swim as “racist” and socially divisive.

In addition to decrying the racist nature of a segregated swim, others, like on X user by the handle @Gods_WarriorUSA, pointed out that the university is “also offering swim, workout, and rock climbing times exclusively for transgender, ‘non-binary,’ and ‘2SLGBTQ+’ people.

“The university notes that heterosexual people may only come to the LGBTQ swim if they are participating with trans or ‘non-binary’ persons.”

Despite efforts to create “safe spaces” for certain groups, the university website also notes that trans-identified male swimmers are permitted to join the ladies-only swim.

“Women’s (cis and trans) programming aims to provide a safer, comfortable, inclusive, and fun atmosphere for women. Attendees can expect programming to be delivered and/or supervised by women staff. If you are not a woman (cis or trans), please respect this space and come at another time when space is open to all users.”

Speaking with the Canadian independent news outlet True North, a university spokesperson “defended the segregated swims as an inclusive ‘safe space’ initiative.”

“In addition to the 21 hours of open recreational swimming that is offered to all members of our community each week, the university has added recreational swimming options for family swims, 2SLGBTQIA+ swims, women-only swims and swims dedicated to welcoming Black folx,” explained the spokesperson.

The University of Waterloo is not the only Canadian institution offering racially segregated activities. As previously reported by True North, the University of British Columbia recently opened a “black-only” student space on campus to “study, connect with each other, recharge, host events and sessions, as well as build community.”

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Natasha Biase

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