Red Cross apologizes for ‘Be Cool’ swimming poster over racism claims

WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) — The American Red Cross issued an unusual apology Monday regarding a recent poster it created and distributed that advises children to be safe — and “cool” — around swimming pools this summer.

The poster was uploaded to the Red Cross’ swimming safety mobile application as well as various swimming pool venues around the United States.

Under the campaign called, “Be Cool, Follow the Rules,” the poster depicts several children swimming and others playing around the pool. Some of the misbehaving children are identified on the poster with an arrow that says, “not cool” — while two other responsible children are labeled as “cool.”

While that message might not seem controversial, some have complained that the way each group of children are depicted is offensive. The reason, they say, is because all the misbehaving children appear to be minorities and the well-behaved kids are white.

“I thought ‘It must be really outdated. This can’t possibly be a recent poster,'” Margaret Sawyer, who saw the same poster at two different pools in Colorado, said. “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.'”

“I felt really angry,” she added.

John Sawyer/Twitter

“I just, was just very saddened that the Red Cross had chosen to put out an image that might one, discourage African-Americans from trying swimming if they were new to it, and also something that would extend a negative stereotype,” Ebony Rosemond, who operates a youth swimming program for black children in Maryland, said. “How can an organization that prides itself on being so open-minded, so understanding of the diverse populations of the world create something like this?”

The Red Cross addressed the concern Monday, posting an apology on its website to people who may have been offended. It also said it has removed all the posters.

“The American Red Cross appreciates and is sensitive to the concerns raised regarding one of the water safety posters we produced,” its statement said. “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.”

The charitable organization said it plans to enter an agreement with a diversity advocacy group for guidance.

“We apologize for any inadvertent misunderstanding with regard to the production of this poster, and believe we have taken every step to address the situation,” the Red Cross said.

The organization also reached out to concerned people on Twitter.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re removing this from our site immediately are creating new materials,” the organization tweeted to one individual.

Video: Pix 11

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