Red Cross pool safety poster called racist
The first time Margaret Sawyer saw the Red Cross safety poster in Salida, she was perplexed.
"I thought 'It must be really outdated. This can't possibly be a recent poster,'" she said.
When she saw it a second time at a pool in Fort Morgan, she was stunned.
"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,'" she said.
She was traveling across the country with her young children last weekend when she spotted a Red Cross poster depicting "cool" and "not cool" behavior by children at a pool.
The only examples showing "not cool" behavior involve dark-skinned children.
"I felt really angry," she said.
The poster also caught the attention of Ebony Rosemond of Largo, MD. Rosemond runs an organization called Black Kids Swim, a group dedicated to helping African-American youth engage in swimming.
She said America has a history of racism surrounding pools and swimming. She noted a history of violence toward African-Americans to discourage them from swimming in public pools, and beaches that banned African-Americans which forced them to swim in dangerous locations.
She called the poster step backwards.
"When I saw the poster, 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," she 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?" Rosemond said.
9NEWS spoke with William Fortune of the Red Cross, who said the children in that photo "were more designed to be children rather than any racial motivation."
Fortune said the poster was never meant to be offensive, and the organization strives to be inclusive.
"We're committed to diversity and inclusion in everything that we do," he said.
Fortune added that when producing materials, they undergo several layers of scrutiny before production.
"It makes me really question who is sitting at the table at the executive levels at the Red Cross? What is the representation like? What is the diversity like in the people who really get to say 'yes or no?'" Rosemond said.
Fortune said the posters have since been removed and the organization is developing "more appropriate material.
Rosemond said she wants the Red Cross to think harder about the impact of their material and send out a more deeply felt apology.
"I think the Red Cross can go further, they can issue a much more public apology and a much more nuanced apology that really gets to the root of what they did and what community specifically they hurt,"' she said.