“Your dog is racist,” two of my oldest friends told me this past winter break.
“No way. How can a dog be racist? It’s impossible,” I replied defensively.
But I was left questioning: could it be true? Could my dog be racist?
My mother got a new dog my sophomore year of college. Luna, an Australian Shepard – Border Collie mix, was a handful and in stark contrast to my childhood dog who preferred to lay on the couch while we watched TV. Luna barked, jumped, and seemed to have a mind of her own. That’s why when Charlie, my best friend’s black boyfriend, came over, everyone was put on edge by Luna’s erratic behavior. She barked furiously, glared her teeth, and would not leave him alone. Luna barely noticed the other white people in the room, and her actions have never been as severe towards white strangers she’s met.
My friends think of the incident as hilarious and humorous. They love laughing at Luna the Racist Dog. I don’t believe Luna is racist. A dog doesn’t hold the human capacity to discriminate on a social construct, such as race. That does not mean I’m proud of her behavior or the way my friends and I reacted. My dog’s ‘racism’, or projected racism, reflects our own discomfort with race. Because while I have known Charlie for years, I am still aware of his blackness.
Charlie reacted calmly to the whole incident. He attempted to give Luna a treat to calm her down. After a while, we situated ourselves downstairs, with Luna incessantly barking from behind a closed door. My friends and I laughed uncomfortably for a second and then proceeded with our retro-high-school hang out. It was then that I realized I’ve never seen things from Charlie’s point of view. Charlie has been in my life for years–he has come to homecoming parties, household hangouts and baseballs games–all where he was the only black face in the crowd.
I knew all these things objectively, but I never stopped for a second to understand what it meant. As a St. Louis native, 15 minutes down the road from Ferguson, I try too hard to deny my racism. In doing that, I also erase my ability to recognize the disparate effects of one’s race. I have no problem recognizing my white privilege but am uncomfortable dwelling on other’s lack thereof. There is a Broad City quote my friends and I often say to each other in regards to this:
“Do you know that you’re so anti-racist sometimes that you’re actually really racist?”
Now, I would never want to step on the creative genius toes of Broad City, but I feel this describes my issue. I think I’m often too aware of meta-race theory, systemic racial issues, and patriarchal oppression that I fail to see race in real life. I get caught up trying to process feminist theory, I neglect to put it into practice.
I take note when a person of color walks in a room. I censor what I say to my ‘black’ friends and sink into my predominantly white world. Race makes me uncomfortable, and I am afraid of my racism. If human beings reacted like animals, I would have probably barked at Charlie as well. While I do wish I could stop Luna from barking, the problem wasn’t acknowledging race; the problem was how uncomfortable I was with my own discomfort. I don’t want to laugh at this, and toss it aside. I need to work on my issues with race, not in the classroom hiding behind specifically pulled quotes and politically correct language, but in real life with real actions. I’m uncomfortable with race my own and others, and it’s beyond time I start dealing with it.
Race is inevitable, and it’s beyond time that white people started dealing with it.
What the F Campus Coordinator