Right here among us

I think if one thing has been made ABUNDANTLY CLEAR over the last week, it’s that racism is indeed alive and well not just in America, but right here in equestrian sports. I’ve seen so many people saying that they have never witnessed any incidents of racism in our sport. I haven’t either. Then again, I’m white, and pretty much everyone at shows is white too, so… we wouldn’t see it, would we? You know who’s way better to ask? Actual BIPOC people who are involved in equestrian sports. And what they had to say was really enlightening. This is just one of dozens of examples:

Another example: this reddit post is 3 years old, so… clearly this is an ongoing problem that we just have not been talking about. Not a one off. Not something that happens somewhere else. It’s right here and always has been.

Horse Nation and Heels Down Magazine have also been posting some good articles, they’re definitely worth a follow.

Chronicle of the Horse, on the other hand, really took a dump on itself when they published Missy Clark’s op-ed. If you want to see exactly what white privilege and passive racism looks like in action, her piece is a flaming example. Also: hey horse people, you don’t get to wear “but we’re nice to the gays” like a freaking merit badge. No. Just no. For COTH to give a voice and a platform to this was well beyond tacky in so many ways that I’ve run out of digits trying to count them all. They tried to balance it with a couple of other opposing op-eds (and this one was really good actually), but JFC can we please just agree to not perpetuate or give a platform to racism at all? I really hope that was just a serious misstep on their part but I suppose we’ll see going forward. Not holding my breath. If you felt the same way about COTH running that op-ed and want to let them know how you feel, there’s a letter here that you can add your name to. It’ll be submitted tomorrow.

But even with all of this swirling around, there are still a lot of people out there that are unwilling to believe that racism exists in equestrian sports. Despite comments from BIPOC equestrians telling their experiences, most people say “well, I’ve never seen anything like that”. I’ll say this once: your experience is not THE experience. It’s time that we shut up and listen. And if you don’t think racism is alive and well in our sport, I have some unfortunate news for you:

These comments (along with others, most of which were less egregious) were made on a post that simply said “Racism is not okay, ok?”. A post that everyone should have been able to agree on. Benign, simple, straightforward, no argument. This was not my post, so I left the person’s name out, but this is it:

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Turns out that “racism is not ok, okay?” is indeed NOT something that we can all agree on. Those lovely comments from Ivy there (who is an upper level dressage rider) certainly prove that. And to make it even worse, there were people liking her comments and agreeing with her. Such as this farrier:

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Fun fact, some of my friends used this farrier. Key word used. Past tense.

At the beginning of the day yesterday, Ivy and I had 15 mutual friends. That was distressing to me. Luckily as the news spread people started dropping her like hot cakes. Now we just have 2, and unfortunately… I think those two have willingly chosen to stick with their incredibly racist facebook friend. A couple hard conversations are about to happen. I also saw some people defending her, saying that “she’s always been nice to me”. Well yes, dear… you’re white.

Maya Angelou Inspiration Quotes - When people show you who they ...

I do believe that there’s a difference between the covert racism we saw in Missy’s piece (and that we’re seeing in SOOOO MANY comments, like the ones on the US Equestrian post yesterday) and the overt racism we see from people like Ivy and John. One reeks of ignorance, and one reeks of hatred. There are a whooooooole lot of people out there that need to read Lies My Teacher Told Me, White Fragility, and How to be an Antiracist.

If there’s one thing we’re all finally waking up to right now, it’s just how prevalent racism really is, even in the sport we love so much. How many other Ivy’s and John’s are out there, and they just aren’t dumb/brazen enough to put their true thoughts out in public on the internet? Are they among my friends? Yours? Statistically the answer is – probably, yes.

What do we do about it? I don’t know. But it’s past time that we acknowledged the problem, it’s past time that we had these conversations, and it’s certainly well past time that we held people accountable. Silence is consent, and it’s obvious that we’ve been silent for far too long. It’s certainly made me think long and hard about my friend circles. Am I willing to lose friends over this? You bet. Absolutely. Am I willing to lose a farrier or a vet or stop shopping at a particular store or buying a particular brand? 100%, no question. And you can bet I’ll be paying closer attention after this. When we know better, we have to do better. If you’re still on the fence about all this, I encourage you to read Tilly Berendt’s post.

Racism is not ok, okay?

16 thoughts on “Right here among us

  1. One more time for the people in the back…

    If you’re racist and you’re fired, it’s your fault
    If you’re racist and you’re fired, it’s your fault
    If you’re racist and you’re vocal, expect some blowback from the locals
    If you’re racist and you’re fired, it’s your fault

    Honestly, I wish I could say I am at all surprised. We, as a sport, continue to seem to support those that are on the wrong side of history. If people in our sport truly feel comfortable and empowered to stand on the side of known child molesters, should we really be surprised that they are willing to support their racist friends?

    Those of us in positions of privilege need to continue to advocate for inclusion in our sports. There are clearly MANY equestrians who are BIPOC who are choosing not to engage in USEF. They are not the problem (as Missy, Ivy and more seem to have convinced themselves). Those of us with privilege (and USEF and all the organizations under USEF and so many companies that are supporters of equestrian sports) are the problem, and we need to fix it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “If people in our sport truly feel comfortable and empowered to stand on the side of known child molesters, should we really be surprised that they are willing to support their racist friends?” Yup, and I’m noticing it’s a lot of the same people who are most vocal about both…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly. And they have been getting away with it for decades, and that’s interesting in and of itself. Because it is tacit permission. Whether it is silent agreement or just keeping the peace, it enables and prolongs that behavior.. There may be hope that there is now a generation that will face up to them, as the previous generations have failed to do. Said as one of the previous generations.

        Your post is right on every point. I hope thousands of horse people read it.

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    1. (cat hit send) that would prefer to protect a name than anything else. It’s the same thing USA Gymnastics and College Gymnastics programs are facing right now…except those allegations of racism are more public. Equestrian sports (vs gymnastics) should be more inclusive. Yes, they cost money, but they are life long. We should be able to participate in many ways throughout our lives. And yet the sport continues to exclude.

      I did one to add, I think we all need to be careful of microaggressions, tone-deaf comments, and just horrible jokes/comments that shouldn’t be accepted and say something. My cousin (who happens to be asian/korean), is a sushi artist (her work is gorgeous sees this regularly. The other day, a gentleman walked into the sushi bar and the first thing out of his mouth was, “does anyone here speak English?” She’s snarky so responded that we’re in America, what do you think. But, it’s comments like that that allow this culture… And we’re all responsible. In this case, the comment was from a POC, but she’s received in from all races multiple times. She shared it not to say that it’s the time to fight for asian rights (it’s not, though the discrimination over the last few months during corona…), but rather to point out that we’re all capable of microaggressions and tone deaf comments. And thinking before we make “jokes” doesn’t hurt.

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      1. I totally agree. I have no doubt that there have probably been a lot of little comments and micro-aggressions along the way that I didn’t even notice. Shit, some of them could have even come from my own mouth. We’re at a point in time where we’ve all gotten a big wakeup call, and we all have to educate ourselves, constantly, and be more aware, constantly. And then, most importantly, be willing to do/say something about it.

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  2. Dang. I have mutual FB friends with her. These posts are revolting. Would most riders agree that there is racism when it comes to stable hands? Or are they the same hypocrites who say Mexicans are taking “our jobs”?

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    1. There *is* racism when it comes to stable hands. God forbid I looked too tan or spoke in Spanish (my first language) to my barn’s stable hands at a show where I was competing…people around me would assume I was a stable hand too and treat me as such. It was super fun being a Latina working in a tack shop that catered to hunters, jumpers and eventers, let me tell you.

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  3. If we don’t stand up to these racists (whether they be covert or overt) in our sport, how are we any better than the so called “good cops” who stand around watching the “bad apples” brutalize BPOC? We must stand up and speak out against these people. When we are silent, we are complicit!

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    1. Well said!

      Just IMO, but it’s ok to be thought impolite if we say something back to someone who is spouting racist remarks.

      And we are likely to hear them as we get back together at horse shows in the next few months, while this is all still fresh in people’s minds. I agree we should be ready.

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  4. Wow…these stories are horrifying. Thank you for sharing them because frankly I need to be horrified a little more often. It’s too easy to be ignorant and complacent when it’s not something you live/see/hear/fear every day (hello, white privilege) and this is a tremendous call to pay attention and be better. I hope the momentum continues. Great post.

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  5. Thanks for sharing. I really think that racism has been re-ignited over the past couple of years and it hurts my brain to think it still exists.

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  6. Yes yes yes yes. Adding a voice to the choir agreeing. And I appreciate your point about covert vs. overt racism – until we are actively pursuing anti-racism within ourselves and our communities, we will continue to be covertly racist (or overtly, if you’re Ivy). Your book recommendations are spot on for that work (and it is work! But work, like you said, that we need to be doing).

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  7. I can’t read Missy Clark’s editorial past her declaration that although her horse sport is almost all white, no POC is excluded. As a white southern horse person I have been hearing that stinking drivel all my life and can’t stand it anymore. (Interesting that she tried to giver herself credibility with the AIDS thing, indicating that she knows what she claims about POC is problematic.)

    My experience is that the message from white horse disciplines to POC horse people is “You’re welcome as long as you agree with my view of racial inclusion in my horse sport. Even in the face of vast empirical data to the contrary. If you disagree with me, I’d rather you were not here.” And sure enough, POC horse people are very few in the largest disciplines in this country, especially those that emphasize amateurs.

    And now I will refrain from going off at length on the unbelievable remarks I have heard from white horse people about Hispanic horse people. That their only role in horse sport is as grooms, and that all Hispanic grooms and farm workers are illegal. I’m sorry to say that I’ve heard this from more than one person involved in eventing, including children, and we know where the children learn this. Apparently these white people have missed out seeing some brilliant Hispanic riders and performers in other horse world silos, although they will have to go outside their own horse world silo to see them.

    But hey, some black cowboys & cowgirls were at a George Floyd celebration in Texas! Hats off to them! 🙂 (They didn’t get any media photos published, though … )

    BTW, anyone in the Austin area who wants some immersion in the civil rights movement of the 60’s should visit the LBJ Presidential Library. It has been several years since I’ve been, but when I last visited, there was a great deal of space devoted to that era, and it was dramatic and moving.

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