My friend Jenée writes a regular column called “Race Manners” in which she tackles readers’ real life questions about race, duh. She’s taken on everything from colorism, “ghetto names,” interracial dating, and most recently canine bigots. Before you laugh out loud, let me introduce you to one such prejudiced pet, his name is Miles Davis Andrews.
When I sent the above picture to my best friend her first reaction was, “Clearly those other two are racist.” That’s before we knew the whole story of Miles’ weird aversion to the black men in my transitioning neighborhood.
Much like the scenario described in Jenée’s column, where a darker-skinned man is getting barked at by dogs that don’t bark at the white people present, Miles would often hone in on black men and proceed to go ape shit. He had absolutely no problem with the smattering of white people who lived on our block. He’d happily trot up, tail wagging, to those strangers and lick their palms. But if that hand was black? Forget about it.
It was embarrassing to say the least.
I figured at first it must be some sort of protection/aggression thing. But then why would Miles, a dog who lacks socio-political thought processing or institutional privilege, feel threatened by one race over another? Was it me? It had to be me.
When I first got Miles, I’d just moved to a new and seedier section of my city. I’d just signed a lease on a reasonably-priced gorgeous loft-style apartment. And we all know where reasonably-priced loft-style apartments are. My building was wedged between a crumbling row house and an abandoned lot. Across the street there was a house that seemed bursting with an endless stream of parentless children. A friend of mine who literally wrote the book on drugs told me that my new turf used to be “the biggest open air drug market in DC.” Oh. OK.
So I made a pact with myself to always be “aware” of my surroundings. By then I’d already been mugged twice by teenagers who looked like my younger cousins.
I wasn’t fearful. Just cautious. And that tension was passed through my dog’s leash and routinely came out the business end. Sure tacking some anthropomorphic qualities onto an otherwise sweet little pug was a cute bit to do at cocktail parties — “My dog is sooo racist!” but in the end all I was doing was projecting. It wasn’t poor untrained Miles who was the embarrassment, it was me.
Eventually we both got over ourselves. I relaxed my butt cheeks and Miles stopped his discriminatory barking practices. No matter what color you are, if you’re walking on our condo floor without Miles’ permission he will set you straight — loudly. Basically he did the same thing for me. When I got out of line — with my own ridiculous preconceived notions — he let me know.