Photo of Gizmo, Proud Pittie, courtesy of Cris Bleaux
August 11, 2016
My latest, on "Racism and the American Pit Bull" is just out online in the latest issue of Current Affairs.
"The history of relations between African Americans and dogs is complex. On plantations, dogs were trained to track and hunt runaway slaves, a practice that continued in the Southern use of police dogs against civil rights activists. Yet slaves also forged loving relationships with the animals. Dickey writes about Charles Ball, a slave “who escaped from a South Carolina plantation around 1812” and for whom “the love of a dog provided the only sense of comfort he knew.” Ball named his beloved dog Trueman but had to leave him behind during his final escape, knowing that the dog’s bark might give him away. In a poignant section of his memoirs, he wrote, “I recollected that he had always been ready to lay down his life for me; that when I was tied and bound to the tree to be whipped, they were forced to compel me to order my dog to be quiet, to prevent him from attacking my executioner in my defense.”
"The links between “animality” and race have always been vividly present even if never explicitly discussed. The concepts of breed, blood, and race have served to determine what constitutes the human, the non-human, and the purported differences between the two."