On June 9, 2020, Bill Moroney, President of US Equestrian, released a letter regarding the organization’s stance on racism and its commitment to diversity in equestrian sport — including board approval and implementation of a US Equestrian Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. After the past few weeks’ tragic events and reflecting upon this letter, Susan Glover shares her own thoughts on inequality and racism. Susan is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University. She works extensively with topics such as structural inequality and injustice.
In the important, long past-due discussions we’ve been having about race, privilege, and riding, one thing that has come up a lot is the sheer cost of horses. We should not conflate class and race, although the two intersect a lot, because most African Americans are in the middle class. Cost is a factor for all of us who are not in the 1%, regardless of race, and simply telling a non-white rider that so long as she works hard she can find success in the riding world is to ignore the reality of pervasive racism. Intolerance and outright discrimination toward people of color, whatever their socio-economic status, is something that is endemic throughout American society, and the horse world is not different.
Photo by Ritu Arya/Unsplash/CC.
Why should it be different? Have we worked to make it more inclusive? There have been numerous discussions already about how clique-y some hunter/jumper people are, and the lack of support we have for those outside of our own little groups. So, why would the racial biases within larger society not be on display in our smaller one? The truth is that the H/J world is a predominantly white one, and most POC are not riders or owners; they are grooms and barn workers. So, we must ask ourselves why diversity is an issue, and why more middle class families of different backgrounds aren’t represented as riders and competitors in our community. The answers are already there for us to hear and read, especially now when black and brown voices are finally being given a platform to tell us their experiences.
People of color are asked, all the time, to tell white people why we should pay attention to the inherent racial biases and structures in our society, often due to the murder of a black or brown person, and then dismissed or confronted with rationalizations. The pain of this constant proving and reproving must be almost unendurable sometimes. There is no comfortable way to confront racism, but those of us who benefit from white privilege have a responsibility to do so, regardless of how it makes us feel.
Just as I tell my students, I can tell my fellow white horse people: Use the internet! Do the work! There is a lot of information out there: facts, figures, analyses, and a growing fund of educational material that outlines the structure racism takes in this country, its effects, and how to work to dismantle it. The horse world has seen a lot more action, and there are many ways to inform ourselves that are easily accessed. USEF just released their strategy for combating racism and promoting equality within their organization.
They have a good list of resources and that is a great place to start. If you feel uncomfortable, well, too bad. Hundreds of years of structural inequality is not each of our personal fault, but it is our responsibility to take on the burden of seeing it, recognizing the damage it has caused and continues to cause, and fighting for change. I don’t want to continue to accept a situation where the everyday reality is one of micro-aggressions at best and murder at worst for my fellow humans because of their skin color. Why would anyone?