Understanding The Frenzy Over Vick and White Folks’ Love of Dogs

January 3, 2011  |  

So Tucker Carlson, Fox News commentator and professional agitator, recently ignited a small controversy over his comments that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick should have been executed three years ago when convicted on dog-fighting and animal cruelty charges.

As a Philadelphian, and needless to say Eagles fan, no one is happier than I (and the millions other Eagles fans around the country) to have a player like Vick leading the helm.  But even through his redemptive professional comeback, Vick still can’t escape the calls from animal rights activist and dog owners alike that he should have been stripped of his freedom and barred from the game forever.

This constant barrage of hate towards the quarterback is alarming for some, particularly in the African American community, who find it odd that dogs in America have been elevated to a higher standard than many humans.  All this resentment has led some in the black community to raise the pentacle question: Why do White people love dogs much more than they do Black people?

Even the humorous site, Stuff that White People Like, has lightly mocked the peculiar relationship between white people and their dogs, which involves feeding them organic and homemade foods, talking to their dogs; giving them human traits and characteristics, dressing them in cutesy designer outfits and even kissing them on the lips – ewww.

This strange kinship that white folks have with their dogs, some believe, is only contrasted with black folks relative obliviousness to the furry four legged creatures. For some, it’s straight up dislike. Some say its goes all the way back to slavery and the Jim Crow South when dogs were used as weapons to keep us Negros in check.  Many black folks seem to not be able to erase those images from their mind of young black men being mauled by a racist dog, egged on by a truck full of angry rednecks.

But all jokes aside, this is not necessarily a black and white issue for me and I think to frame the issue this way does a disservice to our humanity as black people. I know some whites who hate dogs and other domesticated animals as much as anyone else. And yet I have black friends, who not only love their dogs but have birthday parties and even dress them up in little stupid outfits (seriously, stop that).  Folks, who love, hate and abuse animals knows no colors or bounds.

As an owner of a 110-pound American Bulldog named Coltrane, it can be safely said that I belong to the group of black folks who too love dogs (and cats too) – although I am not at the point of dressing him up in little fu-fu outfits. However, growing up, I always had a healthy relationship with animals and was taught that God didn’t reserve the ideal of respect for life to just us humans.

Likewise, I didn’t have a problem with Vick’s conviction and subsequent punishment for the crime of dog fighting. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  And to breed dogs for the purpose of fighting and then electrocuting and drowning the losers because they didn’t fight ferociously enough, is not civilized or reflective of humanity.

However, Gandhi also said that, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  Vick has served his time and did repent through volunteer work with the Humane Society of America, where he regularly goes to speak to kids.  And if the president of the Humane Society feels that one day, Vick could be a loving owner to a dog – one day, than what does any of this have to do with football?

Yes, there are black folks, who love our dogs just as much as any human on the planet. And no, we can’t easily chalk up Vick’s past indiscretions to the notion that “they were just dogs.” However, we do believe that the narration being played out in the media needs to change from Vick, the dog fighter, to Vick, the man who has and continues to pay his debt to society and is now on the amending path.

The reality is that this phony outrage over Vick’s past treatment of dogs has little to do with the crime that he had been convicted of but more likely a reflection of the deep-seeded racial prejudice of black men with money. The same, so-called dog-loving activist Tucker Calson seemingly has no problem with Sarah Palin and her helicopter moose shooting expeditions.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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