I want to do more than post a “black square”.

I want to do more than post a “black square”.

Category : Uncategorized

Like many of you reading this, I posted a simple black square on instagram yesterday, 2nd June 2020, but in doing so I admit to feeling a little bit uncomfortable. Since yesterday I’ve been thinking about wanting to do more than just post that square.

Like all of you, I have been horrified by the recent events and by the death of George Floyd and I feel that I want to show some solidarity with the millions of people affected by oppression and injustice all over the world.

But, I’m asking myself what on earth can I do and what gives me the right to think I am qualified to write anything on this subject?

I am a privileged white woman, living in rural Scotland and working in the equestrian industry (more of that later). I have no personal experience of oppression and I am confident that I will never be judged negatively by, those in “authority”, on the colour of my skin. I am totally unqualified to write about this BUT I feel like I want to and therefore that’s what I’m doing.

I have just spent a few minutes scrolling through my Instagram feed and there is NOT ONE SINGLE photograph of a person with coloured skin…..NOT ONE.

I then chose two small equestrian clothing brands, two large ones and two equestrian photography businesses and scrolled through their websites looking for faces of people with dark coloured skin – NOT ONE! I’ll say that again – NOT ONE!! NB this wasn’t a “scientific” survey just a quick look for the purposes of this post.

I don’t for one minute believe that young people with dark coloured skin have no interest in horses, horse riding and all the fun that goes along with equestrian sport so why are they apparently completely absent? I don’t know the answer and I am not really qualified to speculate but I suspect that it is to do with equality, opportunity and, to some extent, an unconscious racism.

I also don’t believe that the owners of the businesses I looked at are consciously and deliberately aiming purely at white people but I do think it’s time for all of us working in the equestrian industry to ask ourselves some challenging questions.

So what can I do and what can we all do? I don’t know what we can do on a large scale but I would like to suggest a couple of things we might do on a personal level. Again, I stress, that I don’t consider myself to really be qualified to write on this subject but I am speaking from my heart here.

The first thing which comes to my mind is the well known phrase adopted by Friends of the Earth in the 1970’s, and obviously related to the environmental movement, “Think globally and act locally” and in this context the local action comes down to the behaviour of individuals.

What I can choose to do is to challenge myself daily to become aware of those situations where I might judge another person on their appearance and make unconscious assumptions based on that judgement. I like to think that I don’t judge people on their appearance, after all I am a trained therapist working with all sorts of different people, but I think I probably do, unconsciously, and I intend to work hard to be aware of this and make changes where needed. If I start with the people I am meeting locally then that can only have a positive effect.

If EVERY person reading this chooses to challenge themselves in the same way then maybe, just maybe, together we can start a ripple of change?

The second thing I can do locally is to challenge other’s throwaway remarks which might reflect prejudice against people based on their background, colour and appearance. I don’t want to antagonise my friends and acquaintances but if I challenge people kindly then perhaps I can raise awareness and I think YOU could probably do that too.

The final thing I can do is to investigate ways that I can support genuine movements which campaign against oppression and in favour of real justice for all. And this is something which YOU can do as well.

Some reading this may question why I have written on this subject and that’s OK. It just felt like the right thing for me to do today.

Thank you for reading this.

Replace the ugliness of oppression and injustice with the beauty of nature and kindness.

5 Comments

Geezer!

June 3, 2020 at 10:06 pm

Very thought provoking……and you are so right.

    Jane

    June 4, 2020 at 5:49 am

    Thanks Iain.

Robert Brice

June 16, 2020 at 7:36 am

Thanks for writing this Jane. Sadly, its not surprising that it is mostly white faces that are seen in horse riding in the UK. Like sailing, a world that I know about, riding in the UK is a recreation of the affluent. Unfortunately the economic status of many BAME people in the UK falls well below that required of horse or yacht ownership, or culturally would encourage participation in these worlds.

However, beyond the UK there are positive stories to be found. But these involve contexts where horses are worked rather than used for recreation. One I know about is in Northern Queensland where Aborginal Australians work in cattle stations. Jack and Jillaroos muster cattle on horseback and have a working life which entwines land, animal and culture. This work provides a positive identity and, to the outsider, an almost romantic role model which has been represented in the art and culture of contemporary Australia. In this setting, the horse and our relationship to it, serves as a totemic alternative to social alienation and alcoholism for young aborigines in the Northern Terretories.

There will be other stories too, historical and current, in the domains of the military and policing where horses are still used in working and ceremonial roles. Just look at the riots in London in the last few days. Horses were in the thick of it. I wonder if BAME are on horseback there?

But looking locally to our experience, there are further parallels with sailing and horesriding. Both of these recreations have opened their doors positively to people with disabilities. Riding for the Disabled, Able2Sail, The Ocean Youth Trust are charities which reach out to build participation and widen the horizons of people with disabilities. Perhaps riding and sailing could go further. There are many charities operating in urban settings to build confidence and positive identities for people from BAME backgrounds. Given what’s happening now in the Black Lives Matter movement, perhaps riding and sailing charities could align themselves more closely by creating experiences where people from BAME backgrounds feel welcomed and encouraged to participate. It has been done successfully for people wth disabilities. The black lives matter movement compells society to move forward and evolve. There’s no reason why the pursuits of the affluent should not be compelled to do so too.

    Jane

    June 16, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Robert, Thanks for taking time to read this and to respond.
    Since I published this post I’ve been greatly encouraged to discover that there are very many people within the equestrian world who have also been moved by recent events. There are many examples of people who are obviously taking time to educate themselves and also to share experiences, both positive and negative.
    I have also found out about a number of inner city riding clubs, such as the Ebony Club in Brixton, which are giving opportunities to many who otherwise wouldn’t have contact with horses and horse riding.
    My hope is that the ripples have started, and continue, to spread.

      Robert Brice

      June 16, 2020 at 7:54 am

      Very good to hear there are inner city riding clubs Jane. I shall speak with the guys in Able2Sail to see how we can reach out.

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