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There has been much discussion of late, both in the blogs and in the TradMed of the impact of the Obama Presidency on race relations in America.  We are all Americans, which means we are eternal optimists.  In our heart of hearts, we want to believe that having our first African-American president is a giant leap for mankind.  

Well, okay, maybe not so much.  We are experiencing the ongoing, not-so-dog-whistle racism of the Birthers, and then there was the tragi-comedy of the Professor Gates incident.  But perhaps these actions represent extremist movements or the institutionalized racism sometimes found in established venues, like law enforcement.  Regular day-to-day individual Americans don’t go down that road anymore.  I made a  comment in a recent diary about the rise and fall of racism in our country and a fellow poster suggested I turn the notion into a diary.   Follow me over the fold, if you dare, while I relate three episodes from my own narrative that suggests something quite to the contrary.

Before I begin, I should point out that I chose my user name based on my passion for horses in general and the Thoroughbred breed in particular.  I mention this because I received quite a surprise a few weeks ago when a poster pointed out that "Thoroughbred" has quite a different connote in the GLBT world:

(My thanks to those who contributed to my education!)

This is not a digression, it is my love for all things equine that have led me to experiencing some (but by no means all) of the  worst episodes of bigotry in my life.  For some reason, in the region of the nation in which I lived at the time (and still do), you simply don't see African-Americans very often.  Unless they are the grooms or stable hands. My life's ambition was to enter a world that had no idea what to make of me - so they automatically disliked me.  To me it is doubly tragic, as these magnificent creatures - mentioned with love and awe in the Bible and the Koran - are virtually color blind.  They care not for the ethnicity of their companion, but only for the quality of the horsemanship.  

My love affair with horses began with my earliest memories, perhaps at 3 years old.  It never faded as some childhood obsessions do.  It increased.  This was in central Indiana in the early ‘70's, and the city was not exactly a bastion of liberalism.  At least behind closed doors.  There were several establishments where Persons of Color were distinctly unwelcome - no "Whites Only" signs, mind you.  No covenants to sign.  Merely an unspoken, but nonetheless loudly shouted, "No N*ggas Need Be Here".  A Gentleman’s Agreement, if you will.  

One such place was the only riding academy within practical distance of my parent’s home.    I nagged.  I begged.  I pleaded.  I cried.  I bargained.  (I declined to throw a tantrum, since the results of that would have been an @ss-kicking so severe it would have been brought to the attention of a modern-day DCFS worker - if not Amnesty International)

Finally, at age 11, after having explained for the umteenth time about the Silent Agreement, my mother, completely exasperated said,

Okay - You call and ask if they let Negroes ride and if they do I’ll take you over there


So there I was.  Telephone book in lap, one sweaty hand on the rotary dial phone, staging my very own Rosa Parks moment.  I dialed.  It rang.  A voice answered.

"Do you let Negroes ride at your barn?"

The young white male voice sputtered, but eventually got out "Yeah, sure."

"I’ll be there in 10 minutes"

True to her word, my mom took me to the barn, signed all the liability waivers and I was given a temporary membership card.  And the rest of the afternoon was golden.  They put me up on a buckskin Quarterhorse, and I was cantering within 1/2 hour.  It was the most blissful moment in a stress-filled childhood.

Flash forward two weeks.  School started again, and I was delighted to learn that my lab partner also was horse-mad.  When I mentioned that I was a member of the Stable she looked a little surprised, but it didn’t stop us from setting up an immediate riding date.

Well, that ride didn’t happen.  My mother being otherwise engaged, my Aunt took me to the barn and knowing the reputation of the place, decided to stay to watch.  What she saw was me getting literally yanked off the back of a horse by a middle-aged white woman and told that I was no member there.  So I got to watch my friend ride and at every circle of the arena she would stop to let me pat her horse.  My aunt later told me she’d never seen anything so heartbreaking.

When my mother was told, the little 4'-11" firebrand of a civil rights advocate burst into action.  I never knew exactly what she did, but I do know she called the Mayor (Now the senior Senator from Indiana).  I don’t know what pressure was brought to bear, but the next thing I knew was, I was re-issued a membership card and enrolled in riding classes. Nirvana!

The barn owner, the lady who dragged me off the horse?  Didn’t say a word to me directly for another year.  If she needed to tell me to do something in the arena, she would address her remarks to whatever horse I was riding.  After watching me successfully complete a small hunters course a year later she grudgingly admitted:

You got talent.

Bring it forward 30 years. That hole "life" thing kind of got in the way of my riding, but I finally got back into horses.  Then this happened

You don't have to read the whole diary.  Suffice to say that a case of mistaken identity in a stable led to a hilarious conclusion.  Or not.

The perfect teachable moment, no?  Teachers, really, really good teachers have to be patient.  They have to be forgiving.  They have to be loyal.  They have to love unconditionally and impartially.

I’ve moved on from that barn to another and yet another (trainers move around and ya gotta go where the horse is, ya know?)  My dressage coach has just recently parked her two horses at a new barn - a facility that gives the phrase "sybaritic" a whole new meaning.  The absolute ne plus ultra of luxury (more for the owners than for the horses, IMHO).

The horsey world is small.  Stay in it long enough, and you’ll always see the same people.  I went for a lesson on Sunday, and ran square into one of the trainers from my old barn.  I’ve never been a favorite of hers, although I’ve never been anything but perfectly polite and professional with her.  She was standing with the mother of one of the younger students - a nice woman with an even nicer little girl.  I walked over to renew acquaintances.  The trainer gave a double-take and demanded:

What are YOU doing here?

(Emphasis most emphatically NOT mine).

She didn’t like me, not for who I am.  But for what I am.   How far have we come?  Not very.  Teachable?  Perhaps.  But I fear I am an inadequate instructor.

At The Closed Gate of Justice (1922) - James D. Corrothers -

To be a Negro in a day like this
Demands forgiveness.  Bruised with blow on blow,
Betrayed, like him whose woe dimmed eyes gave bliss
Still must one succor those who brought one low,
To be a Negro in a day like this

To be a Negro in a day like this
Demands rare patience - patience that can wait
In utter darkness.  ‘Tis the path to miss,
and knock, Unheeded, at an iron gate,
To be a Negro in a day like this.

To be a Negro in a day like this
Demands strange loyalty.  We serve a flag
Which is to us white freedom’s emphasis.
Ah!   One must love when Truth and Justice lag,
To be a Negro in a day like this

To be a Negro in a day like this -
Alas!  Lord God, what evil have we done?
Still shines the gate, all gold and amethyst,
But I pass by, the glorious goal unwon
"Merely a Negro" - in a day like this!

Originally posted to luvsathoroughbred on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 12:04 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My family trained (8+ / 0-)

    Tennessee walking horses.  They never got credit though.  In those days only the white folks were called 'trainers'.

    Good diary.

    Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker upon the planet. Emerson

    by Robinswing on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 12:16:34 PM PDT

  •  Two great diaries - and I didn't know that (8+ / 0-)

    other definition of Thoroughbred either.  

    HOPE for CA:

    by slowbutsure on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 12:34:08 PM PDT

  •  tipped and recc'd (9+ / 0-)

    You do you, my sister... and on the days they start to work a nerve keep a word from Mary J on your mind...

    "let 'em get mad; they're gonna hate anyway; doncha get that? It doesn't matter if you go along with their plan... they'll never be happy 'cause they're not happy with themselves..."

    •  And thank you! (6+ / 0-)

      And boy, are you right on the $$$

      Maybe these folks need to read a little Richard III

      And learn that they have no pity for themselves, so why should others pity them?

      Thanks for stopping in!

      Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

      by luvsathoroughbred on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 12:52:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  as a black man... (6+ / 0-)

        ...who performs primarily classical music ( hence the screen name ) I've learned a little bit about those 'tudes we encounter when someone looks at you and thinks you don't belong...

        I tell them "if you think you hated me when you saw me, wait until you hear me sing..." I've gone on auditions and had people complain that it wasn't fair to have to sing after me... and sometimes it's worth it to see the look on a face... like when my wife and I were in Vegas at the Venetian and the gondolier was doing a not so good rendition of "La Donna E Mobile"... the idea of a black man singing it in flawless Italian had obviously never crossed his mind; my wife told him to close his mouth because he was catching flies.

        We not only belong; we run this thing... and that, ultimately, is what they fear most...

        •  I took lessons in classic opera (6+ / 0-)

          when I was in high school.  

          But what I really loved was it so helped me extend my vocal range that when I sang "Got To Be There" at my senior high school musicale, that I got a standing ovation!!!

          We not only belong; we run this thing... and that, ultimately, is what they fear most..

          You have nailed it, my friend.  What we are seeing from the Beck's and the Malkin's and the Bachmann's is pure fear.  As I put it in a comment a few weeks ago.

          The N*ggah is in charge.  And he is the smartest person in the room.  Get.  The F*ck. Over It.

          Thanks so much for checking in, and let's sing a metaphorical duet some day!

          Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

          by luvsathoroughbred on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 08:00:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I have no clue about horses but I follow you (5+ / 0-)

    clearly and you make sense. Well said! Thanks for the diary!

    ...We have many issues that bind us together than separates us!

    by ThisIsMyTime on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 12:57:27 PM PDT

  •  Tipped and Rec'd (6+ / 0-)

    And I really wish I had seen your "Here Beginneth the Lesson" diary to tip and rec' it as well.

    I agree that the country really needs to have this out if we're ever going to get past 1959. I could wish that we'd have it out in a way that didn't involve our President getting 30 death threats per day (God bless the Secret Service!) but he seems to have the sangfroid and the backup to handle it and it's good to have the air clear up somewhat. In a way, the birthers are the best thing to come down in some time because everyone knows what they're really talking about and they're forcing people to unambiguously take sides. Their trip through the public space has offered us some very revealing glimpses into the white Christian male power structure, and some highly entertaining attempts to defend it.

    [F]or too many, the cruelty of our system is part of its appeal. - eightlivesleft

    by oldjohnbrown on Tue Aug 04, 2009 at 02:21:04 PM PDT

  •  I used to manage a small hunter barn in (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, radarlady, luvsathoroughbred

    Noblesville in the early 80's. Did you ever show at the big yearly show, Hunter Point, was it? They were decent folks and I think they would have been okay with a little more diversity, but when I was stuck in Richmond after I had to drop out of Earlham, man, that was another matter. The college was great, a Quaker school, so you'd expect that, but when I was working in the town it couldn't have been more different. I worked in a restaurant for a while and one of the guys I worked with most was AA. Great guy, 6'4", linebacker sized, nicest person you'd ever want to meet. We had a lot of fun and I never gave it a thought, but when my truck broke down and I had to take the bus, he was afraid to walk to the bus stop with me or to be seen talking to me while we waited for the bus. I mean he was genuinely afraid. I thought he was joking and giving me a bad time at first. I was floored when I realized he was serious, then furious, this was 1982 or 83, the civil rights movement had dealt with all that mess twenty years earlier, how on earth could this still be an issue? I couldn't believe it. It was the first time I'd ever run headlong into racial bigotry of that magnitude, ('course, I grew up in SoCal in the 60's and 70's, so it really was a different world). I wish I could say it was the last, but I never ran into anything quite that bad again. And several years ago I got stuck flying back to Kentucky for my niece's wedding, (my middle sister's first husband was black, so my niece is like Obama), we were all a little nervous about the reception that Tina's dad's side of the family was going to get, but even in south central Kentucky there was no problem at all. We sat in the hotel bar after the reception, and even with me sitting talking to Tina's uncles, we didn't even get any dirty looks, and I was watching for them. So it's taken 40 years longer than it should have, but it is finally at least better than it was.

    BTW, horse crazy comes in two forms, the acute form hits just before the teens and burns out when dating and cars transfer and absorb all the enegy. The chronic form, however, usually has an earlier onset, is totally incurable, and lasts for a lifetime. That's the one we have. Very expensive disease.  ;-) Do you show in dressage?

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Wed Aug 05, 2009 at 12:04:12 AM PDT

    •  Good morning! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I did one Hunter show in 1979 as I recall.  But I know the Noblesville area well.  (My brother lives in Carmel, and believe me, I give him endless amounts of $hit over it {grins!}

      BTW, horse crazy comes in two forms, the acute form hits just before the teens and burns out when dating and cars transfer and absorb all the enegy. The chronic form, however, usually has an earlier onset, is totally incurable, and lasts for a lifetime. That's the one we have. Very expensive disease.  ;-)

      This TOTALLY cracked me up!  I have the chronic, early on-set form and I believe it's hereditary.  I'm the only one in my generation with it, but the daughter of my first cousin was bitten early.  Funny story - I hadn't talked to my cousin for a long time, and suddenly got a call out of the blue.  It seems my Aunt (mentioned in my diary) had been telling her grandaughter all about my horse madness and how much alike Madison (my cousin) and I were.  So I get this phone call out of the blue

      What the hell is a Dutch Warmblood?

      About $60,000, why do you ask?

      I feel for my cousin - if Madison does turn out like me, he's in for a world of hurt!

      I've not shown since I was a teenager and dinosauers were walking the earth.  But I'm on the edge of purchasing and I see some low-mid level dressage shows in the future!

      Thanks so much for dropping into this diary.  I've never been rescued before - it feels great!

      Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

      by luvsathoroughbred on Wed Aug 05, 2009 at 06:23:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah, Carmel-by-the-stoplight, I remember it well.. (0+ / 0-)

        A really worthy place to give someone grief over ;-)

        I'm glad you got rescued, it's so easy to miss good diaries in all the volume out there. I've seen your comments occasionally and assumed that your handle referred to horses, not the other connotation, ::grin::, but hadn't had the chance to connect and find out for sure.

        I started early, too. I vaguely remember being on a pony at someone's b-day when I was very young. I remember it mostly because I was mad that they wouldn't give me the reins and they took me off waaay too soon.::grin:: And so it began... OTOH, the chronic form not only generally puts off dating, but the practice of developing teamwork, being firm but subtle, communicating across species lines, and learning to say, 'Get off of me!' and mean it are all valuable when dating does commence. You can run that by them and see if it comforts your cousin at all, lol.

        I haven't got the whole posting pix thing down yet, but if you get bored sometime swing by raingatefarms dot us and check out some of my guys if you like.


        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Wed Aug 05, 2009 at 11:35:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great Diary (4+ / 0-)

    Glad it was rescued.

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