Racism by Proxy

It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the color of his owner…

For anybody who thinks banning pit bulls is really about the dogs, we have an eye-opening quote for you from the great state of Michigan.  The city of Sterling Heights, MI is considering a few amendments to its dangerous dog statute following an “incident” involving, what the media is reporting as 2 “pit bulls.”  Of course one of the suggestions to “improve” the law is to add in breed specific language regarding pit bulls.

But is this really about pit bulls?

Jeff Norgrove, who is on the City of Sterling Heights Citizen Advisory Committee and was recently re-appointed to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program advocated for a pit bull ban at the city council meeting with the following statement:

“We need to immediately ban pit bulls and not include a grandfather clause for people who already own pit bulls.  We have inner city people who bought homes here … They don’t need to bring their pit bulls here. We need to do this before a child is killed.”

Just in case you missed that, he did in fact say. “We have inner city people who bought homes here … They don’t need to bring their pit bulls here.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement on so many levels…and I think we can help bring that into focus by translating his statement into the words Mr. Norgrove meant, but wasn’t brave enough to say:

“We have black and brown people who bought homes here…They don’t need to bring their pit bulls here.”

Inner city youth;  Inner city music;  Inner city outreach program;  Inner city high school; What do you think of when you read those things?  Can you think of any time where “inner city” means anything other than “poor” and “black?”

I have said before, if pit bulls were popular in rich, white neighborhoods, this whole issue would be handled quite differently.  Can you imagine anyone saying “A bunch of rich Wall Street tycoons just bought houses here…they don’t need to bring their pit bulls…”?

The prevalence of “pit bulls” and dogs that resemble pit bull types in poor, inner city neighborhoods makes this a class issue.  If there were more rich and politically powerful white people who could be affected by pit bull bans, then all of a sudden the problem wouldn’t be the dogs, it would be the owners.  It is much easier for a city to gloss over a complex issue with such a cursory and broad idea like a pit bull ban when the innocent people who are caught in the crossfire are assumed to have dark skin, no money and no voice.

If you would like to voice your displeasure with the idea of a pit bull ban, or more importantly if you would like to tell the city council how you feel about a racist having a place in their city’s politics, the contact information is here:

Mayor Richard Notte rnotte@sterling-heights.net
Joseph Ramano  cityhall@sterling-heights.net
Yvonne Kniaz  ykniaz@sterling-heights.net
Deanna Koski dkoski@sterling-heights.net
Maria Schmide  mgschmidt@sterling-heights.net
Michael Taylor  mtaylor@sterling-heights.net
Barbara Ziarko  bziarko@sterling-heights.net