There has been some conflict recently in a dog training community that I consider myself a part of. I know I know, what else is new, right?
This time, the source of this conflict was a seemingly innocuous question. Someone observed that the dog training/dog sports community appeared to skew towards white women, and wondered how we might make the community more welcome to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). Some of us were thrilled that this person bothered to ask this question. Others felt this community was not the place for this kind of discussion.
I have considered posting this response within that community but I have concerns about my voice getting lost in the mix. I also worry my comments will disappear as has happened with the original post asking this question.
At this time, I feel safer posting here on my own blog, so here are some ways you can support the BIPOC Dog Trainers and dog sport competitors in your life.
- Listen to us: When we find the courage to tell you about our challenges. Sit down, and listen. We don’t need you solve our problems, we don’t need you to tell us it will be okay. We certainly don’t need you to change the subject because you are uncomfortable. We need you to bear witness to our pain.
- Show up for us: We need you to show up for us and perform some of the emotional labour involved in combating racism. This means challenging racist beliefs, actions and policies when you see them. At home, at work, in the dog sport community, and in your professional organizations.
- Increase Our Visibility: In order to feel welcome in a community, we need to know that we are not alone. How many people of color do you know in YOUR dog sport community? What are you doing to promote them or highlight their success? Increasing our visibility can be as simple as liking a business page and commenting on a post, or referring someone to a qualified BIPOC trainer in your area. It can be as large as recommending a BIPOC as a presenter at your next industry conference.
- Increase our opportunities: Providing educational opportunities to BIPOC, provides a way to encourage us into your industry. You can do this on a small scale by offering a free or discounted class to a BIPOC. You can do this on a larger scale by offering professional training to BIPOC at a discounted rate.
- Pay us: If someone has dedicated their time and energy to becoming qualified to provide you with a training or behavior service, we deserve to be paid for our work. Do not ask us for a discount, do not ask us for free behavior advice.
I am sure that as I process things, I will have other things to add here, but I believe this is a good start.