Pride and Prejudice

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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke

In the September of 2009, the City of Brook Park enacted  BSL.  According to the City of Brook Park’s website:

PLEASE NOTE: ALL Pit Bull Dogs, Canary Dogs and American Bulldogs are deemed to be dangerous animals, and must be registered with the Brook Park Animal Control Department. A Pit Bull Dog means any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog. If there is any question about whether a dog’s breed falls into any of the above categories, the Safety Director or his/her designee shall make the determination as to the breed of the dog.

The logic of laws such as this befuddle and confound me.  Though a countless number of resources have proven time and time again that these dogs are no more dangerous than any other breed of dog, they are still enacted and upheld.  Per All Breeds Lakewood, a local group dedicated to responsible dog ownership as well as ending BSL:

It’s been nearly five years since Ohio repealed state-wide Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Instead of defining a “vicious dog” by its breed, the Ohio legal system defines it by behavior alone. Unfortunately, despite this progressive state-wide change, our otherwise welcoming and diverse city of Lakewood, OH blindly prohibits the ownership of certain breeds. All Breeds Lakewood is working to replace this ban with a more safe and effective law that protects citizens from dangerous dogs of all breeds and holds irresponsible owners accountable.

 

The list of organizations who oppose breed bans is growing exponentially, including:

 

  • American Bar Association
  • American Kennel Club
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Animal Control Association
  • National Canine Research Council
  • Obama Administration
  • State Farm Insurance
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • The U.S. Department of Justice

So despite overwhelming evidence that BSL is ineffective, costly, and enforced unequally, why does it still exist, and how can one explain cities introducing it?

In July of 2008, Lakewood City Council passed an ordinance that outlawed pit bulls within its borders. While all of us genuine dog lovers can agree that this is an extremely unfair and, frankly, unenforceable law, few believe that it was actually done for public safety.  The term “public safety” is bantered about like a overwhelmed parent throws out the word “maybe” to a child asking for a treat later.  We all know it means nothing.  We all know it’s a veneer to cover up an answer we really don’t like. For the City of Lakewood, as well as for quite a few other cities who instituted Breed Specific Legislation (“BSL”)  the answer is simple and horrific:  prejudice.

And I wish I were only referring to the prejudice against dogs.

There is a specific recipe for BSL to be enacted. Let’s take a look at several cities that enacted BSL, and how their demographics changed.

According to the 2000 census, city of Brook Park, Ohio had a demographic of:

-94.49% White
-1.95% Black
- 1.99% Hispanic

By the 2010 census, the city had vastly different numbers:

-92.19% White
- 3.25% Black
-3.45% Hispanic

That’s an increase of over 50% in the Black and Hispanic populations respectively. Meanwhile, the population of Whites went down by 11.6%. Interesting, but hardly noteworthy.  Until you start to connect the dots. Brook Park enacted their BSL in 2009.

Parma, for instance. Population of Whites in Parma has never dipped below 90%.  BSL was enacted in 1987, and has been going strong ever since.  No coincidence that it happened concurrently with the largest influx of Hispanics in the United States:

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, decennial census of population, 1980 to 2000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, decennial census of population, 1980 to 2000

Even better, this is how the population of Parma was broken down in 1990*:

  Total ancestries reported.........................................    120,938
Arab................................................................      1,429
Austrian............................................................        523
Belgian.............................................................         24
Canadian............................................................        126
Czech...............................................................      3,932
Danish..............................................................        120
Dutch...............................................................        686
English.............................................................      6,425
Finnish.............................................................        127
French (except Basque)..............................................      1,543
French Canadian.....................................................        293
German..............................................................     26,348
Greek...............................................................      1,197
Hungarian...........................................................      5,746
Irish...............................................................     12,379
Italian.............................................................     11,827
Lithuanian..........................................................        413
Norwegian...........................................................        169
Polish..............................................................     16,218
Portuguese..........................................................         43
Romanian............................................................        542
Russian.............................................................      1,459
Scotch-Irish........................................................        821
Scottish............................................................      1,157
Slovak..............................................................     12,603
Subsaharan African..................................................         30 
Swedish.............................................................        622
Swiss...............................................................        359
Ukrainian...........................................................      3,743
United States or American...........................................      1,626
Welsh...............................................................        663
West Indian (excluding Hispanic origin groups)......................          0
Yugoslavian.........................................................      2,436
Other ancestries....................................................      5,309

*source: Ohio Census Archives (1990) 

Perhaps the biggest change came in Lakewood, who started 2000 with a showing of 93.07% for the white population.  By 2010, that number dropped down to 87.47%, as the Black population increased to an amazing 199% during that ten year period. Hispanics had a dramatic 69.19% increase in their population as well.  It was during this growth that the BSL was enacted in 2008.

So far I’ve only shown that an increase in minorities in a cities triggered BSL.  But what about cities that don’t have BSL?  Is there a correlation?  Let’s see surrounding cities’ numbers.

Bay Village – 2000

98.05% White, 0.27% Black, 0.98% Hispanic

2010

96.97% White, 0.54% Black, 1.6% Hispanic

So yes, while the black population nearly doubled, that’s not saying much if the Black population literally started at 43 and went up to 85.  That’s right: total population of Bay village as of 2010 is 15,651, with only 85 of those individuals being Black.

So obviously the issue isn’t an increase of Black nor Hispanic population in a city.  It’s the reoccurring theme of an increase in the number minorities in an overwhelmingly White population.  Let’s face it: 85 Blacks in a city of 15,651 isn’t a staggering increase.  At least not an increase that might pose a political threat.  Because that’s what BSL is: an effort to preserve Our Way Of Life.  Let’s look at how many Black or Hispanic city council members there are/were in each city.  How many mayors were of a minority group?  From the looks of it….

I’m not going to say, because nobody can tell ethnicity based upon how someone looks. But what I will say is that these individuals all agreed that a pitbull can be identified by how it looks.  By the way, how is that going so far, Lakewood? How many times has a dog been misidentified as “pitbull” when in fact it wasn’t?  What about obvious pitbulls that have been given the green light by officials?

Let’s call BSL what it is: another attempt by White politicians to keep out minorities.  Or rather, the minorities who have committed the faux pas of not removing every trace of their culture.  For not trying to “pass” as White.  The sin of not trying to assimilate. Basketball courts disappearing overnight in 2006 in Lakewood. Quoted in Michael Gill’s article Scene:

Councilwoman Madigan is not opposed to returning basketball courts to Lakewood. She simply lays forth a series of conditions for doing so that paint their own picture of the trouble they brought to the neighborhood in the first place.

“What would be ideal is a fenced area where kids and adults had an ID, and there was tracking, and you could tell who was there at what time, and it would be documented by cameras,” she says, describing a hoops paradise George Orwell might have envisioned.

An ID to play basketball.  Let that sink in for a moment.

If you’re still questioning the basis of BSL being rooted in racism, please remember what Jeff Theman of Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent pointed out:

During the 1980s and ’90s, this law spread like wild fire, hitting several larger urban cities. In one paragraph of a report by sociologist Arnold Arluke called “Ethnozoology and the Future of Sociology” (published in the 2003 International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Volume 23, Number 3), a single excerpt about the collaborative effort between law enforcement and animal control explained it with clarity:

“To accomplish their overlapping aims, members of this task force carried out joint ‘sweeps’ in suspected inner-city neighborhoods to spot ‘suspicious’ dog owners and disarm them by taking their animals. Driving through certain high-risk urban neighborhoods allowed for opportunistic spotting of African Americans walking with Pit Bulls on sidewalks or sitting on stoops with their animals, the assumption being that these dogs were not mere pets but illegal and dangerous weapons. Task force members would ask if dogs were properly licensed and, if not, seize and take them to the local shelter. Of course, the apparent owner was told that a license could be applied for if proper forms were completed, including name, address, phone number, all to be verified. However, task-force members believe that these individuals do not want to show their licenses if they have them or apply for new ones if they do not, in order to remain anonymous from authorities.”

Lakewood, is an amazing, wonderful town.  But like so many other cities, it has a problem with minorities.  From cops breaking a young black girl’s jaw to removing basketball hoops to BSL.  We all know racism when we see it.  It’s time we do something about it.  Yes, this is still about good dogs being removed from loving homes for how they look.  It’s still about judging a dog based upon its merits and not its breed.  And yes, it is still about racism and prejudice, and I’ll be damned if I’ll stand idly by and watch it happen again.

 keep-calm-and-stop-racism-19Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

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