Black People Don't Hate Dogs. We Just Hate When Their Lives Are Valued More Than Ours

Michael Vick (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)
Michael Vick (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

My Pittsburgh Steelers are apparently courting Michael Vick to become their new back up QB.

There are several reasons to be for (i.e.: the Steelers haven't had a back up QB with an actual pulse since Charlie Batch) or against (i.e.: Michael Vick is the same age as "Rapper's Delight") this move. (For the record, I'm for it.) None of these reasons, however, should have anything to do with dogs.

Unfortunately — and predictably — Vick's decade-old history of financing a multi-state dog fighting ring has been brought up by many as a reason why the Steelers — and every other team — should stay clear of him. This despite the fact that Vick has already been punished legally and financially and has continued to be an outspoken advocate against animal abuse since his release. (And despite the fact that the Steelers' most prominent player — someone we seem to have no trouble cheering for — has been accused multiple times of sexually violating actual human women.)


Just as predictably, the Vick argument seems to be split down racial lines. Obviously, not all White football fans believe Michael Vick should be persona non grata. And there are also many who just don't want to see the Steelers sign Vick because, even in his athletic prime, he was turnover and injury-prone. But the people who remain extra vehement and vigilant with their Vick hate do tend to be White. And this conversation often leads to another conversation about certain types of White people valuing the lives of dogs more than the lives of Black people. Which then often leads to another conversation about Black people not valuing the lives of dogs at all.

Now, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the history between American Blacks and domesticated dogs is not a complicated one. This history is also — like literally everything else American — rife with racial context. Dogs cannot be racist. Even "White Dog" — the dog from White Dog, a movie about a dog trained to be racist — wasn't racist. But they have been used as tools by racists to control, scare, hunt, catch, and even kill Blacks. Any historically accurate depiction of slave overseers or racist police attempting to subdue civil rights activists can not be created without them also present. And, again, while the dogs were not at fault for any of this, it's understandable why a Black American — specifically a Black American born before 1970 — would less likely to be as enamored with dogs as many White Americans seem to be.

That said, there are thousands — millions, even — of Black Americans who currently own and/or love dogs. Myself included. We (collectively) do not hate them. We just hate it when their lives seem to be valued more than ours.

From "Getting to Know Mickey" — a piece I wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last year after the absurd local news coverage given to the death of a police dog:

While no one would expect each resident of the city to mourn each and every time a fellow Pittsburgher fell to violence, the attention given to and sympathy expressed for Rocco feels bizarre when juxtapositioned with the consideration usually given to homicide victims. Even the recognition given to homicide victims who also happen to be nationally recognized heroes — as Hosea Davis was when saving Allison Meadows’ life last year — pales in comparison to the coverage and public condolence Rocco has received.


Will Michael Vick sign with the Steelers? I don't know. But I do know that if he does, and he happens to get into a game, I will be watching. With my pit bull laying next to the couch, watching with me. And I won't think twice about cheering.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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Medium Meech

2) Michael Vick has done more to raise awareness and funds for cruelty than any other person in the history of the entire world.

A) Charlie Batch was really underrated as a quarterback. Would have been interesting to see him on a team besides the lions for most of his career.

IV) These Millennial dogs are spoiled. I remember when dogs used to actually have jobs like guarding houses or hunting, not sitting around waiting for handouts. All up in the bed. Dogs used to actually move into their own houses when they were old enough and got their paper right. Now all I see on youtube are cats all up in the dog video, smacking dogs in the face, wearing ironic sweaters and hipster boots. Cujo, now that was a real dog. He wouldn't have narced on Vick.