How Mad Should I Be When White People Greet And Talk To My Dog When I'm Walking Him Instead Of Me?


Mickey, the 13-year-old Pit Bull/Labrador mix that lives with us and totally, absolutely, definitely never helped me solicit prostitutes, has had a difficult time adjusting to the presence of the Feminist Octopus. His behavior hasn't changed much; he's still the laconic, (usually) well-behaved, and personable dog who I still kinda think is a dude in a dog uniform. But the attention we lavish on our daughter means there's just much less of it for him. Even something as simple as petting him becomes a process now because we can't (and won't) pet him and then pick up or feed or play with the Octopus without washing our hands inbetween; which means that sometimes, if given the choice between petting him and then making the 15 foot walk to the kitchen sink or just not petting him and staying my ass on the couch, the couch wins.


As a result, when I walk him and he happens to encounter another human being — which is frequent because I live on the same block as a popular bar, a park, and a YMCA — he occasionally acts like a hostage just released from a chained-in basement prison. He wags his tail, he humps legs, he shakes his nose, he pirouettes, he scratches his ass; shit I think this nigga would crochet a blanket if I gave him some yarn. And since my neighborhood is (mostly) White, and the only thing these White people seem to love more than dogs are craft beers and catching typos, his enthusiasm is usually matched and occasionally surpassed. (One of my neighbors consistently greets him by getting on her knees and giving him a massage. And once last week it got so intimate that they both needed cigarettes afterwards.)

This is mostly amusing, except for one thing that, while it doesn't happen all the time, happens enough that it's officially a thing now. I'll be walking Mickey, and I'll encounter a person (and sometimes even a group of people) who'll greet, pet, talk to, and French kiss him, and then will walk away without once even acknowledging me. No "Hey!", no head nod, no smile, no eye contact — nothing. Like the dog is being walked by an invisible man.

Of course, since I'm totally, definitely, absolutely one of those people who makes every single thing that has ever happened and will ever happened about race — I have no qualms about blaming everything from weather patterns and weight gain to misplaced phone chargers and JaVale McGee's rat tail on racism — my natural first reaction is to assume that this happens because those White people value dog lives more than Black ones. And the natural reaction to that reaction is some combination of fury, righteousness, pity, incredulousness, and disappointment — basically the Tyrone Brandyburg face. The audacity of these motherfuckers to disrespect me! And I'm urged to say something. Maybe a sarcastic "Good evening to you too." Perhaps even "you's a, you's a, you's a— Bitch, your hormones prolly switch inside your DNA! Problem is, all that sucker shit inside your DNA! Daddy prolly snitched, heritage inside your DNA!"

But, something else always happens instead. Nothing. I actually hate talking to people when I haven't deemed conversation at that time to be pertinent or necessary. Which basically constitutes 95% of small talk, and 95,000% of the conversations that occur when I happen to be walking my dog. Although I feel like I should be upset at this affront, I'm actually happy that they're so consumed by my dog that I don't have to speak. (Basically, if you see me and you want to act all brand new and not speak to me, great! I beg you, please continue acting brand new!)

As you can see, this creates quite a pickle. The disrespect is obvious and I should be annoyed by it. But I enjoy not talking to random people so much that I wish this disrespect happened more often, and I don't know what to do. I can't let these White people slide. But I actually really want to. Please help!

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)



I think some of us are invisible in certain spaces to them. Was at an event in downtown DC Saturday evening. Was walking down the stairs to leave the building, and a YT girl was a few steps behind me. I held the door open for her
just basic common courtesy. She didn't glance at me, didn't thank me, simply walked right by me as if I was invisible. I was heated and tempted to call her out but let it go.