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Are blacks dogged by fear of canines?

Why are so many African-American people afraid of dogs? I have experienced this phenomenon in several different places I’ve lived. I’ve asked others (not African-American people for I fear I may offend them with this question) and some believe it has to do with the civil rights movement, when authorities used to sic police dogs on the protesters. But I’ve noticed that many African-Americans too young to have remembered the civil rights movement are automatically terrified of my dogs – even though they are harmless-looking miniature schnauzers! What’s the story?

Gina21691, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 32, City : New Orleans, State : LA, Country : United States, Occupation : Elementary school teacher, 11245

Replies

What you witnessed was not in any way connected to one’s ethnicity. Many people are cautious of menacing dogs. I am a black female who has been around dogs all of my life and will play with friendly animals, but will shy away from angry or charging animals because I don’t want to get bitten.

Renee32497, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation: Straight, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Christian, Age : 34, City : New Orlenas, State : LA, Country : United States, Occupation : self-employed, Education level : 2 Years of College

In my case, I am distrustful of animals that I am not familiar with. And I know a number of black folks who are the same way. My reasons: First, because my mom didn’t allow us to keep pets. Second, before we moved to the suburbs, in our neighborhood, the street was lined with apartment buildings, so not a lot of people were allowed to keep large dogs, maybe small ones or cats, if any pets at all. So once I moved to a neighborhood with single-family homes and townhouses (not to say the city that I lived in didn’t have them, but they were inhabited mostly by whites), a lot of the neighbors had pets, large and small. But I would really have to be familiar with someone’s pet (like for months; maybe a year) to be comfortable enough for them to approach me and for me to pet them.

Summer, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation: Straight, Race : Black Latina, Age : 24, City : Washington, State : DC, Country : United States, Education level : 4 Years of College

My neighbors are originally from Nigeria. I have a female doberman mix who is excitable yet nice enough to be a good family pet. Once, their kids came over to play with my brother, and my dog started going ballistic. Usually when she sees a new face she’ll bark excitedly, but she was growling and snarling like mad and literally ripping at the chainlink gate with her teeth trying to get at them. This puzzled me greatly, and after a bit of research I discovered that since dogs only see in black and white, a person with very dark skin literally looks like a solid shadow to them. They can’t distinguish the person’s facial features or bodily form, so they basically think they’re seeing a poltergeist. So naturally, dogs that are not used to being around dark-skinned people are more likely to get hostile when they do see someone, which is why many black people are nervous around dogs. Also, I remember having to protect this small kid I was mentoring at the time (who happened to be black) from some Nazi redneck guy who was trying to sic his pitbull on him (yeah, that’s reeaal brave), so remember that such hostility didn’t die with segregation.

Dan31634, Gender : M, Race : Hispanic/Latino (may be any race), Religion : Pentecostal Christian, Age : 21, City : L.A. area, State : CA, Country : United States, Occupation : student/dishwasher, Social class : Lower middle class,

Perhaps you should ask someone you know who is afraid of dogs why it is so. You may find that the answer is personal, having nothing to do with their culture. Incidentally, which do you think is more offensive: to ask a person IF their fear is culturally related, or to quietly assume that it is and judge them on that assumption?

Mandi, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation: Straight, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Baptist, Age : 21, City : Boston, State : MA, Country : United States, Occupation : student, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class

I too have noticed this phenomenon, over and over, although I hesitate to justify stereotypes. I have asked African-American friends I trust to understand my motivation, and have found no universal answer. My thought is that dogs were used as far back as slavery to keep the slaves at work and in line. Although my neighbors, who are currently petrified of dogs, obviously have no direct memory of slavery and dogs, they were raised by people who were raised by people who were raised by people, etc., who would have been menaced by animals. It seems to me that this fear would be easily passed down through generations who had no direct reason to justify the fear.

Terry24712, City : Richmond, State : VA, Country : United States

I thought I’d just throw out that I’ve never met a person as frightened of dogs as I am, and I’m white. I think it stems from not having grown up with any pets in the house … maybe the same goes for the black people you’ve met?

SR28457, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 21, City : Austin, State : TX, Country : United States, Occupation : student

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