Want to combat your prejudices? Expose yourself to ‘others’
The German Shepherd question that explains my take on racism
Recently, I was interviewed about dog training and being a dog walker. During the talk, there was an intriguing comment made by the interviewer about German Shepherds. I’m not sure why this question had never come up in 22 years of me being a dog owner and one year as a dog caregiver, but she told me she used to be really scared of German Shepherds because of the Civil Rights Movement photographs she saw as a kid. I knew exactly which well-known photograph she was talking about. I could instantly picture the young, black man who was helplessly being attacked by one dog while two police officers were doing nothing to stop it from happening.
If that was my entire exposure to German Shepherds, I would also be terrified of them. The same can be said for pit bulls. I was not a fan. All I heard about was attacks. But the combination of reporting on anti-dog fighting events from the Carroll Care Center and meeting a pit bull named Emma Rose who jumped up and licked me on the lips made me reevaluate my own prejudices against that breed. It’s hard to be scared of a dog who is that unapologetically affectionate from the minute I opened the crate. From that point on, it would be impossible for me to say “All pit bulls are violent,” especially after seeing almost a dozen of them cuddle up to their owners like purse dogs.
In answer to her query, I told her I spent half my life enjoying the company of German Shepherds, even after reading enough black history lessons to know what these dogs were capable of. Additionally, my father and grandfather constantly showed me photographs of their German Shepherd pet before I was born. Exposure to both breeds gave me a far more balanced view of them. But if we flip this question on its heels and subtract two of those four legs, could exposure be all people need to have less dangerous views about each other? I believe so.