Commentary: Black Dog Syndrome and the Fear of Blackness

Black animals are less likely to get adopted, and experts think that happens for a lot of the same reasons people are scared of Black people.

Racism works in mysterious ways. It’s global, it varies in degree, and sometimes it depends on the actual shade of a person’s skin. All racism is toxic, of course, but it is also all very different. But did you know anti-Black feelings could extend to the world of animals, as well?

It’s been the talk of a great many blogs lately: Black Dog Syndrome. According to humane societies and pet adoptions centers around North America, black dogs (and cats) are far less likely to be adopted by people looking for animal companions.

“Some believe black dogs are more aggressive,” the Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. There are also superstitions — don’t let a black cat cross your path, for instance — that hinder black pet adoption.

In TV shows and movies, black dogs and dark breeds such as Doberman Pinschers are portrayed as violent and dangerous more often than white dogs (sound familiar?). The end result of all this fearmongering is un-adopted black pets, who are then euthanized more often than light-colored dogs and cats.

In reality, there’s no evidence to support the idea that black animals are any more dangerous than others. In response to the misinformation swirling about black pets, the WHS has started a “Black Dog Club,” which affords special benefits to people who come in to adopt black pets. According to the Post-Intelligencer, “People who visit the shelter and adopt a black dog are automatically made a member of the club and receive discounts on everything sold by the WHS for life. … Even pet owners who already have a black dog are eligible for membership into the club.”

Kudos to the WHS for their work, but the interesting thing here isn’t only their work to find homes for pets. What’s also remarkable is how similar the fearmongering about dark animals is to the fearmongering about dark people. According to many in society, things that are very black are things to fear, while lighter things are more gentle and beautiful — even the Black community has adopted this nonsense to a certain extent.

The fear of blackness isn’t just something to pay attention to when you’re looking for a pet; it’s also something to pay attention to on your walk home at night.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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