All Parts of Me
by Kristian Beverly
My existence is not political.
My existence is not a difference of opinions.
A difference of opinion is whether you like glazed or jelly donuts. Not if a person deserves humanity. I want to be horrified that in the year 2020 this needs said, but I’m not the tiny girl in the photo above anymore. Racism hasn’t gone away just because it doesn’t present the same way it did 100 years ago. Racism adapts. For example, schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1960s.
These past days have been hard. My anger and frustration continue to boil because so many people are simplifying centuries long matter into trivial terms like ‘All Lives Matter.’ It has been amazing to see friends be in support, post, and comment–online or offline. This isn’t political; the movement did not just begin.
I used to believe that education would solve racism. When I was small, I thought racist people needed lessons because of lackluster education. Now I realize you can not teach love and acceptance to hardened and ugly hearts. You can have conversations and give information all you want, but minimal information will be retained. As soon as you leave, they go back to their old ways and thoughts. Imagine being so closed minded in the 21st century that you’d rely on hatred and stereotypes to define whole groups of people, especially when we have endless knowledge at the tips of our fingers. Hatred is an ugly illogical thing.
I was thirteen or fourteen the first time I met another Black person involved with horses. Quinn Massey was the former Police Chief of Harrisburg City and has since passed away from cancer. I learned about horses, but also learned the history of Black cowboys and that there were more like us involved. I remember the first time going to his barn and his surprise that I had no fear of the horses.
I started collecting model horses before I joined the hobby. Collecting is probably the wrong word since I played with them. This being said, I never had Black dolls to play with my Breyers. I’m so glad there are two now, but there’s yet to be any Black males or any peoples of color.
I have always been the only one or one of the only people who looked like me in a room. But that’s been my experience my whole life:in elementary, middle, high school, college, and even now. It was the same when I’ve attended bookclubs, book signings (minus the time I saw Angie Thomas), Breyerfest, model horse shows, when I began showing horses in college, and when I have sat on community boards. It was so normal to me; I thought it was the norm for every Black person. It took me years to question why. I used to see my silence as a weapon, that if I took up the right amount of space I would educate people. But I was wrong.
It’s hard for me to comment on racism in the horse world because I’ve always kept to the fringes. I rode different horses and started consistently taking lessons after I got my drivers license. I attended real horse shows and felt eyes on me, but going into spaces where I was the only diversity didn’t feel off. I didn’t compete in the juniors or ride at show barns. I just enjoyed being around any and all horses. Comments made to my mom like ‘Oh your girls don’t do the usual sports’ weren’t all that different from ‘Wow, you don’t sound Black on the phone.’ It took a while for me to question it. I’ve listened to stories of other Black riders and their experiences with racism. These encounters still occur, and it all breaks my heart. The comments and encounters they’ve shared would make me question my place in the equestrian world.
You must be anti-racist to want to learn and seek out knowledge. Gaining knowledge by reading books and asking questions will help fill in the gaps. However, listening more than speaking will make the largest impact.
White supremacy and racism have never had a place in our society, but especially not in the 21st century. We have knowledge at the tips of our fingers. There is no excuse to be racist. The excuses of not knowing Black people or whatever frivolous reason don’t gain sympathy from me.
What should be done about the racists? You can’t force someone to want to be antiracist. So for racists, you have to make them begin to feel uncomfortable and question themselves– the same way I questioned if I belonged my whole life. I was not sure if that was being cruel, but I began to realize that I do belong here. I have done nothing wrong; I have always been myself whereas they have taken a standing to hate a certain group. Being racist should not be welcomed with wide arms, no matter how talented the person is. Talent doesn’t negate human decency.
What will I do? I will continue to ride.
I will continue to be a mirror for kids, young adults, and adults in whatever capacity I can. I will continue to listen, read, and expand my knowledge of history and the varied experiences mankind live.
I have loved real horses and this hobby for the vast majority of my life. There’s no stopping me now. Black Lives Matter.