Over two-and-a-half years ago I wrote a post that involved a dog, a coonhound. At the time it was probably one of the most trivial, train-of-thought things I had ever written (this includes a brief stint at diary writing in elementary school). (Un)surprisingly, this random post about a casual conversation is (by far) the most read post on the site. I call it trivial because, to me, the point was so obvious and I had faith that if people read it then they would understand. I was mistaken.
To those (mostly white) coonhound lovers deadset on defending their pets: If you think that the punchline of the post was actually about the dog, you have completely missed the point. If you think that the distinct breed of the coonhound matters you have also missed the point. The point, in short, is that there is a breed of dog called a ‘coonhound’ whose questionable and unclear origin may be related to the slur for Blacks (‘coon’) and/or the tracking of runaway slaves, and because of this history and unclear relationship we should change the name of the breed (which, I guarantee you, the dogs have no commitment to one way or the other).
There is power in language, and I do not think it unreasonable to – at the very least – acknowledge the offensive nature of the dog’s name, and to change it on that basis alone. However, the thought of my being offended by the breed’s name seems to offend some people. These are likely the same types of people who would rather shoot human targets at the gun range (peep that Atlanta reference). These are also likely the same type of people who petitioned for ‘Justice for Harambe‘ and would quickly develop a Coonhound Lives Matter campaign if the opportunity were to arise.
The fact that these people are out there is not as surprising at it is disappointing. We have long seen the devaluing of Black lives in relation to animals (think: Hurricane Katrina and the VIP rescue of animals from New Orleans). The continued expression of these sentiments continues to oppress Black people and maintain a system of white supremacy.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know that it lies beyond our acceptance of interlocking systems of racial oppression, which we can begin to recognize by first acknowledging the permeation of racism in everyday life. That, and recognizing Black humanity.
by: Portia Allen-Kyle