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This morning, I posted the following on Facebook:
My thought last night…if I vanished, would anyone notice? Of course, close friends would feel my absence, but no one else. That's true of everyone when it comes to social media. I was up late into the night thinking back over the past nine months and I came to a difficult decision.
To whom it may concern…
Please accept this letter as formal notification of my resignation from the fresh food community. My last day with the community will be June 8, 2020. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be a member of this community for 7 years. During this time I have thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere within the team and will miss our interactions. While I am excited by the new opportunities that I will be pursuing, I will always remember my time in the fresh food community with affection. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need further information after I leave, and I would be delighted if you stay in touch. Keep being the voice for the voiceless animals.
Kind regards, Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging
The past week has been challenging and I find that it's important that I speak out as a woman of color, as a partner to a retired deputy, and a friend to several men and women in law enforcement.
Do you look around at what's happening in the world and wonder if the Universe is trying to send us a message? We've been so distracted by career goals, money, politics, the media, and everyone else's privilege that we've lost track of family, friendship, kindness, and humanity. So a pandemic came down upon us, forcing us to slow down, stay home, put the safety of others before us, and reconnect with friends and family. While many people took advantage of this time to reflect on their priorities, many others protested.
And then there were the murder hornets. I feel like they should have scared us, but we laughed and asked “what next?” as if we were dealing with the plagues of the apocalypse. And then racism gave us a swift backhand and said “hey, remember me?” and cities began to burn. And the walls that I placed up to block my blackness in order to fit into a “colorblind” community were torn to the ground. I can't hide my hurt, fear, frustration, and rage anymore.
Do You Really Believe that All Lives Matter to Everyone?
I shared an amazing post by the ladies of CocoTherapy and a few of the first comments I got on that post were “All Lives Matter.” Yes, I agree 1000% that All Lives Matter. However, the actions over the past week (and prior) have shown us that this isn't true for everyone. For one individual to say “All Lives Matter” and think that this is the end of the discussion is naive.
In the past few months, these are the deaths that leave the African American community shook:
- Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead while jogging by two white men who suspected that he stole something.
- Breona Taylor, a nursing student, was shot in her home in the middle of the night by police who suspected her of running drugs.
- A woman weaponized her privileged in a heated conversation with a black man.
- George Floyd was murdered by a cop that kneeled on his neck, preventing him from breathing, for more than 8 minutes.
While the above deaths were shocking to me, what's also shocking is the lack of media coverage on the deaths of police officers during these riots, including:
- Four police officers were shot in St. Louis during the city's protests.
- Officer Shay Mikalonis of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was shot in the head when a suspect allegedly fired at officers who were trying to disperse a group of protestors.
- David Dorn, retired police captain, was killed by a looter at a pawn shop.
All of this tragedy shows me that while our goal should be to get to a point where our society believes that all lives matter, we're not there yet.
Being a Black Woman in a White Community
While there are many people of color (POC) in the pet lover community, I often feel like one of a few on an island. According to the 2019 US Census, white American's make up 76.5% of the US population. African Americans make up 13.4% (6x less). American Indians make up 1.3%. Asian Americans make up 5.9%. Pacific Islanders make up 0.2%. And Latino Americans make up 18.3% of the US Population. I share this to show that no matter where I go, there is a high chance that I'm going to be the only or one of a few black people. Although I don't fear for my safety, it can feel uncomfortable at times when you rarely see someone who looks like you and holds the shared history of what it is to be black in America.
So when we find ourselves in a global shift due to outrage, frustration, and sadness, I think many of us experience a coming together of friends and family as we try to find a way to deal, talk about what we can do better, and ask how we can better support each other. For me, I was stunned by the people who reached out to me to talk about what we could do better and I was surprised by the people who went radio silent either because they didn't know what to say or because they felt that they couldn't or shouldn't say anything.
If you are in the latter group, please know that your silence is deafening and it has been heard. The message you're delivering may not be what you intend.
When Racism Overshadows Dogs
My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with support for the black community, support for the police, discussions from all sides of the aisle, and people trying to reach out and ask for help or offer support. I've never been this sad in my life and I live with anxiety and depression. I can't sleep, I don't have an appetite, and I cry every morning and again several times a day. Despite the massive amounts of support I've received from friends and family, I still feel as if there won't be an end to the hate, the rage, and the profound sadness.
I've also had some amazing discussions with friends. I've gained this amazing fountain of acceptance of our differences and I'm able to talk about my experience as a black woman, listen to someone else's experience, and end a conversation with a higher level of love and respect for the people around me. These discussions are exhausting. There have been days of back to back phone calls where I talked to my friends through tears as we expressed how sad we were at the state of the world, taking solace in the words “I see you, I'm here for you, you are not alone.”
Although my dogs are my family and fill my day with laughter and joy – this past week, racism overshadowed dogs and, in some ways, it was a good thing, because these conversations were long over due.
How to Be Unapologetically Anti-Racist
What does it mean to be unapologetically anti-racist? It means that you are going to stand strong and tall against racism in all it's forms. It doesn't mean that you will accuse people who share a different point of view as being racist. It doesn't mean that you now believe all conservatives are racists. It doesn't mean that you believe all cops are racists. It means that you recognize that we have work to do and you're dedicated to be part of the solution and this starts by having some difficult discussions.
But what does this look like?
Many people have reached out to me to ask how they can help and there are many suggestions on Facebook and online. However, the following is what has been helping me this week and I hope that it gives you some ideas on how you can be supportive of your friends and family who are also POC.
And, by the way, I believe that this list should be applied to the men and women in law enforcement too. Not only are some of them POC, but all of them are suffering from the acts of a few. They recognize that the system needs to change and they want to see that change. We need to include them in this conversation and have empathy for what they are experiencing now too. I say this as a partner to a retired deputy and friend to many police officers.
If you are hurting right now, please know that you're not alone.
- Stop Saying All Lives Matter – of course, all lives matter, however, the deaths we're seeing are showing that this isn't how everyone feels. Also, it's very dismissive and doesn't help to solve the problem of why some groups (minorities and cops) feel that they are expendable to others.
- understand that it's okay to see color; what's not okay is to judge someone's character solely based on the color of their skin.
- be willing to have respectful discussions, even if you disagree with someone; no one is asking you to change your mind, but you never know who you can impact or who will impact you.
- don't expect POC to educate you on racism or give you a list of things you can do (despite that this is what I'm doing).
- don't expect your friends to want to now talk about racism, personally, I'm exhausted and I just want to go for a walk or talk about Real Housewives; if your friend expresses the same need for downtime, allow them a reprieve and go off topic for an hour.
- make your events more inclusive by inviting POC to present, speak, or join; beware of having a token POC – I'd rather not be invited than be invited to fill some quota.
- don't speak for POC if you're not a person of color. When you speak for someone without their permission, you are silencing their voice.
- share your feelings on what's happening; even if what you feel is helplessness.
- I know many of us are angry; don't expect your POC friends to join you in your rage every day; we're exhausted and we've been at this a lot longer than a week.
- remember that if you want to be heard, you have to be willing to hear; we can't hope to have a fruitful conversation if we're steadily interrupting each other.
- reach out to your friends and family who are POC and/or in law enforcement and check in – invite them to coffee, to walk the dogs, or just to talk – you don't have to talk about racism, you can just connect – we need to connect.
- support everyone's attempt at becoming an ally; yes, it's clumsy at times but their heart is in the right place and we need to create safe spaces for these discussions to happen.
- don't assume that turning your profile picture black or sharing a meme about Black Lives Matter is the beginning and end; we didn't get here overnight and this won't be resolved overnight.
- ask more questions – when watching the news reports and when reading social media shares, ask questions to flesh out the truth of each story; we as a society have become very lax and tend to believe headlines too readily.
- if you're a blogger or influencer and there are businesses you support/promote, contact them and respectfully ask them if they plan to put out a statement about their stance on racism. If they won't put out a statement, respect that choice too – businesses are being crucified right now for not saying something or saying the wrong thing – it's scary.
- look to your own community and see what you can do to help make a positive change for all people.
- educate yourself on the issues and vote your heart.
- support businesses and organizations that are helping to make our communities better; support small businesses and minority own businesses.
- And pray. Pray for your friends, family, community, and the world. Please pray.
Beware of Social Media
Have you noticed the growing necessity to fact check everything that comes through our social media feeds? I have. When it comes to social media, please do your homework before sharing. It's simple.
Last week, there was a story coming around that claimed profiling. In the video, two police officers are questioning a black man and in the description shared around on Facebook, the police officers were shamed when they realized that the black man was an FBI agent (they found his badge in his wallet). Well, this didn't happen last week, it happened two years ago and the the man was not an FBI agent. I don't know the truth of the story, but I do know that the narrative was changed to rile people up even more. So, before sharing something you see on social media – even an image – double check to make sure that it's real.
The Future of Keep the Tail Wagging
For a long time, I've pondered over my place in the fresh food community. I feel like the odd-woman out for many reasons. I haven't always felt comfortable speaking out on things and I've felt pressured to take down blog posts when I did speak up. I don't want to rock the boat; but I also don't want to be the only person with her neck out. But after everything we've seen this past week and thinking back to my concerns, I realize that I wasn't setting my sights high enough.
- I don't believe that there is only one way to feed our dogs because every dog is different.
- I don't want to demonize kibble at every turn because I feel that it alienates so many people.
- I don't think the heavy promotion of supplements is right for our pets.
- I think we should look at traditional and holistic medicine to help us raise healthier dogs.
- I don't think it's a good idea to blindly follow anyone in the fresh food community; we should always do our own homework.
- I struggle with the constant bashing of the veterinarian profession.
I have been inspired by people to speak up and speak out and this is something that I will continue to do using this platform. Keep the Tail Wagging won't become a blog about race relations in America. I will continue to write about my life with dogs and raw feeding. However, I will begin to inject more of myself (my life as a dog mom) into this blog because although we love dogs more than people, this past week has shown me that we need to start loving people too. I hope to connect with and promote other people of color and allies who share my love of dogs and raw feeding. This doesn't mean that I plan to turn my back on my white friends, it just means that I want to celebrate the vast diversity in our community.
The Future of the Pet Lover Community
I know a lot of people are unfriending and unfollowing people on social media. I've received several messages from people who think I should stick to dogs and stop discussing politics on my page. Many people have let me know that they aren't going to follow me anymore and one woman blocked me.
Social media is free. If you don't want to join in the discussion or see anyone speaking about the discussion you can take a break from social media or better curate the people and pages you follow. Going forward, each time someone tells me that I should pipe down, I'm going to take initiative and ban them from my page and block them from my profile.
This discussion is going to happen with our without you. Yep, it's a bummer, it's depressing, and, at times, it can get negative – but it needs to happen if we hope to come out of this as a stronger community that truly supports each other.