Thursday, August 03, 2006

Racial Profiling

I am a cat person. I was born with the perfect imprint of a cat’s paw on the bottom of my right foot. I am presently taking care of my two and the six strays the neighbor who is down in front has collected over the last few years while he is off camping.

Someone gave me a Great Dane puppy when I was seventeen. A very strange thing to do for a cat person but they thought that a big dog would protect me and when I was seventeen I was more in need of protection that most kids. I was fundamentally on my own.

I mention this because I, no matter how out of character, have experience with large purebred dogs. The neighbor below me moved in with a pit bull puppy last year. Right away I started not being okay with this and in the search for ways of being okay with having an isolated, angry status conscious and money hungry person living below me with a sweet but untrained massive dog I came across Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing piece Troublemakers on racially profiling pit bulls in The New Yorker.

I could barely read it, so ingrained are my prejudices against this breed, but I did read it and right away it changed my way of thinking about the dogs and confirmed something I always knew.

It is not the dogs that are the problem. It is their people.

I then went on to read his profile of the “Dog Whisperer”, also a remarkable piece that completely changed how I think about and relate to dogs on a day to day basis.

This lead me to read his newest book, “Blink, Thinking Without Thinking” which starts out with a description of a statue that the Getty bought a few years back that turned out to be a fake, which got me to read his original book, the one everybody knows about, “The Tipping Point.”

I was so surprised by "The Tipping Point" because I thought it was this big sort of treatise on political science or public policy or something because I used to watch Charlie Rose and listen to Fresh Air but no, it is this absolutely delightful book (he has become a better writer since) about things that matters to us all. How we really are and how we work as opposed to how we think we are and would like to be. It is just full of stuff to get one not taking anything for granted including the fact that one has always thought of oneself as a cat person.

My takeaway from the book in a big way is also something I have always known without admitting to myself. That is that I am a true child of my times and my circumstances and that who I spend time with and how I spend it are tremendously important in who I am and how I react when faced with say… a longhaired pumped up guy in a trench coat being dragged around by an unruly pit bull.


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