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405 – Black at the Dog Show. What you see and what it is.

black at the dog show

Black at the Dog Show. What you see and what it is.

“We can be opponents and not be enemies”

Professional handler Randy Benns joins host Laura Reeves for a frank and open discussion about race, dog shows, the past and the future.

Randy Benns and Lisa Haney

Benns started in dogs working for the world-renowned Miss Dorothy Nickles.

Asked what his job was for Nickles, Benns laughed, “Whatever she said. Anybody that knows her knows that you just followed orders. I’d go to her house during the week sometimes and go to some of the dog shows with her. But I wasn’t really allowed out of her set up. I think she was fearful for me to be out of her set up, out of her sight. So, I stayed in the set up and fed, cleaned and all that stuff. The first thing she told me that I need to keep my nose clean, don’t get in any trouble.

On the question of “is the environment at dog shows better, worse or the same as the general population for people of color, Benns noted that “(Dog shows are) a microcosm of the United States itself. So, it depends on the group of people you’re around. I’ve been able to make some great friends.

“I surround myself with people that I can trust because I’ve seen the ugly side of it. If I had a child would I want him to show dogs? I’d say not until he’s an adult. Some people sugarcoat it and say it wasn’t tough. It was tough. The little sides of racism that nobody wants to talk about. Lisa’s seen people come up to me and ask if I could go over their dog because their dog hasn’t seen a black person, and the judge they have is black. I never understood that because I’m thinking ‘why would a dog care? They just want somebody to be nice to them and feed them.’ So, I’ve had that before, more times than I can count.

“At the dog show, if you’re around a certain group of people, them saying the N word under their breath or … when I first started dating (my wife, Lisa) they said ‘is that N word dating that white girl. But they didn’t say dating. They put it different…”

Benns shares many of the highlights and lowlights of a long and accomplished career as a black man in purebred dogs. Would he have won more if he was white? Yes. The least likely person who had his back. Eddie Boyes. The first blatant, out loud example of racism he personally experienced. The day-in, day-out experience of institutional racism, as well as the more overt instances.

This is a timely, important, thought-provoking and long overdue conversation. I invite you to join us.

To hear more from Benns, download episode 81 in our archives.


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1 Comment

  1. Gail Ferguson on 06/30/2020 at 8:03 PM

    I wish I’d met Randy when I lived on the west coast! He sounds like a great person and fun as well. Great podcast!

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