White Woman With A Pitbull
Last fall, I interviewed candidates running for City Council in Aurora, Colorado concerning the brand new breed ban there which was enacted on the heels of the Denver breed ban. I had asked each candidate for their their views on the Aurora ban, whether they supported it or not, and why, for the benefit of my readers here at DogPolitics.com
By the way - Aurora didn't just ban pitbull breeds - it threw in quite a few others - just for good measure.
Those conversations with the Aurora candidates, would prompt My Dog Votes to conduct the country's first political survey of dog owners, with questions covering a host of issues, including breed bans, and whether or not dog owners would become single-issue voters over the question of breed bans. But more about that later.
The conversations with the Aurora candidates also prompted other questions - questions about politics, race, class. Questions that need answers.
Playing The Breed Card
I had spoken with Bob Fitzgerald, attorney, incumbent, and sponsor of the breed ban ordinance. I asked Bob what the motivating factors were for the ordinance - were the loose dogs posing a hazard? A pitbull "incident"?
Bob told me that they - the Aurora City Council - had watched the legal battle in Denver culminate in the reinstatement of the breed ban - and then took action. "We don't want "those people" here", he said, inferring the Aurora ban would prevent fleeing Denver residents (with pitbulls) from moving into Aurora.
"We don't want "those people" here"? I was incredulous at the time - still am - and those words have stuck with me ever since. I had heard those words before - but usually in association with race or ethnicity. And I have heard those words repeatedly from other local elected officials concerning pitbull owners.
We Don't Want "Those People" Here
What is clear is that the Aurora breed ban ordinance was - and is - a deliberate and strategic plan on the part of the Aurora City Council to pass legislation to keep a certain group of people out of Aurora - and move the ones that were already there - out.
Bob did not say he wanted to keep the dogs out, but "those people". Well just who are "those people", Bob???
Just what people did Bob mean by "those people"? As a pitbull owner, I had to ask myself, just what made pitbull owners so undesirable? Did Aurora want pitbull owners to not just move to the back of the bus - but off the bus entirely?
Did the City of Aurora think that pitbull owners were of a lower socio-economic class? Did they think pitbull owners had less education or made less money, than their non-pitbull owning counterparts? Are pitbull owners any less likely to contribute to the economy or the tax base, or perhaps even become a drain on the tax base?
Did the City of Aurora think that pitbull owners were more likely than say, pug owners, to commit crimes? If pitbull owners moved from Denver to Aurora, would they be more likely to bring drugs or engage in other crimes than people who owned German Shepherds, or Rottweilers or Collies?
Or was race a factor - a hidden factor? Did Aurora wanted to keep out pitbull dog owners coming from Denver - the ones I read about in the newspaper - the ones with Hispanic last names? From poor neighborhoods? But what about Whites? Weren't there Whites with pitbulls, too? Maybe the Whites who own pitbulls are - you know -more of the "White Trash" variety as compared to Whites who owned other breeds?
Why I Love The U.S. Census! Compare And Contrast
Did race, class or politics have any bearing on the Aurora breed ban? To answer these questions, we need to have data. And the primo source for that data, boys and girls - is the U.S. Census. In fact - no politician and no marketer - would leave home witout it.
Population, Race, and Income
RACE The racial makeup of the Aurora is 68.86% White, 13.42% African American, 0.81% Native American, 4.37% Asian, 0.18% Pacific Islander, 8.14% from other races, and 4.23% from two or more races. 19.81% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
By contrast, the racial makeup of Denver is only 51.9% White, and 31.68% of the population is Hispanic or Latino of any race - a much larger population than in Aurora. Denver is 11.1% Black or African American, about 2.2% Native American, 2.81% Asian American, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 15.59% from other races, and 3.75% from two or more races.
INCOME The median income for a household in the Aurora is $46,507, and the median income for a family is $52,551. Males have a median income of $35,963 versus $30,080 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,095.
By contrast, the median income for a household in Denver is $39,500, and the median income for a family is $48,195. Males have a median income of $34,232 versus $30,768 for females. The per capita income for the city is $24,101.
Also - greater percentage of Denver residents live at or below the poverty line.
Aurora seemed to have a pretty low voter turnout for the November 2005 City Council race - with somewhere between 33 - 37% of voter turnout. But compare that with a dismal 11.58% voter turnout last May in the Denver Municipal Elections.
I wondered - did the Aurora City Council perceive there may be a backlash by Aurora voters - voters who were more politically active than those in Denver - against Aurora city government if they failed to "do something" about the potential influx of pitbull owners from Denver?
Redlining Aurora - Whiter, Richer, More Powerful
Redlining - that's the illegal practice whereby banks, lenders or real estate agents deliberately practice economic discrimination against an "undesirable" group of people - usually minorities - in a specific geographical region to keep them from moving in or purchasing property. One could literally draw a "redline" on the map to outline the area they want to keep undesirables out .
Aurora is clearly redlining their fair city against a group of undesirables - pitbull owners. One question I might ask is whether or not Aurora breed ban is predicated in part, consciously or unconsciously, on an element of race?
The Department of Justice takes a dim view of redlining. Traditional victims of illegal redlining have been Blacks, Latinos, Jews.... not to mention a whole slew of other racial or ethnic groups.
Certainly I am not the first - nor the last - to raise the question whether or not that race may be a factor in the enactment of breed bans. In the Denver area - this has been observed, noted and questioned by award-winning journalist, Bill Johnson, of the Rocky Mountain News.
What The Data Means
The U.S. Census data says that Aurora is Whiter, Wealthier & Wields More Power. Would that then mean that there was a greater chance, statistically speaking, that dog owners - pitbull owners - moving out of Denver might be:
- Hispanic or Latino
- Less educated?
- Less politically powerful
And did Aurora think that the influx of such a population would have a negative effect of the racial and economic makeup of the city? I'm wondering..............
Questions For Inquiring Minds
Pitbull owners are highly undesirable in the view of the Aurora City Council . That fact has led me to ponder the following questions:
- Did the City Of Aurora conspire to enact a breed ban based partly or solely upon a racial, ethnic or social stereotype of pitbull owners?
- Did the City Of Aurora conspire to keep out Latinas or Hispanics or other people of color out who may possibly own pitbull type dogs to maintain the white majority of their population?
- Even if Whites were included in the pitbull owning population segments migrating out of Denver due to the ban, were those Whites not as desirable as other Whites simply because they owned pitbulls?
- Does redlining Aurora amount to institutional racism?
- Does the Aurora breed ban constitute a civil rights issue?
- If breed bans are found to be predicated in part on race, does that breed profiling that become racial profiling?
- Would the Colorado Cmmission on Civil Rights be interested?
- If so, would looking at the racial, criminal and economic data provide further support to that idea?
- If the Aurora breed ban amounts to redlining, would an investigation by the Department Of Justice be in order?
Hmmmmmmmmmm - inquiring minds want to know.
Funny - You Don't Look Like You're A
Hispanic, Jew, Black, Gay, Criminal, Pitbull Owner
As mentioned in the top of the post, such questions prompted My Dog Votes to conduct the very first political survey of dog owners.
Over 1000 dog owners nationwide participated in the survey, convering issues suchas as breed bans, insurance discrimination, pet limit laws, weight or size restrictions, public space bans, and data privacy.
The results of the 2005 My Dog Votes Voter Opinion Survey will be released early next week - and contain a few surprises - especially for any town council, like Aurora's, or others considering breed bans.
Breaking Breed and Racial Stereotypes
If Aurora, and Parker and Longmont think the stereotypical pitbull owner is a gang banging, crack smoking, gun-toting thug, think again. If Aurora and Parker, Lone Tree and Longmont think the stereotypical pitbull owner is a beer-swilling, trailer-living, food stamp sucking piece of White Trash, think again.
Negative stereotypes of breeds and owners are perpetuated by media hype and exploited by opportunistic politicians seeking to glorify themselves. Looky here!, they say ....We're protecting you -and keeping children safe from bloodthirsty dogs that will eat your children - aren't we wonderful? Now please vote for me!
They use breed bans as a means to cover up the fact their city governments fail to enforce civil or criminal codes to effectively deal with any dangerous dogs or dog owner problem - which poses a greater threat to the health, safety and welfare to the public than any dog.
And if any town council thinks that responsible and knowledgeable dog owners of any breed favor breed bans as an effective measure to ensure the public health and safety, think again.
Who Votes In Local Elections?
Maybe Parker and Longmont and Lone Tree - and other Colorado towns should consider their voting and economic base before making decisions on breed bans. And maybe Aurora wouldn't have enacted a breed ban if they thought that pitbull owners were :
Are breed bans inherently discriminatory? Is there a racial bias? Is there a bias against the poor, regardless of race? Questions like these need answers.
I wonder - would those towns be so quick to jump on the breed ban bandwagon if they thought they were alienating core constituents - people like me - a white woman with a pitbull?
For the record, My Dog Votes - and she is a single-issue voter who would cross party lines in a heartbeat in a local election or state election. And if she lived in Auroa, Longmont, Lone Tree or Parker - she would make sure to vote those breed ban proponents out of office.