Let me start by introducing myself I am Steph and I am an Afro- Peruvian woman and a descendant of a slave. Peru started the import of slaves from West and South West Africa in 1521. Slaves were mainly used for manual labor in sugar cane, cotton fields and rice plantations as well as building infrastructure. I do not know either of my birth parents, but my genetics have given me this fascinating information about west African heritage, predominately Nigerian.
I was adopted as a very young baby, from a Peruvian orphanage by a white (Swedish) Canadian resident single mother and I live in Vancouver. I ride horses, I own two bay Oldenburg with various white in them. They are both hunters; one is a home bred by my previous show mare and the other is a German horse who I imported from the US.
The equestrian world is so lacking of diversity, it is really a white mans sport at the upper levels and a white sport at all the other levels. Why? Well I’ve heard a lot of different opinions on the why, but I think the real why is this. No one pushes themselves into a situation of uncomfortableness particularly when the equestrian world comes with its one intimidating factors of social class climbers. The fact that black and BIPOC (Black, Indigeous, People of Colour) riders are hidden or non existent in the sport plays a huge roll in deterring a diverse group of riders. There is also the racial divide that goes on in the world, that often has BIPOCs segregated into communities, social circles and/or school districts. Lastly is financial; yes there are many wealthy BIPOCs families and people all over the world, however the division of wealth is generally filtered to white males. Of course this is for a number of reasons including; systemic racism and oppression and hundreds of years of white supremacy.
Many of you are asking what can I do? Or identifying this as an “American problem” which it is not. This is a global problem and as a whole black people have been seen as less then for hundreds of years. You yourself likely do not realize the bits of white supremacy in your everyday life or the systemic oppression that exists in every single system. The first thing you can do is listen! Follow black accounts on social media, read books by black authors on racism inequality and take paid and free online courses. After that educate your family, you peers, your coworkers and your children. Call out racism and oppression and call it out loudly, people need to understand that racism is unacceptable. Continue your education for your life time and continue to fight the systems of oppression, do not accept systemic oppression as status quo, because that make you part of the problem.
Being an ally doesn’t mean you have to protest, it means that you are keen to learn and grow and protect black and BIPOC human and equal rights. It means that you are going to unlearn and relearn how you go about your daily life and learn to notice how you actively participate in systemic oppression and racism. Yes you are almost definitely benefiting and participating in systemic oppression and racism. Most of us are actually subconsciously racist and this will be the hardest piece to unlearn. All those times you assumed someone was poor due to their skin color or that someone was the help rather then a patron because they weren’t white is what needs to change. This doesn’t mean that you are a bad person, it means you are racist but these are the influences that have been put upon us due to long standing global racism.
I understand that no one likes to be called racist and no one wants to be wrong, but you will be wrong and you’re probably a racist. So get comfortable with being uncomfortable and come along for the ride, not because you have to but because you want to do better for humanity.
Remember this is not about you, this is about healing for black and BIPOC community and finally getting equality. You need to approach racial trauma in a trauma informed way. Trauma informed practice is about integrating an understanding of the impacts and experiences of trauma and violence into service delivery or in this case conversation and active learning. The goal is to avoid re-traumatizing black and BIPOC people while actively engaging and learning from us. This means you must support control, safety and our choice in all aspects of communication. You must also understand and accept that our reactions may be charged and/or emotional because this work to educate is emotionally draining and exposing. The equestrian community can lead by example and be inclusive and welcoming as a whole.
By Steph Kallstrom.
Follow Steph on instagram @stephkall