The Black Lives Matter movement yesterday chose the Kentucky Derby as its latest occasion for protests. Activists gathered in a park near Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and marched towards the racetrack chanting “No justice, no Derby!” The fact that the race was even run was described as insensitive, callous, and tone-deaf.
These criticisms are, in my opinion, ridiculous. There are legitimate concerns about police brutality, and people are understandably demanding justice in the police-involved shooting of Breonna Taylor, who lived in Louisville. But why is any of this a reason to cancel the Kentucky Derby? Police officers who abuse their authority deserve to be punished, as do all those who perpetrate racism in our society. But to cancel the Derby would not accomplish this. It would punish the hardworking trainers, jockeys, grooms, and owners who have dedicated their lives to caring for horses, as well as the racing fans, and most importantly, the horses themselves who have been training for this moment all year long.
There are all sorts of injustices and wrongs in our society. Racism against black people exists in some places, and racism against white people exists as well. Anti-Semitism exists, as does prejudice against gay, transgender, and asexual people. Income inequality, social pressure, animal cruelty, and climate change are all serious issues. As a person on the autism spectrum, I face discrimination and other challenges on a daily basis. But no one who is affected by any of these other issues has demanded that major sporting events be canceled. Yes, racism and police brutality deserve to be condemned and protested against. But so do all forms of injustice. All of the injustices that I listed are equally widespread and equally problematic as what the Black Lives Matter movement is protesting against, if not more so. So why do Black Lives Matter protesters believe that their issue should be treated preferentially to all others? To demand that the Kentucky Derby be canceled as a response to the injustices that the BLM movement cares about is unfair to everyone affected by other injustices, as well as to everyone who loves horse racing.
The fact that something unjust happened does not mean that events that have absolutely nothing to do with the injustice should be canceled or that people who have nothing to do with the injustice should be punished. The Kentucky Derby is not a frivolous social occasion. It is more than an excuse to wear fancy hats and drink mint juleps. It is a prestigious sporting event for equine athletes, which horsemen and horsewomen build their entire year around. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race was rescheduled from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September, and was held without fans. These measures are more than sufficient; there is no reason to demand that the race be canceled entirely. Supporters of BLM should focus their criticism and protests upon people who are racist and police who commit acts of brutality; not innocent horses and the people who work with them. To demand that the world of horse racing stop in its tracks for the BLM movement, after already being disrupted around the country by the pandemic, is truly tone-deaf.
P.S. Although I was rooting for Tiz the Law, congratulations to Authentic and all of his humans!