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Are you particularly afraid of pit bulls? Well, academics say you just might be racist.

Ruaridh Connellan/BarcroftImages/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

If, like many folks, you are particularly scared when you encounter pit bull dogs, your fear may not necessarily be due to canine breed's reputation for ferocity or their powerful physicality or the fact that a number of less-than-moral owners train them to be aggressive — and even to fight other dogs.

No, your fear of pit bulls may just come down to your own racism.

What are the details?

Campus Reform noted the work of the Animal Farm Foundation, a nonprofit "dedicated to securing equal treatment and opportunity for 'pit bull' dogs and their owners," specifically its new initiative to fight "exclusionary dog breed restrictions in the housing insurance industry."

The outlet pointed to the AFF's statement on the issue that cites a paper by Ann Linder — a legislative policy fellow with Harvard Law School's Animal Law and Policy Program — titled "The Black Man's Dog: The Social Context of Breed Specific Legislation." And Linder's paper says pit bulls have been unfairly tied to "gang violence by urban youths, as well as the hip-hop music scene," Campus Reform reported.

More from the outlet:

Also referenced is the work of Emory University associate professor of philosophy, Erin Tarver. In her work "The Dangerous Individual('s) Dog: Race, Criminality and the 'Pit Bull'," Tarver applies French philosopher Michel Focault's notion of "the dangerous individual" to what she sees as modern racialized attitudes towards pit bulls and the "perceived threat to normative whiteness" such animals pose.

Campus Reform noted a reminder that despite pit bulls representing just 6.5% of all dogs in the United States, the breed was responsible for 66% of total fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2017.

Nevertheless, the outlet said tying fear of pit bulls to racism against black people "has become a theme in certain American academic circles."

'Criminalization of certain pet owners'

A University of Denver study found that the city's pit bull ban disproportionately affected racial minorities, Campus Reform added, noting that the school's researchers claim that enforcement of the ban "has taken place primarily in our communities of color in Denver" and that "this criminalization of certain pet owners has exacerbated the barriers they already experience to accessing pet support services."

More from the outlet:

Stacey Coleman, Executive Director of the AFF, told Campus Reform that the practice of singling out pit bulls in this way is "steeped in the insurance history of redlining." Coleman argued that there is a perception that racial minorities tend to own pit bulls and that by denying insurance to pit bull owners, policy makers may be acting on that perception and implicitly discouraging minorities from moving to a given area. [...]

Linder told Campus Reform that her "research suggests that unlike each of the other breeds of dogs included in the study, pit bulls were unique in being perceived as predominantly owned by people of color — most particularly, young, black, males."

"It stands to reason that in the minds of decision-makers imposing these policies that same association holds true — that the people they presume to be excluding by imposing breed restrictions are more often than not people of color," she added to the outlet.

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