Amid protests and dismantling American cities, Black Lives Matter has also turned its teeth on the famous Kentucky Derby. Since the killing of Breonna Taylor, activists have called for a thorough investigation with little results to show for it. Now they are pressuring African American horse owner, Greg Harbut, to boycott the derby until their demands are met. His response, “No way!”

Owner of the horse Necker Island, Harbut told reporters he had no intention of pulling out of the Kentucky Derby or any future race because of the simple fact that he is – African American. He believes his presence is an exact representation of the impact African Americans have had on the Kentucky Derby.

Harbut told reporters, “The history of the Kentucky Derby started with African-Americans. The first horse, Aristides, was trained by an African-American named Ansel Williamson and ridden by an African-American jockey named Oliver Lewis. [W]e are the only black representation in the Kentucky Derby this year. There hasn’t been any representation for us for the past 13 years.”

While Harbut remains steadfast in his decision, he wanted to make it perfectly clear that doesn’t mean he is against the movement. “I stand with Black Lives Matter, and I stand for justice for Breonna Taylor. But as an African-American man involved in an industry that’s not very inclusive to people who look like me, there’s no way that I could sit out on one of the largest race days in the U.S. and not bring awareness to the contributions that African-Americans have given to horse racing.”

Harbut wasn’t the only one to receive backlash as Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, was also called to close their doors to the race. The pressure grew to a point that Churchill Downs released an official statement reassuring fans and owners the race was still going forward.

The horse racing complex sees itself as more than track given its history. In their statement, Churchill Downs writes, “We know there are some who disagree with our decision to run the Kentucky Derby this year. We respect that point of view but made our decision in the belief that traditions can remind us of what binds us together as Americans, even as we seek to acknowledge and repair the terrible pain that rends us apart.”

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This piece was written by Jeremy Porter on September 6, 2020. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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