Second Episode Of ‘Truth To Power’ Series Provides Action Points For Those Who Care About Racing Diversity

The second installment of The Racing Biz panel series titled ‘Truth To Power’ aired Wednesday with a focus on practical suggestions for those in the racing community to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. The panel series aims to define and address the issues racing faces with diversity among its workforce and fan base.

See a recap of the first installment and watch a replay here.

The second panel included expertise from Renee Hess, founder and executive director of Black Girl Hockey Club, Ron Mack, founder of the Legacy Equine Academy, and Leon Nichols, CEO and founder of the Project to Preserve African American Turf History. The panel was moderated by The Racing Biz founder Frank Vespe, freelance journalist Teresa Genaro, and NTRA Director of Communications Alicia Hughes.

A few key takeaways from the discussion, with a full replay below:

  • Panelists believe the rich history of standout Black jockeys from the early days of American racing like Jimmy Winkfield and Isaac Murphy provides a great basis for bringing Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) back to the sport.

    “Ironically, Thoroughbred racing can really be called the first sport to demonstrate equity and inclusion,” said Mack. “The jockeys I mentioned earlier were not only jockeys, but they were trainers, they were owners. They held power and influence in the culture of Thoroughbred racing, even in the late 1800s. As we honor and celebrate the glory of the past, at the Legacy Equine Academy we’re training and cultivating our kids for the future of the sport.”

  • Hess’s model with Black Girl Hockey Club was really to provide a sense of community to the comparatively few Black fans and participants in ice hockey, though she points out you don’t have to be either Black or female to join — you just have to support the mission of including more diverse participation in the sport. Originally, the club began as a fan club and has grown to become a nonprofit that provides scholarships to girls who play in travel teams around the world. Not only is that helping diversify the sport’s players, it’s bringing fandom to people outside the United States who may not have become familiar with ice hockey otherwise.
  • The first step in improving diversity and inclusion, Hess said, is to talk about it. Businesses and organizations within an industry will prioritize something if they believe their consumers value it.

    “Once we utilize our voices and let these organizations know that this is something the masses want to see, I think we’ll be able to make these changes and drag these industries kicking and screaming because it is a financially sound decision,” she said. “Because this is the direction other sports are moving into. Our sports need to do the same if they want to remain relevant. We talk about ‘growing the game’ in hockey, and what better way to grow the game than to include the Black community, the LGBTQ community?”

  • Nichols hopes that his project can also grow racing by showing a new community of people that they have heroes in the sport, too. He is part of a group workshopping a screenplay based around part of Isaac Murphy’s career, specifically about the famous match race in which he piloted Salvatore against Tenny, which was one of the greatest rivalries in American sports at the time.

    “Reading Isaac’s story, one thing you’ll learn about him is … he was so inspired to set an example as an African American male in the 19th Century that it drove him to try and rove his equalness and Black excellence,” said Nichols. “Out of that came the match of the century.”

  • Mack is hoping to continue building a pipeline from school to racing industry jobs through the Legacy Equine Academy, but said he’s not just preparing the students to be grooms or hotwalkers — he’s encouraging them and preparing them to become racehorse owners and corporate executives. Not only should it be possible for those students, it should be desirable for racing to see better representation at the higher levels of administration.
  • If diversity is important to you but you don’t sit at the top of the totem pole in your workplace, Hess said you probably have some influence you can use to prioritize equity. Do you hire interns? Consider looking for them at historically black colleges in addition to the programs you already correspond with. Do you manage your company’s newsletter content? There’s a chance to acknowledge achievement or history of the company or industry through the work of diverse trailblazers. Another thing she encourages: Keep having conversations about these topics — even though they’re probably going to make you uncomfortable sometimes.

    “I do think that when you are a non-Black, non BIPOC person, talking about race can be a little bit uncomfortable,” said Hess, who launched a campaign called Get Uncomfortable to encourage these dialogues. “I’m not 100% on that because I’m Black, but I get the gist that could be the feeling. But it’s all about having these uncomfortable conversations … Change is uncomfortable.”

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