The United States is called a blending pot of cultures, where all ethnicities intermingle and work together to form the perfect democracy. As of right now, the Europeans are still clinging onto their majority rule, but the time is coming where they, too, will become a minority. Are we ready to face this?
For our research project, our community partner was Patti Segulja, the leader of a local 4-H club Broken Bits. 4-H is a global non-profit youth development organization which has several branches, including farming clubs, knitting clubs, performing arts clubs, debate clubs, dog clubs, and clubs like the one Patti manages – 4-H horse clubs. Broken Bits resides in Snohomish County and has about 32 youth members who ride horses, compete at local shows, and go to monthly 4-H meetings to schedule community service meets, club activities, and to manage club funds. The goal of 4-H is to grow leaders.
Our team asked Patti how ethnically diverse 4-H was, and her answer seemed a little disappointed. She responded, “It’s not that we don’t try to include more [ethnic groups], they just don’t seem to join despite how much we’d like them to…if I had to give a number, I would estimate Caucasian kids to have a solid 75-80% majority in 4-H.” (P. Segulja, personal communication, February 28, 2018). She goes on to explain how other groups of 4-H – including performing arts and robotics clubs – seem to her to be a lot more diverse than the farming and “outdoorsy” clubs, including the horse programs like the one she runs. “I think there’s sort of a mental image that comes to kids – and their parents – heads when they think of a horse club. It’s usually rich white daughter of well off families, which simply isn’t the case. It has never been the case.”
It’s true. Only recently have we developed this mental picture of the rich white class riding horses. In history, the counter-narrative of what isn’t taught is that the old American cowboys were African American, Native American and Hispanic. In fact, our word “buckaroo” came from the European inability to say the Spanish word “vaquero,” which means “a cowboy.”
However, we weren’t taught about the ethnic vaquero’s in school. Author of A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, wrote: “A history that leaves our minorities reinforces separation, but an inclusive history bridges the divide,” (p.435). Only learning about the (false) European cowboys and those beliefs being reinforced as kids watch white families participate in the 4-H horse programs does damage to ethnic feelings of inclusiveness. Patti Segulja herself is a daughter of Croatian immigrants, married to a Chinese immigrant. She says, “when my two daughters were younger, they would run up to me and say, ‘mom, there’s another Asian girl at this [horse] show,’ and they would be so excited, because they were typically the only ones.” Patti comments how nice it is as well to see her two daughter in 4-H share common interests with other kids, sense they’re all competing out of their love of horses, and it’s reassuring to see bonds being made cross-culturally (P. Segulja, personal communication, February 28, 2018).
Image sourced kindly from Patti Segulja
There is a master narrative of a white majority in the American cowboy era is reinforced by the media who casts white actors to play our cowboys. Author Neil Postman wrote, “How television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged, (Amusing Ourselves to Death, p.92). It’s effects are still seen today, even in the age where we are so desperately trying to erase untrue and harmful stereotypes on other ethnicities.
On March 2nd, Patti Segulja invited us to meet her at the Monroe fairgrounds to help organize tack (horse gear) at the 4-H Snohomish County annual Tack Sale. While there, our team continued our discussion with Patti, asking what the tack sale was about and why it started. Patti told us horses are a pretty expensive sport to partake in, and 4-H planned an event where members of the community and 4-H families would donate their old or unused tack, to be sold at a very cheap price to 4-H kids (P. Segulja, personal communication, February 28, 2018).
Making horseback riding cheaper makes 4-H clubs more accessible to low-income families, and as sad as it is to say, ethnic groups are more likely to be in lower socioeconomic classes (David R. Williams, Understanding Associations between Race, Socioeconomic Status and Health: Patterns and Prospects). If Patti and other 4-H members can erase the stigma that equestrianism is too expensive of a sport for lower classed society, they can start to build up the ethnic groups willing to involve themselves and their children in the sport. The 4-H horse program not only gives kids an opportunity to better themselves physically, but socially, too. Being apart of a club and community will boost self-confidence and socialization skills, and members of the club can run for club president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer, as well as involving themselves in the community through club community service events (P. Segulja, personal communication, February 28, 2018). Another motivator 4-H has given to encourage membership are the numerous scholarships for 4-H kids. By being an active member in any 4-H program, members are eligible for a scholarship of $1000 dollars, helping ethnic and lower class kids get through college and work their way up the social ladder.
4-H aims to grow leaders, and they are trying to grow leaders of every ethnic class.
Written by Serena Sutherland
(WORD COUNT: 894)
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4-H. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2018, from https://4-h.org/
Livingson, P. (2012, July 9). The History of the Vaquero. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from https://www.americancowboy.com/ranch-life-archive/history-vaquero
Postman, N. (2007). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness. London: Methuen.
Taylor, E. (n.d.). Little Known Black History Fact: Black Cowboys. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from https://blackamericaweb.com/2012/11/19/little-known-black-history-fact-black-cowboys
Takaki, R. (2008). A different mirror a history of multicultural America. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.
Walker, J. (1877). Cowboys Roping a Bear [Painting]. Denver Art Meusem, Denver.
Williams, D. R., Priest, N., & Anderson, N. (2016, April). Understanding Associations between Race, Socioeconomic Status and Health: Patterns and Prospects. Retrieved March 10, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4817358/