By Bill Finley
Kendrick Carmouche said he has never experienced racism, at the racetrack or elsewhere. But that doesn't mean that the events surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers didn't hit home for the 36-year-old jockey. The New York-based Carmouche is one of only a handful of African-American jockeys riding in the U.S.
Earlier this week, Carmouche posted an emotional video on social media. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he spoke of the heartache he had been experiencing since the Floyd killing.
“It is very sad to see what is going on in the world,” Carmouche said in the video. “I have a white wife and two kids and it's sad to see that it just never ends. It just never ends.”
Carmouche said he had several restless nights after Floyd's death and wasn't able to get to sleep until he let his emotions run free on the video.
“Finally, I got a good night's sleep,” he said. “This was tearing me apart. It took me three days to get myself to say something. I just felt I should spread the love.”
That is the message Carmocuhe wants to convey, that love is more powerful than hatred.
“I want to touch people and spread love,” Carmouche said. “Happiness and love is so much better than negativity. I am the most positive person you will ever meet.”
Carmouche returned to Belmont Wednesday after New York racing had been shut down for 80 days due to the coronavirus. Before the first race, the jockeys held a moment of silence in the paddock for those who have lost their lives to the virus and then they took a knee, their way of showing solidarity with the protestors. Carmouche said that John Velazquez came to him before the race and the two came up with the idea of the jockeys taking a collective knee.
“As a black guy, it was very nice to see all the Hispanic riders supporting us,” he said. “That made me love them even more. They did that because it was the right thing to do and their hearts are in the right place.”
Carmouche, the son of a jockey, grew up in Louisiana. He was raised among whites and blacks and said he never gave much thought to the color of his skin.
“I never thought anybody treated me a certain type of way because I am black,” he said.
He won his first race in 2000 at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana, but would make a name for himself at Parx, where he won seven riding titles. He came to New York in 2015. Wherever he went, there were not many black jockeys or trainers, but Carmouche says he does not think that is a sign that racism is prevalent on the racetrack.
“It doesn't bother me,” he said of the lack of blacks in prominent positions in racing. “I came from Louisiana and I made it all the way to New York and I have traveled to a lot of places. I have never felt any racism.”
But Carmouche says he understands what others have had to endure. He has watched the video of the last minutes of Floyd's life with horror. Admitting that perhaps he has been naive, he says he simply can't understand how a person's skin color could mean the difference between life and death. He wants everyone to have the same outlook on life that he has.
“I am a loving person. I don't hate anybody and I don't dislike anybody,” he said.
He is behind those who have been protesting, but not those who have turned violent or have been looting stores. He sees the battles with police in cities all over the world and wants that to stop.
“There are good cops and there are bad cops,” Carmouche said. “The four cops that did what they did to that guy, they don't represent all the good cops out there, and that pisses me off. The people that went out and protest, I take my hat off to them and I thank God for them. The people doing the vandalism and looting, whether they are black, white or purple, I don't care for them.”
While understanding there are no easy fixes to the problems, Carmouche can't help but wonder why some people treat others with disrespect. He says that will never be how he goes about leading his life.
“What my mom and dad taught me is to respect everyone,” Carmouche said. “I won't ever flip the switch off and be ignorant, I can't do that. Being that way has helped me get to where I am.”
Trying to stay positive at a time when doing so is not easy, he hopes that Floyd's death will result in change.
“It's not going to get fixed in one day, but I think it is going to go in the right direction,” he said. “What has happened has opened up so many people's eyes.”