I am writing with respect to the September 22, 2021 article New Face in the Keeneland Sales Ring. The article invoked the same feelings that I had the first time I went to one of the sales. In the days leading up to this first foray, my colleagues talked up the sales and the good times that they had watching horses sell for more than seven figures and attending the ancillary events that were part of the experience. I went into the arena on that day with high expectations, but immediately felt that something was not right. It took me awhile to figure it out and then it hit me–all of the humans in the auction ring were black and all of the auctioneers and attendees were white. I did not stay long.
I understand this is a complicated issue. On the one hand, I congratulate Ms. Hobgood on her new role at Keeneland. It is always good to see people in places where they have historically been denied roles. On the other hand, it is incredible that Keeneland has traditionally had a team of African American men as ringmen. Horse racing fosters interaction between people from all types of backgrounds, but it is remarkable how segregated the jobs are. It would seem by design that certain roles go to people from certain backgrounds. Now that the ringmen (and women) are no longer exclusively African American, I hope that African Americans gain opportunities in other roles at the sales company.
I am looking forward to the day when hiring decisions such as these are not newsworthy. To that end, I've been working with the Ed Brown Society to help develop connections between racing organizations and African American communities to foster more diversity in the sport. It is my sincere belief (based on research from leading workforce experts such as McKinsey & Co.) that the sport will not be able to grow without an intentional approach to attracting a more diverse fan base and workforce. It is also incumbent upon us to provide environments where people are comfortable and foster advancement for people from different backgrounds.