(not a) Raging Bull

June 22 2015

Jake la Motta was rescued from a favela in São Paulo, abandoned, unfed and bound by a rusty chain link that allowed him no mobility. With doleful brown eyes and protruding ribs, he showed only signs of gratitude as his rescuers slowly nursed him back to health. 

We first saw Jake as he was exiting the park with his rescuer. With short white fur, a big heart-shaped head and small (then undernourished) body, I surely thought he was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, aka "the nanny dog." After weighing many pros and cons, we adopted him one week later. We sat and brainstormed names, and inspiration came from the movie Raging Bull (laden with irony).

But as the weeks passed, we found that Jake was not quite a Staffy. He is larger than the breed's size and we learned that there are no red-nosed white Staffies. Most likely, he is a pit bull mix, yet his exact breed remains a mystery. Whatever the lineage, he is a big hunk of love, entirely grateful for his new home and becoming healthier every day. 

Up until the day I met Jake, I too held a bully breed stigma. Pit bulls undoubtedly have extremely strong and large jaws, and Jake had to be trained from the get go that biting was not an acceptable way to play. As far as dogs go, in no way is he vicious, violent or aggressive. A dog's temperament is dependent on the capabilities of its owner. Yet clearly, by reactions I get when I mention Jake is a pit bull mix, not everyone agrees.

A few months ago, a nationally prominent news anchor and radio show host in Brazil, Ricardo Boechat, spoke of an incident during his morning broadcast, wherein a camera man covering a news story in Curitiba was bitten rather gravely by a pit bull. Stating as fact that pit bulls are vicious animals and unsuitable as pets, Boechat denigrated the breed with great conviction, leaving no room journalistic objectivity (Boechat also advocates that the best vote is the null vote). Yet consider the circumstance: on the day of the incident, a protest reaching 10,000 people was held by schoolteachers on strike from the state of Paraná. The police eventually intervened using rubber bullets and stun bombs, and more than 200 people were injured, protesters and police alike. During this confusion, a camera man was bitten by a police dog. The footage can be found on google: "cinegrafista pitbull."

To Ricardo Boechat, opinion is not fact until proven as such, something I would expect those with public influence to respect and uphold. As a Korean who was born in Brazil and grew up in the States, I have dealt with stereotypes my entire life, and have become increasingly intolerant of them.

One of my favorite Listserve emails was from Vibeke, who asked Instagram users to post what they were doing at the moment. In that spirit, I too am curious to see what types of stereotypes Listserve users deal with on a daily basis. Tag them with #LSbreakingstereotypes

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São Paulo, Brazil

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